How do I know when it is time to prune my roses?

Some days it feels like spring here and I want to get out and do something in the rose garden. When should I begin spring pruning of roses?

In Zone 7a, we wait for the forsythia to bloom and the fear of a hard frost has passed.
Generally speaking for our area, time to prune is mid-March to early April.

In Wisconsin, zone 5, we use Forsythia as an indicator plant too - when it blooms - time to prune. In my garden that is typically early April. If you prune early, you may damage plants if hard freezes follows. In that case, cover your plant - with a bucket, a drop cloth or whatever.

This answer varies depending on your climate. The zone is helpful but ultimately irrevelent because it only tells you the average of the lowest of the low temperatures in a given area, not when “real spring” is expected to arrive. For example, North Carolina is the same zone as my area in New York City, but spring comes to North Carolina 3 weeks earlier on average because it is positioned further south.

There are 3 ways to determine when you should prune your roses if you live in a climate that has cold weather winters.

1.) Check the weather forecast. If your area just experienced a week of day temperatures in the mid 40’s and night temperatures above freezing and your area is projected to do so for the next two weeks it is probably safe to prune.

2.) You can also check your last frost date for your area. You can prune as early as 3 weeks before the last frost date.

3.) As others said here, prune with the forsythia blooms in your area. This usually happens when the other two conditions above are met, so it is a good indicator. Mother nature always knows.

In Wisconsin zone 5 we have had a very mild winter with limited snow cover. It is February 23 and there is no snow. Yesterday it was 60 degrees - you forget it is still February! My roses, including my HT’s, are green to the tip outside. While it makes me want to go prune, I know better. Cold weather will still arrive before spring. If this continues however, I may be pruning in March this year. As Jason C indicated - it is really up to Mother Nature

I think this becomes a more interesting issue with climate change. While I typically would wait until the beginning of April to prune, I am reconsidering for this year. Temps are about a. month ahead of usual. My canes, with no winter protection, are generally green to the tip - including my hybrid teas. I keep checking the long range forecast and don’t see temperatures reverting back. Now my roses are leafing out!! I don’t mind spring coming early to SE Wisconsin.

Interesting. Good to hear you have minimal or no cane die back. Over here in PNW we are having a cooler Spring than I recall, with several rainy days in a row. Too wet to prune, for me.