Issue: September 30th, 1996

Can I prune roses now?

Question: When can I prune my roses? They are still blooming but have become large and in the way.

Answer: For now when you cut roses to use indoors, cut them with long stems. You can cut them down to where they originate at the previous stem if you wish. You can also cut any stems that are in the way of walkways or otherwise creating a problem. As the roses go dormant and flowering ceases, you can cut extremely long canes of hybrid tea, grandiflora, and floribunda roses back to prevent them from whipping around in the wind and damaging the plant, but save the major pruning for the spring.

Most of our common garden roses, except natives and old fashioned roses, do not go dormant. Cool weather stops their growth and flowering, but in warm autumns they will continue to grow and flower as long as the temperatures allow them to grow. In warmer climates, roses may continue blooming into December or longer. Because of their lack of dormancy and the fact that pruning can stimulate growth, caution is advised with regard to pruning dates. If a period of warm weather follows pruning in the autumn, the rose may resume growth only to be severely damaged by cold weather that follows. Pruning two weeks to a month before the expected last killing frost in the spring helps avoid this problem.

For climber and rambler roses, the same holds true with regard to problematic stems, but they should be pruned much less. Their flowering habits are different, often producing their best bloom display on the older canes. So for them, don't over prune at any time. If their size continues to cause a problem, you might consider whether or not they are planted in the wrong location.

Can I prune grapes now?

Question: When can I prune my grape vines?

Answer: Like roses, grapes are best pruned in the spring just a little before the expected last frost. Like roses, they can be stimulated to grow by pruning and warm weather. Properly maintained grapes are pruned quite severely and the loss of the new growth following proper pruning can be disastrous for the plant. Some growers practice what they call green pruning - pruning after leaves have appeared on the vines. This is less debilitating to the plant than having the new growth from the desired buds killed by a late frost. The green growth cut by late pruning is often damaged by late freezes anyway.

More information on growing and pruning grapes is available at your local County Extension Office.

Can I plant trees now?

Question: Is it too late to plant trees and shrubs?

Answer: No. Autumn is an excellent time to plant many trees and shrubs. There are a few exceptions such as desert willow, but for others plant now. It is important to properly care for trees and shrubs planted now. Prepare the soil by loosening the soil over a large area, adding compost or peatmoss to this prepared site. At the center of this area of loosened soil, dig a hole no deeper than needed to plant the tree or shrub, remove it from the nursery can, cut or spread any circling roots. If it is balled and burlapped, remove any wire basket after setting the plant into the hole, roll the burlap to the bottom of the hole, and cut any twine tied around the base of the tree. Backfill the planting hole with soil. Don't add additional compost, peatmoss, or manure to this backfill soil. Water the tree well, and continue watering at weekly or twice monthly intervals through the winter. The tree has a limited root system and will loose water through its bark and twigs during the winter. You must replace the water that is lost. This is especially true when the winter weather provides periods of warm and windy conditions.

Trees such as desert willow are exceptions to fall planting recommendations because they prefer to be dry in the winter. A watering schedule such as that describe above often kills the tree. Other trees, however, produce considerable root growth in the autumn and are better anchored in the spring when the winds begin. Planting in the fall often prevents the need for staking newly planted trees.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!