In the Garden
In the Garden Home
Fertilizing your roses: A step-by-step guide
Planting Roses: A How to Guide
Pruning your roses: why, how and when
Mulching: benefits and how tos
Selecting the Right Rose
Summer Rose Care Tips
Late Summer Roses
Gifts from Your Rose Garden
Christmas Treats for the Birds
Perennial Companions for Roses
Birds: Our beautiful garden allies
Getting Your Roses Ready
Eat Your Roses! Rose Recipes
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Pruning Your Roses: Why, How and When
Why Do I Have to Prune?
Why prune? Because it gives your rose an attractive shape, and
keeps it healthy by removing dead, diseased, overcrowded and insect-infected
canes. Don't believe me? Then, let your roses go without pruning
for a season or two and you'll see why you should prune.
When Do I Prune?
In the early spring while the rose is dormant or when the buds
are just starting to swell. If you prune your rose in the fall,
the wounds are more open and susceptible to injury from winter cold
and wind. And, you may prune more than you need to or not enough
and still have to come back and prune in the spring anyway.
How Do I Prune?
The approach to take when pruning is to think about how you want
your plant to look. It's like giving your rose a haircut. You need
to remove canes that are sticking out in a way you find unattractive
or are crossing over other canes and preventing healthy, uniform
growth. Pruning is also like giving your rose a physical exam. You
might find canes that may have died due to winter injury, insect
damage or just old age and need to be removed. There really isn't
any other time besides pruning that you give your rose a real good
"once over" check. It's a good way to get to know your rose and
understand how it grows.
Pruning is not something to be afraid of. Just like a bad hair
cut, a bad pruning job will usually outgrow itself. We all know
that you can't learn to ride a bike by reading a book about it --
you have to just do it. So, think about why you want to cut a cane
before you cut it, then just trust yourself and go at it. Understand
the basic principles and you'll do fine.
So, what are the basic principles?
- Wear gloves. Forget the fancy $40 varieties and get a pair of
welding gloves for about $7 at your local hardware store.
- Get yourself a good pair of pruners and keep it sharpened so
it makes a clean cut and doesn't smoosh the cane.
- Prune in early spring while the rose is still dormant, or when
the buds are just beginning to swell.
- Prune out dead, diseased, or insect-infested canes.
- Prune out canes that cross over and rub against each other.
- Make the cut at an angle so water runs off the cane. A flat
cut allows water to sit on the wound, encouraging decay.
- Make the cut 1/4 inch above a bud that is facing to the outside
of the shrub. The new growth will come from that bud and cause
the cane to grow out. If you cut above a bud that is facing in,
the new growth will grow in.
- Cut back shrubs by one-third every 3 years to encourage branching
and new, strong growth.
- Cut out one-third of the older canes on climbers every other
year to encourage new, strong growth.
- Always cut out an older cane before you cut out a newer cane,
if you have to choose between the two. Older canes usually have
a grey or brownish, weathered appearance.
See, that isn't too much to remember, and it just kind of follows
Once your roses are established, which usually takes three years,
it's a good idea to do some maintenance pruning. Every spring, prune
out the dead wood. Dead wood is brown and dry on the inside, so
prune until you see green on the inside of the canes. In colder
climates, some roses may die back to the "snowline" and you will
need to remove the dead tops. If you're not confident about what's
dead and what's alive, wait until the rose leafs out. Then you'll
know for sure.
Other than cleaning out dead wood, most Shrub
roses don't need much yearly pruning. However, you may want
to minimally prune some roses to control their shape. When you do
this, be sure to prune once-blooming roses after they bloom,
or you'll have fewer blossoms to enjoy. But, if you want rose hips,
don't prune after blooming.
You may find that some shrub roses may seem to bloom less after
they are about five or six-years old. They may have lots of large
canes that just don't seem to bloom like they used to. To remedy
this, prune back the top of the plant by one third, and remove some
of the largest canes. This will encourage the rose to grow new canes
that will produce plenty of blossoms.
What About Once-blooming Roses?
Even though once-blooming roses bloom on "old wood" (last year's
growth), they still may need some spring pruning before they bloom
to remove dead, diseased or insect-infected canes. But, save all
your pruning for shaping until after they bloom, or you'll
have fewer blossoms to admire.
Yes, you can train your roses! For example, if you prune out all
but about five to seven strong canes on a climbing rose, all the
energy will go into those few canes and they'll grow taller than
an unpruned climber. Climbers are usually the ones that need the
most training. On a trellis, train the canes to grow at an angle,
rather than straight up. This results in more blossoms all along
the canes rather than just at the top. Prune back side branches
so only about four buds remain. Otherwise, climbers can quickly
turn into thickets that you wouldn't want to trip and fall into
(you'd be stuck for awhile).
When you're done pruning, your rose should have a well-balanced
appearance, with healthy young canes. If you have the time, it's
a good idea to seal the cut wounds with vaseline or Elmer's glue
to keep out insects, such as borers, looking for a nice place to
lay some eggs.