SPRING ROSE CARE
WHY DO WE PRUNE ROSES?
There are several reasons we prune roses. Pruning allows us to shape roses to desirable heights and size to compliment our garden. We can prune to encourage the production of large, long-stemmed flowers from our hybrid teas or smaller but more abundant clusters from our floribundas.
Proper pruning will also help to create a healthy rose by removing the 3 –D’s (dead, diseased and damaged canes). By thinning canes from the interior of the plant air circulation is increased. This decreases the likelihood of some common fungal ailments such as mildew. By removing dead or damaged canes we increase the overall well-being and beauty of our roses.
These general pruning recommendations are most applicable to hybrid tea, floribunda and grandiflora roses. Climbers and miniatures have different pruning requirements and techniques.
WHEN SHOULD WE PRUNE OUR ROSES?
Roses should be pruned in April, once the chance of heavy freezing passes (mark your calendar). Typically, when the forsythia begins to bloom, it is time to prune.
Pruning a little late is not as tragic as cutting your plants back too early, causing them to suffer damage from a late winter freeze.
WHAT TOOLS DO I NEED?
A pair of long handled bypass loppers is necessary for large canes. The long handles provide extra leverage necessary to cut thick old growth. In some cases a pruning saw may also be needed.
Protective clothing should be worn to avoid injury from thorns. A good pair of rose gloves will protect your hands and forearms from cuts. Try West County Gardeners Rose Gloves. Wearing a long sleeved shirt and long pants is also recommended.
- Always use clean, sharp tools.
- Consider the overall plant shape you are seeking.
- Remove all dead branches and canes. Healthy growth will generally appear green or red where dead canes will generally turn gray or brown. As you cut into the canes if the pith is dry and brown continue cutting further down until you reach a green or cream color. Also remove damaged canes and ones that cross or rub on other healthy growth. Prune to open the center of the plant to light and air circulation.
- Prune Hybrid Teas, Floribundas, and Grandifloras down to about 10”-12” above the ground. Make clean cuts at 45 degree angles, about ¼” above a bud that is facing toward the outside of the plant.
- Climbers, Miniatures, and Shrub Roses should be shaped, and remove any damaged, diseased, or dead wood.
- Remove any weak or twiggy branches smaller than a pencil. With floribundas you can leave some smaller branches.
- Leave only 4-6 main branches, keeping only smooth, green branches.
- Remove sucker growth below the graft.
- Remove any remaining foliage, and clippings from the base of the plant. Throw these away and do not add them to your mulch or compost pile. Many rose pests and diseases survive in old rose debris.
- Apply Fertilome Dormant Oil (horticultural grade oil that kills insects, bacteria, and fungus).
- During the growth season, regular deadheading (removal of all spent blooms) will increase blooming. Cuts should be made similar to pruning cuts made on canes. Find a leaflet with five or more leaves and with a bud eye pointing in the desired direction of growth. Make your cut just above this location. Remove any petals or leaves that fall into the bush or on the ground.
DO I NEED TO FEED MY ROSES?
Feed Roses every 2 weeks with Fertilome Rose Food, which feeds the plant, and kills the insects. If organic gardening is your thing, use Fox Farm American Pride Super Premium Fertilizer, it is exceptional for roses. In spring, apply Bone Meal (this will enhance color and quality of the blooms).
WHAT IF I DO NOT PRUNE CORRECTLY?
Fortunately for us roses are resilient. Experiment and see what type of pruning works best with your roses. As long as you keep your rose healthy you can prune again next year and try something different.