How to Prune Established Roses

Prune Roses in the Spring or Fall?

Pruning roses is necessary if you want them to grow and bloom, but when should you prune them?

There is a controversy as when to prune established roses. Some say to do it in the winter, others argue that it is better to prune them late fall, and yet another faction says to wait until spring to do your pruning. There is validity to all claims. Once there is a frost it should be safe to prune a rose plant without causing damage. However, even in the coldest winter some roses will stay green and bloom in protected areas up to January and February. That is why some people like to prune theirs in the spring. That way there is no chance of them being damaged by cold.

However, if the winter produces heavy wind and your roses have grown quite tall there is a chance that the wind and snow can knock them over causing cold damage anyway. Possibly those that prune slightly back in late fall at least 4 to 6 weeks prior to first expected frost, have the answer. This way the plant isn’t too high and can’t be knocked over by winter wind and snow and in the spring the big pruning can be done without damaging the plant. Once the buds of the plant start to swell in the spring, start pruning.

Don’t forget to wear leather gloves when you prune and wearing long sleeves and pants aren’t a bad idea either. Rose thorns are sharp any time of the year. Remove any winter protection you may have added like burlap or leaves. Remove any dead canes that are brown or black in color. Good canes should have a green tinge to them on the outside and cream color on the inside. . Use your curved edge pruning shears for those canes that aren’t in the bush too deep and use lopping shears for those that have died back to the base. Once dead canes are gone, look for suckers growing up from the roots of the host plant. It is important to remove suckers from where they are growing on the wood of the rose so you might have to dig down below ground level to find it. If you don’t the sucker will grow back. Prune canes that cross and rub against each other. If you don’t disease could develop where they rub. Also remove any canes that are smaller than a pencil. If you plant is tall and leggy you might want to prune it down to a decent height. About two to three feet is normal in a regular rose.

How Much Pruning Must be Done

Hybrid tea roses require the most pruning so that they will bloom. Old or species roses don’t require much pruning at all. Each type of rose will have a different pruning need. Look at the growth habit of your rose and try to conform to pruning along with it. If you have a Damask Rose that can grow very tall and bushy be sure not to prune it down to one foot and make sure it still looks kind of bushy when you are done pruning. You don’t want your rose to look tangled and messy so you prune out what will make it look orderly. This will prevent disease because you are encouraging air circulation around the plant.

Constant Bloomers

When using your curved edge pruning shears always remember to cut canes and branches at a 45 degree angle about ¼ inch away from bud that is on the outside of the plant, with the slant away from the bud of the stem. Just apply a little bit of white school glue to the cuts. This will prevent cane borers from gaining entry to the canes but it will also allow the plant to grow. A good rule is to cut back about half of a rose that blooms all summer. This would include your floribundas, grandiflora, hybrid teas, and miniatures. Always leave three to five canes growing. Any more than that and the plant could get crowded.

Shrub or Landscape Roses

Shrub roses or landscape roses should not be severely pruned after their first and second years. After that one third of the oldest canes should be removed. This will prevent it from becoming overgrown.

The old roses produce flowers on old wood so little pruning if any should be done. You definitely should prune out any dead canes but leave them alone otherwise.

Climbing Roses

You don’t want to severely prune a climber since it takes awhile for it to climb as far as you want it. Just take out any dead wood. Once your climber has gotten as wide as you want it to go, start pruning back lateral shoots. It will then grow up instead of out.

Your garden center or county extension should have fliers explaining how to prune roses. Make a visit and talk to them about it. They may have some new tips and tricks you can use to take care of your roses after winter.

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