How to Prune Rose Bushes

Pruning Tells the Roses to Grow

Proper pruning promotes the growth of healthy rose bushes and an abundance of roses.

Pruning roses not only keeps the rose bushes neat and shapely, pruning tells the roses to grow. Proper pruning in the late winter or early spring will awaken and invigorate the rose bushes into new growth production on which the new roses will appear.

How to Prune Hybrid Tea, Grandiflora and Floribunda Rose Bushes

There is a slight difference in pruning methods for ever-blooming bush type roses and climbing roses, so first let’s cover proper pruning for bush type roses.

Bush roses need a severe pruning, which means to cut back the entire rose bush to about two feet in height in February or early March. New gardener’s find severe pruning shocking, but rose bushes bear the biggest and best rose blooms on new growth, so a severe pruning is essential for a healthy rose bush and a multitude of rose blooms.

After you have pruned the rose bush to an overall height of two feet, look for the graft union on the rose bush. The graft union will be a golf ball sized, calloused-looking bulge just above ground level. The graft union is where your desired rose bush has been grafted onto a healthy root stock of a different rose bush. Never prune below the graft union.

Once you’ve located the graft union, remove all the dead or diseased canes and prune away any canes that are crossed. Now step back and look at your rose bush. Your goal for proper pruning is to leave 3-5 healthy green canes on the rose bush. Choose the 3-5 canes that are the greenest and are at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter, remove all other rose canes.

The 3-5 healthy rose bush canes now need one last finishing pruning. Locate the dormant buds on the rose canes, choose a bud on each cane that is at least 8 inches above the graft union and is facing the outside of the rose bush (this will force the rose bush to grow towards the outside). Make your final pruning cut on a slant with the high side one half inch above the bud. Seal the final pruning cuts by dabbing some Elmer’s Glue on the cuts to prevent water, rose borers and other insects from entering the cane.

How to Prune Climbing Roses

Climbing roses do not need a severe pruning like bush roses, but they do need the dead, woody canes removed every year. Prune away all dead and diseased canes, remembering not to cut below the graft union.

Miscellaneous Rose Pruning Tips

Always use sharp shears for pruning or you will crush the rose canes, leaving them vulnerable to disease. Have a pail of diluted bleach water (1 part bleach, 9 parts water) with while you prune and dip the shears into the bleach solution to disinfect them between cuts. This will prevent the spread of various types of rose disease from bush to bush.

Since pruning tells the roses to grow, the rose bushes will be hungry. Apply fertilize right after pruning and mulch the rose bushes to help retain soil moisture and nutrients. Make sure the mulch does not touch the graft union.

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