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How and When to Prune Roses

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Why Do We Prune Roses?

Roses are deciduous shrubs that often times are prone to damage in the cold season, which can make the plant prone to disease or disfigurement. Pruning roses gives us the opportunity to clean up the plant, removing dead canes, to keep the plant healthy. Pruning also stimulates growth, making a plant grow fuller and bloom with more vigor. Pruning methodically will also train the plant to grow as we want it to grow.


Here Are The Things You Will Need For This Project

Long cuff leather gloves

Bypass pruners

Cup with 70% alcohol solution for disinfecting your pruners

Wheelbarrow or tarp for clippings




When Do We Prune Roses?


There are exceptions to every rule. Most roses need to be pruned around February or March in the South or March or April in the mountains or further North. Most roses need to be pruned just as the buds start to swell but before growth starts in late winter/early spring.


Climbing Roses and Old-Fashioned Roses


Climbing roses and old fashioned roses that only bloom 1 time a year are one of these exceptions. These plants should be pruned right after they are done blooming, as they bloom on old growth, just as azaleas and hydrangeas do. Leave only the healthiest canes on the climbers, removing the oldest or unhealthy looking canes. Removing 1/3 of the plant will redirect nutrients, giving your plant big, beautiful flowers. Old-fashioned roses do not like the hard pruning that today’s hybrids prefer. The old garden roses do not need to have more than 1/3 of the plant removed, as this can greatly reduce blooms and disfigure the plant.


Hybrid Tea, Floribunda and Grandiflora


These roses and other reblooming roses should be pruned back hard just as the buds start to swell (February-March) but before growth forms, leaving 3 to 5 of the healthiest canes while pruning the others off. These canes can be pruned back hard, 15 to 18 inches from the ground. In doing this, the plant can redirect nutrients to produce beautiful cut flowers with big blooms. It is recommended that you remove any cane thinner than a pencil from Hybrid Teas.



Knock Out Roses

This is one of the most forgiving roses and deemed to be tough as nails. The Knock Out Rose has become a staple in most landscapes today. This plant should be pruned after it is a couple years old or 3 to 4 foot tall


How Do We Prune Roses?


Methodical, proper pruning techniques will allow a rose bush to grow out, opening the center of the plant to sunlight which will help prevent disease and stay healthy. When pruning, you will want to find about where you want to prune and find the nearest outward facing bud and prune it about ¼ of an inch above it with Bypass pruners. Bypass pruners will give it a clean cut whereas anvil pruners will damage the stem. When you start pruning, you will want to see a white, hydrated looking stem. If the stem looks dead, cut further down. If it is dead, cut off the entire cane. Any time you are pruning what you suspect to be an unhealthy or diseased plant, be sure to dip your pruners in a cup with 70% alcohol in it to prevent getting disease in each cut.


The Hedge trimmer is not the proper pruning tool for any rose other than the Knock Out. You can cut the Knock Out back by 1/3 to ½ of the way in the late winter (February or March). This plant is such a profuse grower, that once this thing gets growing, pruning it with a hedge trimmer becomes the only feasible option. You can lightly prune it again in the summer to allow it to regroup. I would do this light pruning with my pruners and not with the hedge trimmer.


Once your flowers get old and fades, deadheading them is recommended. This prevents the rose from producing a “fruit” called hips, allowing the plant to rebloom instead. Deadheading is done by simply cutting the cane down with a diagonal cut, just above the next 5 or 7 leaf branch on the stem.



Other related articles:

How to Prune Crape Myrtles

Pruning Azaleas: Advice from a Garden Expert

How to help your roses survive the summer heat

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Posted 2015-01-11T16:11:44+0000  by Ingar_HD_ATL Ingar_HD_ATL