Guest Author - Michelle Ullman
Getting out the pruners to shape up your rose bushes may not be the most enjoyable garden chore, but it is important for improving your roses health, and encouraging lots of flowers through the spring and summer.
Pruning is your chance to encourage a good growth pattern, remove dead or diseased canes, and provide a period of dormancy for your roses if you live in a mild-winter area.
It can be confusing to know when to prune. The general rule is:
• If you are in an area with relatively mild winters, prune your roses in late winter, optimally in January.
• In an area with severe winters, you will want to wait until spring, even as late as early April if there is still danger of hard frost before that.
Make sure your pruning shears are sharp, and wear heavy gloves to protect your hands. Pull your trash barrel or wheelbarrow close to your rose garden to make clean up easier.
Modern roses that bloom repeatedly, such as hybrid teas, floribundas, grandifloras and miniature roses, produce flowers on new growth. Therefore, for the best flower production, you want to encourage the maximum new growth.
Prune these roses down by approximately half. To make the job easier, start by cutting away the top third of the bush straight across, then stop and step back to take a good look at the bushes shape.
It will be easier to see the canes if you strip away leaves. A sharp downwards tug will remove the leaves, which should all be taken off the bush. Old leaves are prone to fungal disease and may harbor insect eggs.
Once the leaves are removed, you can see the canes that should be pruned.
• Cut away any dead, diseased or broken canes first. You will recognize these canes by black color, withered or limp appearance, or brown color inside the cane.
• Next, remove canes that are rubbing against other canes, or growing through the center of the bush.
• Finally, cut off small, weak growth.
Step back again, and look at the shape of the bush. You are aiming for a vase-shape, with 3 to 5 healthy, thick canes pointing out and away from the center of the plant.
Continue pruning until you achieve the desired shape. Make your final cuts just above a growth bud that is facing out of the bush to encourage a full, open growth pattern.
Once done with your pruning, be sure to clear away all the clippings and discard in your green waste barrel, or compost pile. If composting, do not add leaves from a rose bush that was infected with black spot, and be aware that rose thorns can take a long time to break down in the compost pile.
The inconvenience of pruning your roses is a small price to pay for the enjoyment and beauty they will bring to your yard once they are full of healthy green leaves, and covered with beautiful flowers.