The Q&A Archives: Pruning

Question: How do you prune a rose bush?

Answer: Before you begin to prune think about the overall shape you are seeking for your roses. For many roses and gardens the classic ?urn? shape is desired. This shape promotes an appealing, full shape. It also allows for an open center creating better air circulation within the bush.

Start by removing 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. Cut the canes low on the plant, as near to the base or bud union a possible. Also remove damaged canes and ones that cross or rub on other healthy growth.

Now we can start making the main pruning cuts on healthy stock. These cuts should be made about 1/4 inch above a bud eye and at a 45 degree angle. The bud eye should be facing outward or in the desired direction of growth.

Remove all branches thinner that a pencil. With floribundas you can leave some smaller branches. You want branches of sufficient size to support your new spring growth. While pruning remember to keep the desired finished shape in mind.

The amount of pruning depends on the characteristics you desire of your rose during the blooming season. For more abundant blooms on smaller stems you may choose a lighter pruning. Leave most of the canes and only prune them back about 30%. You still need to remove very small branches and clean up the center of the plant.

Medium pruning general removes more foliage, leaving up to 8 ? 10 well placed canes, fewer on hybrid tea roses. The canes should be reduced to 1/3 to ? of their original height. This amount of pruning will generally work well for most healthy roses.

In some cases a heavy pruning is desired. You may have damage from a severe winter or a bush you cannot get under control with medium pruning. Make sure to cut back to wood to where the center or pith is healthy, living wood. Heavy pruning produces fewer but larger flowers or longer stems.

You should also remove suckers, or rootstock shooting out of the ground from below the basal break. Spraying with dormant oil will help prevent some diseases. Make sure you clean up all of the 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.

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