The Q&A Archives: Caring for over grown rose bushes

Question: I am moving into a home that has rose bushes in the yard. I no nothing about roses and their care. They both look like they need to be pruned (one is appx 5ft tall and the other is appz 7ft tall) I live in an area where the summers are 75 degrees to 85 degrees and the winters are below zero in the evenings and 30 degrees to 40 degrees during the day. I do not know they type of rosesw they are but would appreciate any in put so I can keep these roses looking beautiful. Rodie

Answer: If the roses are overgrown, it's a sure indication that they can take the weather in your new home. January and February, when the roses are dormant, are the best months to do your pruning.

Tools needed to prune roses include goatskin gloves to keep thorns from pricking your skin, sharp pruners, and perhaps a pruning saw or loppers for taking off old, thick canes. White glue is used to seal cut ends on canes to prevent borer damage; bleach (alcohol or a household disinfectant also work) is used to disinfect pruning tools between plants to avoid spreading disease.

Look at your rose bush from each angle and see what pruning is needed to get it into an urn shape. Identify dead, diseased, crossing, rubbing and damaged canes, and remove all of those down to the plant's crown (where the stems and roots meet). The goal is to produce a bush with an open center; openness allows light and air to penetrate the plant, helping reduce pest and disease problems.

Also, remove any canes that are smaller than the thickness of a pencil, and take off all suckers (growth below the bud union, which is the swollen area where the plant joins the rootstock).

A proper pruning cut on a rose leaves buds pointing outward. The cut is made just above the bud, leaving no "residual wood" sticking upward. If there are any buds heading inward, use your gloved hand to gently rub them off, says Strickland; it's a good defense mechanism that gives the other buds a chance to get ahead in growth. If you cut and see brown dying tissue, keep cutting until you find healthy white tissue. If you experience problems with borers getting into your roses' woody stems, use clear-drying glue to seal the cuts.

Keep doing this until you are satisfied you have a nicely shaped, well-pruned rose that will bear bunches of flowers on all its new growth.

Prune back strongest stems to about half their height, making your final cut so a bud points outward (just above a bud is recommended). Make cuts that reveal white tissue; if the cut reveals brown tissue, cut back until you see white tissue.

During the summer months, remove old flowers - unless you plant "self-cleaning roses" that need no deadheading - and always remove diseased and dead wood during the growing season.

Following the above guidelines should help you return your overgrown rose bushes to their natural splendor.


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