The Q&A Archives: cutting back roses in spring

Question: I have a rose that is now coming back for it's 3rd year. It did not make flowers last year.I know I need to prune it to force flowers, but do not know where or how. Please advise...thanks

Answer: Pruning roses can be confusing because different varieties require different treatments. It sounds like you have hybrid teas or grandifloras, which are the best varieties for your area. You need to prune these heavily to encourage bigger flowers. Roses should be pruned in late January or February. In your area the temperatures rarely are cold enough to make the rose go completely dormant. The period suggested is when they are most dormant, and this is the best time to prune. First remove any deadwood down to the nearest healthy bud eye. Make the cut at least an inch below the dead area. If no live buds remain, remove the entire branch or cane to the bud union. Cut out weak, spindly and deformed growth. This includes canes that grow straight out, then curve upward (called doglegs). Remove old canes. Old canes are thick and woody, and produce a profusion of twigs rather than strong stems. Remove all suckers or reversion growth (undesired shoots that come from the rootstock below the bud union). Sucker foliage is different in color and form from the foliage of the rest of the plant. If you do not remove suckers, they will soon be dominant. When cutting them out, take all the sucker base from the crown area along with a piece of the crown, if necessary. Next, thin out the remaining healthy canes to the shape you want and cut them back to the height you want. Always cut back to an outside bud. By making straight, clean cuts, you'll help your plants avoid disease. Those roses that are not blooming either need some renewal pruning, or they need far more sunshine than they're receiving. Roses thrive in all day sunshine and sulk when things are too shady. Another tip: When it's time for a bouquet, cut the stems just below the uppermost leaf with 5 leaflets. This will encourage better flowering.

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