The Q&A Archives: pruning roses

Question: When is the right time of year to prune rose bushes and how far back should I cut them?

Answer: There are only a few things to remember about pruning roses: Blooms are produced on new growth, so retaining the old growth won't be beneficial to your rose bushes. You can safely cut hybrid tea roses to about two feet above the graft. Standard roses are usually grafted onto a 2-3 foot understock, so prune these about 18 inches above the graft. Try to prune some of the old canes out and leave three to five vigorous canes on each plant. Always use sharp pruners when cutting roses, and always cut to an outside facing bud in the direction you want the plant to grow. If you remove all of the dead, crossing and rubbing canes, plus all of the long, unruly stems, you should end up with a sturdy, compact plant. Prune in January or February before the spring surge of growth and don't fertilize until the plants start putting out new growth. Rose buses should receive at least one inch of water per plant per week. Form a basin around the stem of the plant to hold water and then water deeply enough for the moisture to penetrate all through the root area.

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