Pruning Roses - Knowledgebase Question

Beale Afb, CA
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Question by blanken
November 8, 1999
I live in Northern California and wonder when I should prune my roses. Also the deer have chewed down some of my roses so I didn't get a lot of blooms. Should I keep pruning them down after they chew them or wait until Spring? Also I have some roses that are getting very tall and spindly with not much blooms should I prune them down and if so when and how much?

Answer from NGA
November 8, 1999
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.

I'd prune the roses each time deer munch some of the foliage away. 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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