Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
February, 2001
Regional Report

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'Perfume Delight', a wonderfully fragrant hybrid tea rose, blooms reliably in our cool summer climate with proper pruning.

Late Winter Rose Pruning

Growing hybrid tea and floribunda roses in the Pacific Northwest can be a challenge. Despite all the coddling we give them, our cool, wet summers are not at all to their liking. I've found that the best approach is planting the most disease-resistant varieties I can find and providing them with full sunshine and lots of elbow room to allow the foliage to dry quickly to discourage foliar diseases such as black spot and rust. Proper pruning is another key to success.

Time to Prune

The purpose of pruning roses is to promote good health and stimulate blooming. Late winter or early spring, just when the buds begin to swell, is the best time to prune. Think about how you want your plant to look before you begin. The easiest method is like giving your plant a haircut. Simply remove canes that are sticking out in unattractive ways.

The Right Pruners

You'll need hand pruners, long-handled loppers, and a good pair of leather gloves to prune properly. Wear long sleeves to protect your arms from scratches, and before beginning, make sure your tools are sharp. Dull blades will leave ragged edges, an open invitation to disease and insect pests.

Which Canes to Remove

What you're aiming for is an outward-growing shrub with an open center. Identify and save the newest canes - these usually are the greenest and most productive. Remove the really old woody stems and any that are crossing or crowding others. Cut those canes down to the bud union (the place where the rose variety is grafted onto the rootstock) whenever possible. Remove any growth that's smaller than a pencil. When you've done all that, you should have three to five canes extending from the bud union. Visually divide the remaining canes into three equal parts and remove the top third.

The Right Cut

Making pruning cuts may seem tricky, but it's really quite simple. Make the cut 1/4 inch above a bud that's facing to the outside of the shrub, cutting downward at a 45 degree angle so water runs off the cane.

The Final Product

When you've finished pruning, your rose should have a well-balanced appearance with healthy young canes. It's a good idea to seal the cut wounds with petroleum jelly or a white glue to keep out any cane borers looking for a place to lay eggs.

Clean Up

Be sure to gather and dispose of all the pruned canes. Remove any mulch, dead leaves, and weeds under your roses as well. Lay down some new mulch to make things look neat, then stand back and admire your handiwork.

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