Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
March, 2011
Regional Report

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Well-pruned roses reward your efforts by producing lots of beautiful flowers.

Pruning Hybrid Tea Roses

Of all my early spring pruning chores, rose pruning is my favorite. My efforts are always rewarded with beautiful flowers in the summertime, but I think what motivates me most to get outdoors when the weather is still chilly is the promise of spring. The forsythia has already bloomed and the cherry trees are full of flower buds, so I know spring isn't too far away.

Pruning promotes good health and stimulates flowering, so without fail, all my shrub roses get a haircut each and every year. The best time to prune roses is when they are dormant or just as the buds begin to swell in the very early spring.

Use the Right Tools
You'll need hand pruners, long-handled loppers, and a good pair of leather gloves to prune properly. Make sure your tools are sharp; dull blades will leave ragged edges, an open invitation to disease and insect pests. To protect your arms from scratches, wear long sleeves while you're pruning.

Which Canes to Remove
The over-all plan is to produce an outward-growing shrub with an open center. Start by identifying and saving 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). The next step is to remove any growth that's smaller than a pencil in diameter. When you've done all that, you should have three to five canes extending from the bud union. Visually divide the canes into three equal parts and remove the top third.

The Right Cuts
Making pruning cuts may seem tricky, but it's really quite simple. Make the cut 1/4 inch above a bud that's facing towards 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 bush 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
When you're finished pruning, 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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