Pruning Roses - A Pruning Tutorial

By Kathy Lambert

While roses are some of the most cherished plants in the landscape border, they are not necessarily the simplest to take care of. Bushes growing out of control, fewer blooms than anticipated, and uneven growth are all very common issues that all gardeners have to deal with, but they can all be solved with a good pruning.

Pruning Roses - New Aggressive Shoot Growth:

Take a look at your bush. Do you have canes wildly growing above the main form of the bush? The most obvious measure to correct this condition is to trim off these shoots to bring the bush back into proper form. How to prune these shoots is not as easy as just hacking them off. Follow the procedure outlined below.

Pruning Roses - Dead Growth:

If your rose bush has dead areas, or canes that have very little, if any foliage on them, cut these canes all the way down to the base of the plant. Not only will this improve the plant health, it will give it added energy, and it will bring required air-flow to the central portion of the plant. Implementing this also reduces the likelihood of fungus or mildew buildup, which can also bring additional stress and damage the rose bush.

Leggy Out of Form Bush Pruning:

This situation presents one of the more serious pruning issues, and repeatedly requires the most extreme pruning measures of pruning roses, in that a large portion of the plant may necessitate removal. More often than not, these bushes are very thin and lack the full appearance of a healthy bush.

How To Do Your Rose Pruning:

Analyze the overall bush shape and make a decision how you would like the final shape of the bush to look.

Start with dead canes. Identify them and cut them down to the ground level. Identify healthy canes by their green or slightly cream-colored appearance. Dead and dying canes will appear dark to black and have a shriveled looking appearance.

Be on the lookout for what we call "suckers" as well. These are simple to spot as they are shoots directly off the parent plant roots. Riding the plant of these suckers will give additional energy to the host plant. To remove them, dig around the sucker to find out where they are sprouting from the roots. Make the cut very near the root and re-cover the roots with soil.

As for healthy canes: Determine the desired height for your rose bush and trim the canes to that height. This cut is critical and it ought to be just above a healthy growth shoot that is on the cane. This pruning cut shall be as close to the new sprout on the canes as you can make it, and the cut ought to be angled slightly downward. This is key for a correct cut as any "stub" left on the top of the cane can have diseased. Even stubs as short as 1/4" can eventually cause problems as well.

For a more aggressive pruning job, you may not find a growth sprout further down on the canes. In this example you want to search for a bud "union", which has the appearance of a small swelling of the cane. This in fact has the appearance of a seam where the cane is jointed together.

Another little trick to encourage more growth and flowers is to remove spent blossoms from the bush as they begin to fade. This additionally tends to encourage new growth shoots and many more flower blooms. "Dead-heading" is the term that this procedure identifies.

If your rose bush has partially dead canes that are diseased or are dying above an otherwise healthy cane, prune away the entire dead or dying area from the dead area down to the first bud union.

With appropriate feeding and watering, giving your roses a good hair-cut will keep them healthy and full of blooms and your rose garden will be the talk of the neighborhood!

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