The first time I grew roses, I was so afraid of doing the wrong thing I treated them like fragile little plants. Actually, roses are surprisingly resilient and it's tough to kill them! Pruning your rose gardens a few times each season enables the plants to grow full and lush, and assists in fighting diseases. Trim your rose into a round shape and don't be afraid to prune it back quite far, as it will grow back full and healthy. Read on for a few more tips on when and how to prune roses.
When to prune roses
I've always abided by Ed Hume's advice to prune when the daffodils bloom! You can prune roses anytime in early spring after threat of heavy frost. Prune again, mid summer, to encourage a second blooming. Many also advocate pruning in the fall to just generally clean up the plants after summer. Don't do it too early though, as you don't want to encourage new growth late in the season when it will be hit with frost.
How to prune roses
Remove any dead, aging wood to encourage new, fresh growth. Make sure the center of the plant has air circulation. Take out old growth, deadwood, and diseased canes and leaves. Make sure there is plenty of space and air circulation in the center of the plant. I like Portland Nursery's recommendation to use a small saw. It makes it much easier! I also love using Felco pruners for trimming.
Remove canes down 'til your plant is about 18" high. Prune so your plant is round and shapely. Taking out deadwood and removing weak growth will help with air circulation so you hopefully won't be dealing with mildew and black spot, which most rose growers know about all to well! When trimming, cut at an angle at ¼" above a bud eye facing out (Pictured above).
Dead-heading is the process of removing dead blossoms so the plant can put energy into making new ones! In the summertime, the more you dead-head your plants the more flowers you will. Do this as blossoms die. My mentors always taught me to dead-head just above the five leaf branches. Always remove leaves and rose debris from under the plant, as it will encourage disease if it hangs out there.
These don't need to be trimmed back as drastically. Take out weak canes, old deadwood, and diseased branches and leaves. You can trim back off-shoots too. Don't reduce the size as much as you would with a shrub rose.
Do be a little more gentle with your younger roses when pruning. Also, for your old heirloom garden roses that only bloom once a season, just prune after they flower in the summer. Remember! Don't put rose clippings into the compost, as it encourages disease. (See also our post on things you can and things you can't compost for more information.)
Want to learn more? Below are some of my favorite resources for learning about rose pruning:
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