Sunday, May 03, 2015

How To Prune Roses

I prune A LOT of roses at work; I get asked how to go about pruning them properly. In the spring, it's important to prune to encourage good air circulation; to cut out any dead wood and remove any suckers or weak branches. Doing this will encourage new growth that will produce many flowers.

Use: sharp, clean tools:  like : Felco Pruners for thinner stems and Stihl Loppers  for hard wood, dead and branches from the ground level.

For the most part, roses flower on new growth. With the exception of climbing roses, be aggressive with pruning varieties like Hybrid T's, Grandifloras, Floribundas and Shrub roses. Especially after a winter like the last.

Don't prune back roses too early. Wait for buds that are robust. Cut the stem back to just above these buds.

At the base of the woody stems and the crown of roses, you may see new, tender shoots emerging in early May. If you have considerable dieback from winter damage, these shoots are crucial to examine. The above photo shows the new shoot is emerging from above the grafted crown of the rose. This growth is true to the cultivar that you want to see bear flowers. The photo below shows shoots coming from the soil...

In the above photo, shoots that are emerging from below the soil surface are not good. These are suckers emerging from the rootstock.

Let me explain: some of the most beautiful roses (Hybrid Teas, Grandifloras, Floribundas, David Austins...etc) are grafted plants. They have a rootstock grafted on scion stock. Scion stock bear the beautiful hybrids that wouldn't grow in cooler zone hardiness areas. The graft makes growing such beauties here in Ontario possible. When you see rootstock shoots emerging from the ground, they are a different rose than the growth above the graft. If left to grow, these shoots may take over, suppress the grafted stock and you will have a completely different rose bloom come June. Keep your eye on this throughout the growing season. Especially on older roses, where the grafted union of the crown may be heaving or sinking too deep into the soil.

I've pruned more than half of this grandiflora back. Having removed any overlapping, cross over stems, decayed, weak and dead branches.

Be sure to cut back to buds that are facing outwards - so that new growth will not be too concentrated in the centre of the plant. This keeps air flowing and gives it a more open habit.

Please don't leave stumpy, long ends to your cuts. Cut 1/2 inch above the bud (node). The is ample distance from the bud to prevent damage from cutting. Reducing the amount of stem between the buds will help engage the bud to produce more terminal growth.

In the above example, I didn't cut this rose back to the ground like some gardeners do as a general practice, as I prefer to have a taller habit and bigger show. Grandiflora roses have larger flowers. If left to flower on only tender, green pliable stems, the flowers can make these stems flop over from the weight.  Making for a weak, unattractive shape to the overall plant. Leaving woody stems with robust buds will give the rose strength and help boost flower production.

Be sure to remove all leafy debris from the base of the plant and give them a top cover of mulch or a perennial ground cover (like the Gallium plants above). This prevents the soil surface from drying out.

Come mid summer, I will post how to thin a rose bush; to create a better habit and increase bloom.

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