Pruning Roses



Deadheading is the removal of faded flowers before they can develop seed. The standard recommendation is to cut the flower stem back to an outward-facing bud above a five-leaflet or seven-leaflet leaf.

This “rule” applies best to vigorous plants. You may not want to cut off as much material if the plant is weak or small. Each time you remove this much wood, you are removing a lot of the food-making ability of the plant. This method works well for most recurrent-blooming types of roses. You may not want to prune off the old flowers with rugosa and other shrub roses where hips are a part of the display. In this case, clean the spent blooms away with your hand, leaving the hips. Flowers should not be cut after October 1 to allow the plant to begin hardening off for the winter. Deadheading is also an excellent way to lessen the likelihood of diseases such as botrytis becoming problematic.

Pruning should also be looked at as applying a few common sense principles to accomplish several tasks. These tasks are to remove dead, damaged, or diseased wood; increase air circulation; keep the shrub from becoming a tangled mess; shape the plant; and encourage the growth of flowering wood. The majority of pruning is done in the spring. Many rose growers suggest waiting until the forsythias start to bloom as a good signal for the pruning season to begin.

The goal of spring pruning is to produce an open-centered plant. This allows air and light to penetrate easily.

Basic pruning fundamentals that apply to all roses include:

  • Use clean, sharp equipment.
  • Cut at a 45-degree angle about 1/4 inch above the outward-facing bud. The cut should slant away from the bud.
  • Entirely remove all dead or dying canes. These can be identified as shriveled, dark brown, or black canes.
  • If cane borers are a problem, it is suggested to seal the ends of the cuts to prevent the entry of cane borers. White glue works well.
  • Remove all thin, weak canes smaller than a pencil in diameter.
  • If roses are grafted, and there is sucker growth, remove it. The best way is to dig down to the root where the sucker originates and tear it off where it emerges. Cutting suckers off only encourages the regrowth of several suckers where there once was one.

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