It’s time to think about pruning roses. When the Forsythia blooms in your neighborhood, put on your gloves and get to work. Roses need to be pruned. It encourages new growth, more flowers and gets rid of the dead and diseased canes. It will open up the plant to allow better air circulation and that makes for a healthier plant.
Thick gloves are essential, as are a pair of sharp bypass pruners, which have two cutting edges. Anvil pruners have one flat side and crush stems. Disinfect your pruners. Use one part regular household bleach to nine parts of water. Dip your pruners into this bleach solution between pruning cuts if you have diseased canes, but especially before moving between plants. Use something like WD40 or a cooking oil spray on your pruners when you’re finished. The bleach is hard on the metal cutting blades and they’ll benefit from being oiled.
Before getting started, stand back and take a good, long look at the shrub. Have a plan in mind before you start cutting. You can direct growth by looking for the buds and making the pruning cuts according to bud direction. Make your cuts at a 45 degree angle right above a bud. A bud on the outside of the cane will send growth outward. A bud on the inside will direct growth towards the center. Keeping the middle fairly open improves air circulation, so try cutting to an outward facing bud.
Hybrid Tea roses are usually pruned harder than other rose varieties. They can be cut down to about a foot without harm. Severe pruning will give you fewer but larger flowers.
Remove all dead canes. Remove crossing or rubbing branches. The rubbing causes wounds that are entryways for disease. Take out old wood. Removing some of the older canes will encourage new growth. Up to one fourth of the older canes can be removed by cutting them down to the very base of the rose bush.
Cover the new, larger cuts with a dab of wood glue to repel cane borers. This insect hollows out the cane causing dieback. The glue stops that problem.
Shrub roses, Miniature roses, floribunda and grandifloras are all generally pruned only lightly, removing dead or diseased stems and pruning back slightly for control.
Fertilize your roses after pruning with fertilizer that is labeled as a bloom booster.
Deep, infrequent watering and good air circulation almost ensures a lovely rose bush. Most roses need full sun but there are varieties that will flower in the shade. If fragrance is what you’re after, buy the rose while it’s in bloom so you can experience the smell before taking it home.
If you have roses in your garden, enjoy them. If not, consider planting one. Roses are easy to grow around here and it seems like every garden should have at least one. It’s good for your soul to stop and smell the roses.