Introduction To How To Prune Roses:
Pruning roses is an essential maintenance step in not only keeping your roses healthy, but also keeping them performing for you year after year. It isn't enough to simply hack them back every fall like so many gardeners do these days, you have to do it the proper way if you want it to have any effect on the overall health of your rose plants. Proper pruning is not that difficult and can be achieved with a few simple steps!
We are all busy and pruning is not the fun part of gardening, especially when your garden has barely started growing yet, but it is something you should get accustomed to doing if you are going to grow roses. Pruning makes for a healthier plant by removing all the dead, diseased, or damaged wood. Learning how to prune roses helps to increase air circulation which reduces the risk of disease, and it also prevents the plant from becoming too tangled and messy.
How to Prune Roses at the Right Time:
Because there are so many different varieties of roses out on the market, the first thing you should do is determine what type or types of roses you are growing, and learn the specifics of your particular plants. While learning how to prune roses is essentially a common sense approach to managing the plant, there are a few specifics that apply to individual varieties. As a general rule of thumb however, pruning roses is typically done in the spring time very early on. Some old school growers will tell you that when you see the forsythias begin to start blooming, that is when you should make ready to prune your roses.
There are some varieties that do not need pruned every year. If you are growing climbers or ramblers, those will typically need to be left alone to grow a few seasons before you will want to prune them. Since ramblers only bloom once per season, you will want to wait to prune these roses as soon as they are done flowering in the early summer months. Climbers will actually bloom several times throughout the season so a spring pruning is in order here.
How to Prune Roses the Right Way:
The primary goal of learning how to prune roses is to create an open plant so that light and airflow can penetrate and help the plant grow more efficiently. There are a few basic principles you can follow when pruning that will apply to any rose plant. The first is to always use pruning shears that are sharp and clean. Do not use old rusty cutters to prune your roses. Before making a cut, find a bud that is facing outward on the plant. Hold the shears at a 45 degree angle roughly a quarter inch above the bud. You should always slant your cut away from the bud. Meaning if the bud is facing outward, the cut will angle downward towards the center of the plant.
Remove all the dying and or dead canes from the plant. These are pretty easily identified because they will be dark brown or black, and probably fairly shriveled. Sometimes you have new green growth growing from old wood canes, these should be removed as well. You only want to keep new green growth that is coming directly out of the bud union itself. The bud union is the lowest part of the plant where all the canes originate from.
How to Prune Roses with Suckers:
Suckers are the long and slender canes that grow out from below the union bud and are very flexible. They call them suckers because that is what they do, they suck energy away from the plant to produce roses on these thin stalks that never produce anything worthwhile. You should remove these canes as soon as they form. This is very important in learning how to prune roses properly. The best way to remove them is not to simply cut them off however. Cutting them off will leave behind a stub that will only encourage new suckers to grow where the first one once was.
The best way to keep more suckers from forming is to grab the sucker and pull it down and off the base of the plant. Depending on how low it grew out, this may require you to dig down a little to find the base of it. If you do not follow this method, you risk leaving behind a few growth eyes that are undeveloped at the base of the sucker and these will likely grow to produce even more suckers in the future.
How to Prune Roses for Final Shape and Height:
The end result of all of your pruning is to try and achieve a bush that has an open center and a rough shape of a vase. Depending on the individual plant, that vase could be very wide or very narrow, either one is fine. There are times when you simply cannot achieve the vase shape because you have to cut back too much dead growth. Don't worry, do the best you can with what you have to work with, the vase shape is only a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. When you are finished however you should only be left with healthy green stems coming directly out of the bud union.
How tall the final plant should be depends on how hard you want to prune it. A moderate pruning is when you cut all the stems back to roughly one third of their original length. This is generally accepted as the standard pruning height for just about all bush types and standard roses. Once you have completed all of your pruning you will need to seal off the cuts to help prevent the protect the plant from pests and diseases. White glue is a simple sealer that works well for this use as well as any standard wood glue. Both of which are readily available at your local hardware store.
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