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Pruning Roses

Pruning our roses is a way to with the process of growing stronger and healthier bushes. Don’t be to quick to begin this chore, as we can experience some very cold weather particularly in mid- March. Generally speaking, pruning should be performed in mid-April (when the forsythia blooms in your neighborhood). Pruning earlier can result in early growth of tender foliage that can easily be killed by a late spring frost, resulting in loss of the promising bud. 

Pruning roses is really not that difficult, especially following a tough New England winter. First, remove dead and diseased canes, shape the bush to promote healthy growth with good air circulation, and help the bush get off to a good start in the coming growing season. If the winter was bad, for many of the hybrid teas, the dead (black canes or a cane that when pruned does not have a healthy white pith interior) may extend to as far as you were able to mound your winter-protection soil.

Tools: WEAR Gloves, preferably long ones that protect the forearms from prickles; bypass pruners (that slice, not anvil pruners that crush the canes), something to seal the pruning site, such as Elmer’s glue.

First, you should carefully pull any winter protection that you may have applied back away from the bud union. Then evaluate the bush and remove any dead or diseased canes. Next remove all those spindly canes that are not capable of producing any real significant growth.

Next, make some decisions about what you want from your roses. If you want large blooms on strong canes, you will have to prune lower. However, if you’re after more blooms that perhaps are a little smaller, then you can prune higher. We like our hybrid teas and grandifloras to produce large blooms on strong stems, therefore we prune them lower, which is generally somewhere between 12 and 18 inches [1/3 as high as the rose maximum height](if the dieback allows cane this high). With floribundas, we’re looking for the mass bloom effect and therefore we prune them higher, which is generally somewhere between 18 and 28 inches [2/3 of the previous year’s height]. If you’re pruning climbers or shrubs, remove only the dead and diseased canes mentioned above, as they bloom best on year old wood. Any major pruning of climbers and shrubs should not be done until after the initial bloom in mid June. Miniatures can be treated just like hybrid teas and pruned to about 6 inches.

Regardless of the type of rose, you should try to remove all crossing canes that can rub each other and provide a breeding ground for insects and disease. A well pruned rose will somewhat resemble a vase with the middle opened up to promote air circulation. 

Make each cut at about a 45-degree angle about ¼th of an inch above an outward-facing eye. The eye should be at the topmost part of the slant. This slant will enable moisture to run off and away from the eye. Cuts should now be sealed with Elmer’s Glue, or pruning wax. Sealing your cuts will protect them from insects, such as cane borers

After you have completed your pruning, its time to clean up around your beds. Do not place canes and rose leaves in the compost pile, and make sure you remove any discarded debris from the garden area.

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