The Big Pruning: What You Need To Know
Nothing Will Affect Your Roses More Than This Crucial Step. Great Pruning Leads To Great Roses.
Rose Informational Page

by Bob Bauer
Why Prune?
Roses are plants that have been hybridized and cross bred so much and for so long, that they have basically lost a lot of the even growth and bloom habits that the original wild species varieties once had. Most roses have a history of being bred for bloom form only, letting the bush go wherever it would. What this means is that many roses left to their own genetic growth pattern will not look as good or bloom as well as they can without some human intervention. For example some varieties that have great blooms and would look good in a small garden are big enough to eat a house if left to their own devices. Many Hybrid Teas would end up being 10 feet tall with blooms only on the topmost branches and nothing but bare wood stems below. To sum up, we prune to keep the bush size under control and make our roses bloom more.
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How to Grow Page
Determine The Proper Time Of Year For Your Area
Finding this out for your area is CRITICAL! If you have a winter with frosts, your bushes will go dormant, and you will want to do your major pruning in the early spring. It is a narrow window to look for between when the leaf buds begin to swell and when the buds get to be 1/4 inch long. A good indicator in many areas that have a true winter is to prune your bushes when the yellow Forsythia bushes are in full bloom in your neighborhood.
Big Floppy Petals
'Brandy'
How Big Do You Want Your Roses To Get?
All rose bushes are not alike. Left Alone, each will grow to its own genetically predetermined size. Some roses will get to be 10 feet tall, others will peak out at less than 2 feet. It is your goal to prune each bush to keep it at the right size for you. You can't even see the flowers if they are 3 feet above your head. And you can't smell them if you prune them too lowly. Before you prune each plant, you need to know how big you want it to be and how quickly it grows. A little research here goes a long way. Most home gardeners like to keep their roses at about waist to head high. In general you must prune a mature (3 year old +) plant down to about 2 to 3 feet lower than the height you want it to reach at the end of the season.
Amazingly Fragrant
'Purple Passion'
Don't Prune Until Your Bush Is Mature
Until your new bush gets to be 3 to 4 feet tall, you shouldn't do a hard spring pruning at all. This usually doesn't happen until it reaches its second or third year after transplanting to your garden. Don't forget that a rose needs to develop a certain critical mass of size before it will be vigorous. If a rose is grown in poor soil or not watered enough, it may NEVER attain a mature vigor or size. In those cases, the bush needs all of the canes it has in order to survive. With climbing roses, you should only prune the plant when it is growing in the wrong direction or when it has reached the final size of climbing where you want it to go.
Take The Height Down First
Once you have determined the height you can start pruning by taking ALL of the canes down to this pre-determined point. It helps to have your wheelbarrow next to you to discard the cut canes into. Never just drop the canes onto the ground and leave them there, not only will they take forever to decompose, there will be lethal little weapons that will be sure to bite you next time you are dealing with the soil or weeds around the bush.
Remove All Dead And Broken Canes
Next, you will step back and examine the bush and remove ALL of the dead canes, the broken canes and any canes that have a substantial amount of bark damage. This is all pretty self evident and easy to do.
Shape The Plant
Now, you want to take a good look at the whole bush and see which canes are growing in a direction that you don't want them to. You can either remove the whole cane OR cut down to a bud that is pointing in the proper direction that you want the plant to grow. Each cane will be a different decision. It is VERY important that you notice which direction that the topmost bud is pointing, because that will be the direction that the main stem of that cane will grow. Another thing to do now is to remove canes that extend across the middle of the plant from one side to another. The reason for this is that you do not want to have too many canes in the same place, because the leaves will block the light and both canes will be spindly and not bloom much. Another reason is that roses sometimes act like saw blades and when the wind blows will severely damage canes that cross each other.
Remove Spindly Little Canes
The final thing to do is to remove the sickly and spindly little tiny canes that are growing in the bush. Most of these won't amount to anything, and being older canes, they will not tend to bloom much. Let the plant put its energy into new growth that will bloom more. Don't remove all of these little canes, just use your best judgement. A mistake that many people make is not to allow any growth on the bottom of their roses. This makes most roses 'top heavy' in the bloom department. Your goal is to get the rose to produce blooms at all levels of the plant
The Alternative Method
The Royal National Rose Society performed tests to see which pruning methods were the most effective, and found that it was just as effective and produced just as many blooms to just take electric hedge trimmers and cut off the top 1/3 of the bush every year. Now you aren't going to have all of the directional control of the other method, but you can't get much easier than that. I think that this is pretty funny by the way.

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