Spring fever is setting in and for some it’s time for the War of the Roses. Temperatures are beginning to rise, and my green thumb is itching to get those rose bushes ready for their beautiful bloom season. Here are a few pruning tips to show you how to prune roses and get your garden looking fabulous this summer.
When to Prune
Timing is key in this process, as pruning too early will lead to damage. In most states, late February or early March, after the threat of frost, is a good time to prune, but if you’re in a cooler part of the country or a mountainous area, you shouldn’t prune until a little later than that. A good indication of when to prune is when the buds begin to swell; then you know you are good to go!
Tools for Pruning
You are going to need a good, sharp pair of pruners. How to choose with such a large selection?
I recommend a small hand-held bypass pruner for the smaller canes and bypass loppers for the larger ones. You will also need a good pair of rose gloves or leather gloves to protect your hands and arms from those painful thorns.
Begin with a general idea of the shape you want. Remove any dead canes first. Make cuts ¼-inch above a leaf bud, facing outward and at the same angle as the bud. Next, find the suckers, or the new plants trying to grow from the roots. (These suck all the nutrients from the plant). Take out any canes that are rubbing together to prevent fungus and disease. Next trim the healthy canes back, leaving two to four feet. Remove the canes in the middle to increase air flow. Never cut more than one-third of the plant at one time. Periodically dip your tools in alcohol to decrease the chance of spreading disease.
Once your plant begins to bloom, remove any spent flowers (or dead heads) to encourage new and vibrant growth. To do this make a diagonal cut above the next five or seven- leaf branch on the same stem. Continue this process during the entire blooming season.
Note: some varieties of roses, like one-time spring-blooming climbers, are pruned at the end of the blooming season.