Knowing when to prune can make for healthier rose bushes and sometimes more roses. Roses grow larger blooms when properly pruned and cared for.
Use good, sharp pruning shears that make clean cuts as ragged edges can leave openings for disease and pests. The ideal time to prune roses is when they are dormant after a couple of good frosts in mild climates. There are three main times to prune, each for a different reason.
During the growing season cut the withering roses by cutting just under an inch above the node. This insures the rose bushes continue producing flowers all season. Remove brown or yellow leaves as they are seen.
At the end of the season once the leaves begin falling remove excess branches to reduce damage from snow and ice. In the spring comes the pruning “pre-season pruning” to remove dead canes and branches.
Start by clearing away the dead grass, leaves, mulch and other material that can shelter insects around your rose bushes. Once you have a clear base around the rose bush cut all the dead, woody, diseased and damaged canes. Any with striations or deep furrows also come out, leaving the healthy green canes to continue on. Open up the bush by removing canes that cross together, leaving a vase shaped bush of a few healthy canes. No two rose bushes are alike so it takes looking for moderation to find the best look.
Included in your pruning should be any shoots coming out of old woody canes so that all is left is the healthy canes. In the long run this makes for healthier roses. When down near the ground level make flush cuts at the bud union area so stubs aren’t left to begin health issues.
Cut just above the bud at a 45 degree angle going away from the bud. Getting too close to the bud can kill it so adjust to cut just above it. When cutting watch the center of the tissue and prune back to where it’s clean, white tissue. Especially in cases of older woody canes, there sometimes are brown spots in the center of the cane. Cut back to where what remains is solid white center.
Remove any suckers. These are underground roots that take hold and bring new canes several inches from the ‘parent’ plant. Trim back to 1/3 the plant height that you started with. Moderate pruning such as described here is best for most roses.
Newly planted roses often need pruned too, selecting the strongest, most vigorous canes to take hold in their new location. Because you are pruning during the dormant phase, have some sealing compound on hand to dab on the ends that have been pruned. This helps the plant stay healthy and heal and doesn’t take a long time to do.
Mulch the roses to conserve water and eliminate weeds. As the roses come out of the dormant stage fertilize and prepare to enjoy a season of beautiful roses!