Pruning Roses

Overall pruning guidelines are the same for all types of roses. This job should be done in early spring after the last frost. First, remove any dead wood down to the nearest healthy dormant bud eye. A bud eye is a small bulge on the stem that has what looks like a tiny eye with a horizontal crease underneath it. Once dormancy has been broken by natural means or by pruning, the bud eye develops into a new shoot. Notice the direction in which bud eyes point. After pruning, the top bud on each stem (or “cane” as rose experts call it) should be facing away from the interior of the plant so that new canes don’t all grow into the center, where they will tangle and compete for sunlight.

Position your hand pruners so that the cutting blade is on the lower end of the cut to ensure a clean cut. Make the cut at a 45 degree angle, at least 1 inch below the dead wood, and about ¼ inch above the outward-facing bud. If cuts are made too high above the bud, the wood above the bud will die, inviting pest and disease attack. If the cane that you are pruning has no buds, remove the entire branch down to the union with the stem. Also, remove any old thick and woody canes; they will only produce a lot of twigs rather than strong stems.

After pruning the dead canes, remove all diseased wood. Cut any sickly canes down to a plump, healthy bud, at least 1 inch below the infected area. Next, remove all undesirable wood—the weak, spindly, and deformed growth; the doglegs, canes that grow straight out and then curve upward. Cut canes that are growing toward the center of the bush. If two branches cross, remove the weaker one.

Finally, remove all suckers or reversion growth (undersized shoots that come from the rootstock below the bud union). When cutting them out, take the entire base of the sucker from the crown area, along with a piece of the crown if necessary.


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