Rose pruning, particularly that concerning the popular hybrid tea roses, is not the black magical art that many rose growers would have us believe.
A rose is a woody plant and it follows the same simple rules as any other woody plant when it comes to pruning.
The first rule is that pruning stimulates growth. When you prune your rose bush, you are asking it to grow bushier and have more flowers. You have to cut off some growth to get even more growth.
The second rule in rose pruning is that we want to leave the center of the rose bush as “open” as we can when we prune. This means we try to avoid having rose canes bunched all together in the centre of a clump but rather have them spread out more so if you could suspend yourself over the rose plant – you could look right down into the center of the plant and there would be no canes there.
This spreading out improves the ability of air to get into the middle of the clump. The air circulation dries out morning dew faster and helps prevent the spread of bacterial and fungal problems such as black spot and powdery mildew.
Suggestions That May Help
Prune To A Bud
We do this rose pruning by always trying to prune to a bud that is facing towards the outside of the plant.
If we cut off a cane immediately above a bud that is facing towards the center of the plant- that bud will grow towards the center and as the paragraph above points out, we don’t want that to happen. We prune right above a bud that is facing as straight out as possible.
No, Not Rocket Science
This is not rocket science and there’s a ton of room for “close counts” and mistakes.
Sometimes the buds are not pointing straight out – but are pointing “kinda” out. Or you have to cut most of your rose off to find a bud going straight out. Make the cut that seems the best within the amount of cane you want to remove.
Your rose plant will survive the outrages of beginner pruning if you feed and water it properly. Besides, roses are relatively cheap shrubs to learn how to prune on. 🙂
Hybrid Tea Roses
We prune our hybrid tea roses at several times.
The most common is to prune off or deadhead the flowers when they fade. This rose pruning involves taking a length of stem with it (if we’re talking hybrid tea roses)
Research at the Royal Botanic Garden in Hamilton, Ontario showed that cutting approximately 12 inches below the fading rose flower stimulated excellent regrowth and the most number of new blooms.
Again, this is an approximation – sometimes you’ll cut 8 inches to an outside bud, sometimes 13. You just do your best to prune in the 8-12-inch range to as outward facing a bud as you can find. You’ll do that after the first two flushes of bloom on hybrid tea roses. However, with the third flush (if you get it) simply snip off the blossoms right below the blossom and do not cut down into the stem. We do not want our rose spending the energy developing new canes late in the season when it should be storing energy for winter survival. (remember pruning stimulates growth).
Now, if you’ve pruned your fading roses to an outward facing bud approximately 12-inches down the cane, you should see several buds on each cane start to grow. These will be your next flush of blooms so continue feeding and watering the rose bush as if your blooms depended on it. Repeat this after the second flush but as above – not after the third flush of blooms.
Shaping the Spring Rose
The second time rose pruning happens is in the late fall after the leaves have fallen off the rose bush and the rose is fully dormant for winter. The traditional rose growers will prune the canes back to 12-18 inches in length just before hilling the rose.
Northern deep-planted roses are trimmed right back to ground level.
Summary Notes and Doug’s Best Advice
And that’s the basic mechanics of rose pruning. After your first few cuts, you won’t think anything of it. Just remember that
1) practice makes perfect.
2) Your rose will likely outgrow anything you do to it.
3) We all started like this making imperfect cuts.
4) In the grand scheme of things – it’s a plant and there’s a ton of them at the garden shop.