The best time of year to prune roses depends on the variety as well as local environmental conditions. Prune old-fashioned roses and climbing varieties soon after they flower and give repeat blooming roses heavy pruning in the spring. The best time of year for pruning can vary greatly, depending on the area and local weather conditions. Prune roses grown in coastal regions in late February, and those grown in mountain areas in April. Perform the majority of pruning in the spring and limit maintenance to the removal of dead flowers, if the rose is a climbing variety. Prune roses when buds are just beginning to swell.
Clear all rose bushes of growth that is dead, diseased, or damaged as soon as noted, regardless of season. Pruning out of season weakens the plant and causes sap loss, although most healthy roses will recover in later seasons with the proper care. Healthy stems should be white and plump in the centre, rather than brown.
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Use bypass pruners for roses because they make a clean cut without crushing the stem. Wear leather gloves and use a pruning saw for stems too thick to be cut with shears. Begin pruning by removing all dead, discoloured and disease portions of the plant. Make pruning cuts ¼ inch above buds pointing toward the outer edge of the plant at an angle that slopes away from the bud, to ensure proper drainage. Be Remove canes smaller in diameter than a pencil, as well as those that have developed a spindly growth habit. Take care to remove suckers growing from below the bud union should as well, all the way down to the point where they join with the trunk.
Pruning Climbing Roses
Do not prune climbing rose varieties until after they produce flowers, since they grow the best from wood at least a year old. Prune them down to five to seven of the strongest canes, taking care to avoid damaging healthy growth as the pruned branches are removed. Trim any sideshoots 3 to 6 inches after flowering and remove one to two of the oldest canes with each growing season. Tie climbing roses to a fence, trellis or other support for best growth.
Pruning Everblooming Roses
Modern everblooming varieties like floribundas, grandifloras and hybrid teas will bloom most prolifically on new wood, which necessitates heavy pruning. Prune these varieties back hard in the spring, removing one-half to two-thirds of the plants total height and canes. Leave three to five healthy canes at evenly spaced intervals around the plant, with three to five buds facing outward. Remove weak or dead canes completely, cutting them back to the point of origin.
Pruning Shrub Roses
Avoid pruning shrub roses at all for the first few years of growth, since they flower best on stems that are mature but not old. Prune them to maintain the desired shape by removing one-third of the oldest canes on the plant, letting them be replaced by one-third of the very youngest canes. Pruning shrub roses involves maintaining a balance between old and new growth to ensure a good supply of flowering wood.
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- University of Illinois Extension: Our Rose Garden
- University of California Cooperative Extension -- Inyo & Mono. Counties; Weekend Farmer Fact Sheet #2-02-Pruning Roses; Rick Delmas; 2002
- Ohio State University Extension; Fact Sheet-Fertilizing, Pruning and Winterizing Roses; Cindy Welyczkowsky, et al.; 2001
- Clemson University; Cooperative Extension; Pruning Roses; Pruning Roses; Karen Russ; 1999