Pruning Roses

Pruning roses is intimidating to many gardeners, but is actually very good for the plants. The first step is to sharpen your pruners. This will help make your efforts faster and easier. Once sharpened, you should sanitize them by dipping your pruners in a mild bleach solution to kill any fungus or bacteria. Mix about 1/4 cup of bleach per gallon of water.

Roses should typically be pruned when the Forsythia blooms or tax time (April 15th) if the Forsythia blooms early due to warmer weather. A general guide for pruning Hybrid teas, Florabundas, Grandifloras, and shrub roses like David Austin is about two thirds of their height taken off. Climbers and old garden roses are trimmed about one third their height. You also want to look at the base of the plant and thin out a few of the canes from the center. This opens up the rose for better air circulation which will help deter black spot and powdery mildew. You will have die back from the cold winter winds. When you prune, look for a creamy white center on the freshly cut canes. If the center is brown, take more and be sure to always cut at an angle. Use wood glue on the fresh cuts to prevent entry by cane borers. A little food coloring added to the glue helps let you know which canes have been done.

When you prune, you should see a creamy white center. Sealing the new cut with wood glue helps prevent cane borers, and adding a little food coloring helps you keep track of which canes you have done. This is also a good time to remove any leaves or other protection you have used in the fall.

This is also a good time to start fertilizing. Fish emulsion mixed by 2 tablespoons per gallon of water and using half a gallon per plant would be a good start. I also recommend broadcasting Grass Magic in each bed or around individual plants. Grass Magic is a natural pellet, high nitrogen, slow release fertilizer that will feed for about 3 months. Grass Magic also contains 14 kinds of beneficial fungus. This forms a symbiotic growth that allows the plant to absorb more water and nutrients. When I use Grass Magic I put it in all my flower beds. It is great for roses, flowers, and grass. I use it in the spring and also late fall.

For anyone who has roses grown in containers, now would be a good time to take them out of storage provided we don’t have any more hard freezes.

While planting roses may seem intimidating for the beginning gardener, in fact, the process is very easy. Roses are some of the easiest and most rewarding plants to grow. With a little care and attention, roses can bloom all summer long and into fall and they smell wonderful.

Have a rose question? Larry can be reached at

Print Friendly, PDF & Email