Gardening: Time for spring rose pruning
Thu., April 23, 2020
The roses are slowly starting to pop leaf buds, and that means it’s time to think about getting them ready for the summer. The first order of business is pruning.
Hybrid teas, grandifloras, floribundas and miniature roses will need the most pruning. They bloom best on new wood. Now that leaf buds are breaking, you can tell where there is dead wood on the plants. We didn’t have a very hard winter so there shouldn’t be much. Trim out any dead canes back to green wood. Next thin out any small, thin stems or stems that are crossing each other. Lastly, trim the remaining canes to four to six of the largest that are evenly spaced out across the plant.
Modern shrub roses bloom on mature wood so they don’t need much more than shaping or removing a few older canes to help rejuvenate the plant. Leave shrub roses alone for their first three years so they can express their own shape. Thereafter trim only enough to maintain their shape. Every couple of years, cut out a third of the oldest canes to encourage new growth. The oldest canes are likely the largest ones with the roughest bark. Younger wood supports more flowers.
The climbing roses can be headed back by at least half to keep them from taking over their space. Tie the canes back up to a sturdy trellis. As the roses grow, head them back to keep them in check.
Apply 2 to 3 inches of compost or mulch underneath your plants. Mulch can conserve as much as half the water in a bed which helps reduce stress during hot weather. Compost will also add some nutrients which means you won’t have to apply as much fertilizer. If you used shredded pine needles as your winter mulch, simply spread it around under the plants for the summer. Not only will this conserve moisture, it will provide weed control.
Compost probably won’t provide enough fertilizer to support strong flower development. Apply a good quality rose fertilizer when there is about 6 inches of new growth on the plants. Continue fertilizing every three weeks until early August. This will give the plants August and September to harden off before the cold returns in October and November.
Proper pruning of roses is the first step to good disease control. Properly pruned plants will allow air to flow through the plants thereby decreasing moisture that supports disease development. With our dry climate and the development of more disease-resistant plants, this may be all you need to do to keep black spot and mildew in check for most of the summer. Just in case, start scouting your plants in mid-July and treat as needed with a rose fungicide.
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