Time to Prune Roses?

— Written By Peg Godwin and last updated by
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Warm January weather has made gardeners anxious to begin pruning. Pruning is very important to successfully grow many plants especially roses. Good pruning helps plants by removing damaged material, encourages new growth and flowers, increases sunlight penetration into the plant, improves air circulation, and directs new growth resulting in an attractive plant shape.

Pruning also allows roses a time to be non-productive which has been proven to help plants produce. The resting time each year after pruning helps prolong the life of a rose bush. It also encourages maximum flower quality and quantity for the home garden.

A good way to determine when to prune is to look at the buds. When the buds begin to swell, go ahead and prune. Do take note of the type of roses that will be pruned. Old-fashioned roses and climbers that bloom only once a year should be pruned immediately after flowering. Do not prune these types of roses heavily in the early spring since they bloom on wood from the previous year’s growth.

Clean and sharp quality tools make smooth cuts that heal quickly. Take the time to inspect your tools and prepare for successful pruning. Make sure to protect your hands with thick gloves. Begin by pruning from the base of the plant looking at the overall shape and health.

Use this guide to direct the growth of the new spring growth and gives a bush a pleasing circular shape.1. Prune to open the center of the plant to light and air circulation. 2. Remove dead, diseased, dying and damaged branches to reduce diseases and pests. Always cut to good healthy tissue easily recognized by the green bark on the outside of the cane and white pith core revealed after the cut is made. 3. Make your cuts at a 45-degree angle, about 1/4 inch above a healthy bud that is facing toward the outside of the plant. This cut directs the new growth outwards. 4. Remove all weak or twiggy growth on main canes that are thinner than a pencil. Cutaway crossing branches. 5. Remove suckers (which is new growth from the root structure below the graft or bud union) if present.

This deliberate planning of new spring growth is what gives the rose bush a pleasing overall circular shape that spreads from the center outwards. It also helps to make the first bloom cycle of the year the most attractive by redirecting the stored nutrients.

Do not forget to clean up around the bush and remove all foliage and clippings from the area.