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How to Prune Roses

By Heirloom Roses
Photographs courtesy of Heirloom Roses

Pruning is an important part of rose care to ensure hearty growth and gorgeous blooms. Though it sometimes can seem daunting to new gardeners, pruning is not hard to learn, and the results are well worth the effort!

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Pruning is about more than just looks. It also improves the health of the rose bush, prevents disease, and encourages better and more flowering. There are different pruning strategies for different times of the year, but the goal is always to open up the plant to provide better air circulation and to prevent fungal growth. In the Pacific Northwest, we do our winter prune in late February. Warmer climates, such as the Southwest, may prune in January. Colder climates such as the Northeast may need to wait until April. Keep an eye on your plants and the temperatures. Time your pruning just as the new growth starts but don't prune if there is still a chance of a hard frost which would damage the tender new growth.

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The goal of pruning this time of year is to rejuvenate the roses. This is the time to shape and clean out deadwood or weak canes. Prune thoughtfully to correct problems with overall form or to reduce the height of roses that are outgrowing their space. This is ideal to produce a full, shapely plant, without overcrowding. 

At Heirloom Roses, we use the acronym PRUNE to remember the basic pruning process. This method applies to the most popular garden roses such as hybrid teas, shrubs, and floribundas, but climbers and ramblers require more specialized techniques.

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To prune hybrid teas, shrubs, and floribundas, follow these steps:

P - Prepare the Plant

  • Cut the plant back to about waist height so you can work safely.

R - Remove All Broken, Dead, Dying, or Diseased Wood

  • Branches that look dry, shriveled or black should be removed, as they will no longer produce new growth. The healthy canes will be brown or green and firm.
  • Remove canes that are crossing or rubbing, as they will create weak spots.

U - Understand the Plant

  • Know what type of rose bush you are pruning, and how you want the bush to look as it grows out.
  • Shape the plant with this future growth in mind.
  • Make final cuts at a 45-degree angle and about ¼ inch above outward facing bud eyes.

N -  Nothing Left Behind

  • Clean up all cuttings, dead leaves, and other debris from around the plant. Do not compost as it could spread pathogens.
  • Leaving the area as clean as possible will minimize the growth of diseases.

E - Enjoy Your Roses

  • That’s it! Enjoy your hard work!
  • If you want to enjoy some cut roses, cut the stem right above the first five-leaflet leaf under the flower and immediately place the cut stem into a clean bucket of lukewarm water.

Heirloom Roses is offering a 20% discount off all roses in the month of February with the code SMART20. For more information, visit the Heirloom Roses website.

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By Delilah Onofrey, Suntory Flowers
Photographs courtesy of Suntory Flowers

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