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How to Prune Roses

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Roses, the "divas of the garden", are awe-inspiring, but tending to them can also be quite intimidating.

Their reputation is due mostly to all the diseases and pests they can attract, especially in climates with wet summers, and not so much to how challenging their pruning is.

While it may be difficult or intimidating to many gardeners, pruning roses offers so many benefits. It’s true that becoming a skillful rose pruner could take some time and practice, it’s also true that it’s very hard to hurt your roses with bad pruning.

Proper pruning improves the health and look of your rose bush, prevents disease, encourages better air circulation through the center of the plant, allows you to clean out dead wood, controls the plant size, and shapes the plant.

Here are some easy and effective tips on how to prune roses:

The type and amount of pruning will depend on the class of rose and the time of year it blooms, yet general pruning principles apply to all roses.

The majority of plant pruning happens in early spring, right after the coldest winter weather has passed. The goal is to produce an open centered plant that will allow air and light to penetrate easily.

Deadheading of roses, removal, should be done during their bloom period in the summer. For large plants, shears will do the job best. Traditionally, you would prune back to a five-leaflet leaf, cutting at an angle, just above a leaflet facing outward. If you’re looking to encourage fewer, but larger, blooms and strong canes, cut the stem lower on the bush. This is standard technique for plants that are strong and vibrant. If the rose plant is weak or small, you may not want to cut off as much. There are low-maintenance roses that do not need you to do the deadheading for them.

If you have climbing roses, for instance on a trellis or fence, they won’t grip on their own, so extra sets of pruning, training, and keeping them tied may be needed. Use clean, sharp equipment.

Generally, when pruning cut at a 45-degree angle, about 1/4 inch above outward-facing bud, slanting away from the bud. All thin, weak canes that are smaller than a pencil in diameter and dead or dying canes (shriveled, dark brown, or black canes) need to be entirely removed.

When roses are grafted and there’s a sucker growth, it should be removed to encourage regrowth of several new ones where once was a single one. Remove it by digging down to the root where the sucker originates and tear it off where it appears.

There are differences between classes of roses, and the rule is that the closer you get to species the less severe the pruning.

Now that you know more about pruning garden plants, go ahead and tend to your roses – they will love you for it!

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