First tip: DON’T BE AFRAID TO PRUNE.
I’ve made countless “mistakes” through the years and the roses always forgive and come back!
You are basically looking for the 3 Ds …
Dead, Damaged and Diseased Canes
These tips are best for those who live & grow in my zone 5b.
Here in the midwest, it is difficult to know when winter is really over and it is time to prune. For many years, I have let the forsythia tell me. When the forsythia is blooming, I start pruning. This year a huge cold snap came after the forsythia bloomed, blowing that theory.😁
Today I have seen rain, sunshine and have even heard hail pinging the window.❄️ #notthenorm MOST of the time, the forsythia plan works.
Tools of the trade…
For this task, you will need to wear protective gloves and have a sharp pair of pruners. My choices are Bionic Gloves and Barnel Pruners from Wendy Tilley, owner of The Rose Gardener Garden Shop and Harlane Garden Labels.
Pruning tips for different types of roses…
Hybrid Teas: For hybrid teas, cut out any dead wood and remove the canes that cross the middle to create more air circulation in the center of the plant which can help control fungal disease. It is also good to look for the “dinky” canes. Ones that are too puny to hold up a rose. These roses I will cut back to about 10 – 12″ high to give them a strong start. Note: After a hard winter you may have to go lower … you are looking for a cane with a cream center without brown. Some years I have had to trim down to a couple of inches. Occasionally I lose HTs from winter kill but not very often.
Note: “Where the cane is black, it is NOT coming back!” Remove the black!
One of the scary terms in rose pruning is “outward facing bud eye.” BUD EYE …. what is that! 😱 A bud eye is simply the swollen area where the leaf joins with the stem and a new cane is formed.
All that means is to cut down to the tiny bud that is on the outside of the cane. Why? It is going to grow outward! If the bud is on the inside of the cane, it is going to cross the middle of the shrub. Keeping the middle more open allows more air circulation. This is helpful especially for the roses that are more susceptible to fungal diseases.
For Hybrid Teas you want to end up with 3-5 of the strongest canes to start your new growing year.
Old Garden Roses and Rugosas: To me bigger is better as far as old garden roses are concerned. Seriously, they not only don’t need a lot of pruning, they don’t like it. For one-time blooming roses, unless the wood is dead, do not prune until after they bloom! And, when you prune, just remove the dead and spindly canes and do a bit of shaping. Occassionally it is good to revitalize the shrub by removing the oldest (and usually largest) canes.
David Austin English Roses: The last couple of years I have had success with cutting back the English roses to about 1/2 their size – and in the case of a severe winter, the die back will dictate pruning height. This year required they be pruned to a height of only 12″ or so. Of course as always prune away diseased wood, old canes and canes that cross the middle — leaving the center open for better air circulation.
Shrubs & Landscape Roses: These are so easy. I have several Knockout roses, Drift roses, and many amazing shrub roses from Ping Lim’s Easy Elegance series and Proven Winner’s OSO Happy and OSO Easy series. I trim these power bloomers about 1/3 or 1/2 of their size and remove any dead or diseased canes to give them a fresh start. Watch tips for pruning Knock Out roses from P. Allen Smith here.
That’s it! Questions always welcome.
Have a wonderful blooming season!