The Garden Girl – Pruning Rose Bushes

February 9, 2014 14:00 pm · 10 comments

Now is the time to prune your rose bushes, groundcovers and trees. Each year between Super Bowl Sunday and Valentine’s day I set out to prune the roses at the nursery. This year the pruning is interesting since our roses are pushing leaf very early this year. I am going to be gutsy and prune away, ignoring the emerging leaf buds.

Through out the years, my winter pruning and feeding of rose bushes advice has remained the same. This year a couple steps will be changed.

Rose pruning is easy. The hardest part of pruning the roses is to not get stuck by the thorns. Seriously, an annually pruned rose should take 5-10 minutes to prune. Each year, as I approach a rose to prune, I always look right to the bottom of the plant. I don’t worry about all the buds, blooms or leaves, I look at the bottom and begin there. A well-pruned hybrid tea, grandiflora or floribunda rose should be left with 5 nice, straight, clean canes without leaves. If you have are left with less or more canes, don’t worry its will be still be fine. The object of pruning is to remove most of the past years growth, all the crossing canes, and lateral branches. Remove grayish-white canes entirely. You may have to use a saw to get through thick wood. If so, don’t worry you aren’t going to hurt the rose at all.

Make all your cuts at an angle, right before a swelling of growth. If you look closely at a rose cane before you make the cut, you’ll see a seam with a swell. This is where the rose wants to grow from, so make your cut right just above the swell. If you like taller roses, prune less. If you need smaller roses, prune hardier. How much cane you leave really depends on the amount of room you have for you rose to grow. I have been known to leave only 6” of cane, or as much as 18”. It depends on the situation.

Rose-trees should be pruned the same way as the floribunda, hybrid tea, or grandiflora. Remove old canes, crossing branches and lateral branches. With rose trees I do leave more canes on the plant. I do this to make rose-tree to look fuller.

Groundcover roses don’t get the same amount of attention. I reshape the groundcover roses, bringing them down and in. I am not worried about crossing arms and old stems. I just want to have each plant have a fresh start come spring with new, healthy growth. If the groundcover roses that I am pruning have grown crazy, then they will be severally pruned. If I am pruning a new installation, the pruning will be lighter.

Fertilizing roses is very important. Many years ago a customer brought me this Rose Recipe from a gal named Bonnie at Orchard Nursery and Florist. This is what she recommends. We used it at our nursery and were thrilled by the results. We have been sharing the recipe ever since. This recipe is for ground grown hybrid tea, grandiflora, floribunda or tree shaped roses that have been in the ground for at least one year. Each rose is to receive:

1/2 cup 16-16-16 Multi-Prupose Fertilizer
1/2 cup 5-5-5 Multi Purpose Organic Fertilizer)
1/2 cup Bone Meal
1/2 cup Granular Iron
1/2 cup Alfalfa Meal
2 T. Epson Salt
(Dose cut back to prevent salt build-up during drought years)

Work into soil along drip line and top-dress with a couple inches of chicken manure and water in.

This may sound like a lot of products, but imagine how deep the root are of your rose. I don’t premix a batch of products. There is a reason for each ingredient. The 16-16-16 or 5-5-5 are both simply multi-purpose fertilizers. It’s a balanced meal for all plants. The Bone Meal is a source of phosphorus, and will help encourage bloom, the granular iron is applied to keep your rose leaves green and free of chlorosis. Alfalfa Meal is applied as a form of nitrogen and to stimulate new cane growth. Epson Salts are used to intensify flower color.

Now, I am practical. If you have just a few roses, I wouldn’t go to all the expense of this entire Rose Recipe. I would skip the Epson Salts, and probably the Alfalfa Meal. If your roses are in containers cut the recipe in half. If the only roses that you are growing are the groundcover types, save some energy and apply only the multi purpose fertilizer and granular iron. Use half the amount.

I don’t use any systemic fertilizer, nor do we sell any. Aphids are a part of spring, and if you have aphids your garden will attract the beneficial insects to eat them up. No aphids, no beneficial insects. Well cared for roses, that are planted in the proper amount of sun usually don’t suffer from fungus. Troublesome roses that constantly have fungus should just be removed. We live in a dry enough region where we shouldn’t need to spray dormant oils or fungicides on our roses.

Happy Gardening.

Nicole Hackett is the Garden Girl at R&M Pool, Patio and Gardens, located at 6780 Marsh Creek Road in Clayton, 925-672-0207.

Nicole writes for the Clayton Pioneer Newspaper, and She is also the Clayton Valley Garden Club 2012 President.

1 Antler February 9, 2014 at 2:51 PM

That ‘splains it! I haven’t been using nearly enough of that recipe per rose bush. Thank you for setting me straight!

But please, those of you who have dogs who share the yard with the rose garden……. I suggest you do NOT use a top dressing of chicken manure because you KNOW what they’ll do with that sublimely-fragranced product!!! (At least ours do even if it’s labeled “aged and odor-free”.)

2 Momo February 9, 2014 at 4:19 PM

Omg good point antler. My dogs will eat and roll in anything that has the slightest smell. Thanks for reminding me. Haha

3 Shasta Daisy February 9, 2014 at 6:56 PM

Thank you, Garden Girl.
I used your recipe last year.

By the way, I love those cute little aphids.

4 G non February 9, 2014 at 10:02 PM

Thanks I was wondering about the new eArly growth this year.

5 Resident in Clayton February 10, 2014 at 1:56 AM

Can anyone recommend a GOOD gardening service? Please post any suggestions here. THANKS!!!!!

6 AWESOME DAD February 10, 2014 at 8:25 AM

What about tall bushes? I think ours are of the ‘climbing’ variety. Over six ft high — we just moved into a place with a few of these. They aren’t staked or running up a trellis — just tall and unkempt. They probably haven’t been touched in years. What should I do — and can I dig them up and move them this time of year? Thanks!

7 Louisa February 10, 2014 at 10:09 AM

@ Resident in Clayton:

J.M. Hayes in Concord is really good. Her name is Jackie (510) 910-3741.

Tell her Steven referred you to her. She’s great!

8 @ Resident in Clayton February 11, 2014 at 12:45 PM

You can contact David or Nicole at R & M pool, patio , gifts and Gardens and they can help you

9 VikingPrincess February 11, 2014 at 1:22 PM

Good article and topic to cover. Already pruned the pomegranate tree bush. Now getting ready for the roses.

10 Antler February 15, 2014 at 9:02 AM

First an announcement….our peach tree is just beginning to bloom.

Second, a question for Louisa: We have excellent “yard maintenance” men, but they know simply nothing about plants. Are you saying that Jackie is a real live “gardener”? If so, I would love to call and have her help just for the occasional project.

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