Question: When is the best time to prune roses? I have a bush that needs trimming, but don’t want to damage it by pruning at the wrong time.
If the rose is out of control, it won’t hurt to get out the clippers now. This advice comes from Annie Owen, a Master Rosarian and member of the Nashville Rose Society: “If the bush is overgrown, this is an okay time to prune it back, as long as it gets plenty of water.” In fact, if you reduce the size of the bush, you reduce its need for water, she said.
This goes for most types of roses, even those with finicky personalities and special fertilizing and spraying needs, as long as they’re healthy. If it’s a Knockout rose, no worries at all. “If it’s a Knockout, you can’t kill those things,” Owen said.
The Nashville Rose Society offers these pruning guidelines: Use sharp bypass pruning shears, which will make a clean cut without crushing the stem. Start by taking out older wood, along with any dead or dying canes. Remove any canes that rub or cross each other, or any twiggy, unnecessary growth. Make each pruning cut about ¼-inch above an outward-facing bud eye, where the leaf is attached to the stem.
Rose enthusiasts who winterize their prized roses will do more severe pruning in the fall. To begin the winterizing process, stop fertilizing roses now to allow the plant to slow down production of new growth. Early in October, stop cutting the dead flowers and leave the rose hips in place. In late November or early in December, cut the canes back to 2 to 3 feet, and place a mound of mulch around
the bush. This will hold them until spring, when you should prune lightly again to get new growth.
For general good advice on pruning and anything else that has to do with roses, visit the Nashville Rose Society’s Web site, www.nashvillerosesociety.com.
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