Groundcover- and shrub roses
We always cut roses hard, at least in part. That's because they
bloom best on younger wood, which also tends to be cleaner,
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Hybrid teas bloom on brand new wood so we can cut them really
hard every year.
Climbers and many of the old shrub roses bloom on branches two
years old and older, and produce the best show on vigorous young-
and middle-aged wood. So every year we cut out some of the
climbers' and shrubs' oldest wood.
This year we had an additional reason to cut hard. The
brutal. Dead wood doesn't bloom at all and any growth
at all from
half dead wood is a waste.
Above, left: It's time to cut the roses we gave as an
Assessing winter's toll: Deciduous
Routine rose pruning
To see examples of normal spring rose pruning:
• Climbers, download
What's Coming Up 157, pages 8-11
• Groundcover roses, Prune roses &
• Hybrid teas, rose trees, climbers: download
What's Coming Up 141, pages 7-9
• Shrub roses such as R. rugosa,
download and read What's Coming Up 88 pp. 8-9
Cut out the dead, cut down to good wood
There is no sense in leaving badly damaged wood. What buds out
from weak canes is likely to die in summer when the heat and
drought exceed an impaired branch's ability to draw water from and
send starch to the roots.
Cut to where the branch's core is clean, white wood.
Right: We were glad to see white yet cut even lower on this
branch to get below the dark, damaged area.
If the rose is grafted (hybrid tea roses; some others) and the
wood's discolored all the way down to ground level, that's when
you'll be glad you planted that rose deep, burying the graft union
as the horticulturists in cold northern botanical gardens and
research stations have instructed. Then, you may not lose the rose
because live wood probably remains below your cut and it will push
up a healthy new cane.
The cane in the photo below came from the roses pictured at the
top of this page. Those roses won't start blooming this year until
late summer, skipping their usual first flush of bloom in June
because they lost all their mature wood. It's a consequence of
cold, not to be blamed on pruning time or technique.
Above: A look at the cane's color from cuts at the bottom,
middle and near the top. Now you know what dead- and nearly dead
wood looks like. Don't leave such wood on a rose in
We don't wait for the forsythia to bloom to begin pruning roses
and yes, we do prune roses when winter coats and long underwear are
still a must. As one botanical garden horticulturist put it, "I
have hundreds of roses here and there's just one of me; I start
pruning in March and I finish in June. Roses that can't handle
that, too bad."
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