Breathe. You know what day it is. Breathe. Here in the Grand Valley, April 15 signifies more than a day that can be stress-inducing to those still crunching numbers trying to beat the tax deadline. Mid-April is also prime time to prune roses; most of our hard freezes are usually in the past and the promise of fragrant spring flowers waits inside those thorny shrubs you’ve been dying to take the loppers to.
Let’s not get crazy, though. Rose pruning requires patience, observation, attention to detail and a bit of artistry. Assemble your tools first: Heavy gloves, preferably long, gauntlet-style if you can find them, bypass pruners, loppers for larger shrubs/thicker canes, and a sealant of some sort–Elmer’s Glue or clear nail polish or an actual pruning sealer from your local garden center.
1. Get your Zen on and step back from your rose and assess its overall shape and size and scan it for dead canes.
2. Trim out any dead canes first, starting a pile for the trash. Roses are susceptible to many diseases and insect invasions, so it’s best to NOT place rose trimmings in your compost.
3. Step back again and assess how crowded the center of the shrub is. Prune to open the center to allow light and air to circulate, which will minimize disease later.
4. Make your cuts clean (not ragged) 1/4 inch above an outward facing bud at a 45 degree angle (See image), pruning 1/2 inch into green, live wood. With the tough winter we had, this may cause you to reduce the size of your shrub by half or more. If the rose was newly planted last year and still small, you may want to just give it a very light trim, along with the removal of dead canes. Most roses can be trimmed back to a height of 18-24 inches every year.
(image from Gardenality)
5. Remove any twiggy branches that are smaller in diameter than a pencil.
6. Remove any suckers–growth that starts below the graft (the bulge).
7. Seal all cut ends with glue, nail polish or sealer, to prevent borers or other problems from entering.
8. Step back again and reassess the shape of your rose. Make additional cuts as needed to keep the center somewhat open and the overall shape vase-like, remembering to seal the cuts.
9. Clean out any debris from under the shrub where bugs and their families could hide. Use a rake or convince a bug-tolerant person to do this if the thought of creepy-crawlies gives you the creepy crawlies. 😉
10. Breathe. Step back and admire the fabulous and professional pruning you’ve just accomplished. Breathe. Think of how beautiful your roses will be this year. Breathe. See your friends at Mt Garfield for fertilizers, systemics and sprays to keep your babies lovely all season long.