How to prune a rose is by far one of the most common questions we field at Art's Nursery. While many believe it to be some last arcane art, it is actually quite straight-forward.
Pruning roses requires a little bit of timing and planning. Roses should be pruned in early spring, usually around March when you see the yellow Forsythia bushes blooming. Sharpen your pruners, or better yet, drop by Art's Nursery and treat yourself to a shiny new pair.
In early spring, we recommend what is called 'Hard Pruning'. This is recommended for all types of Roses except for climbers, david austins and old roses. It is especially beneficial for newly planted roses as well as those needing rejuvenation.
To start pruning, cut away any dead, damaged or diseased canes. You can also remove any canes that are crossing, rubbing or generally growing in the wrong direction.
Next cut away any weak or spindly canes. We want to redirect the plants energy into larger, stronger healthier canes. Do this by cutting near the base, just above the bud union (the place where the root stock meets the cane).
Once this step is complete, your rose should only have a few canes remaining, 3-5 is ideal.
Next, shorten the canes. Cut back each cane by at least 1/2. Roses will tolerate pruning as low as 6 inches above the base. Pruning hard stimulates the development of new canes or 'basal breaks'. Canes should be cut to about 1/4 inch above a healthy bud that faces outward.
Fertilize your roses shortly after pruning with Art's Garden Pro Rose Food or any other fertilizer that encourage root / flower development. Use magnesium sulphate (Epsom Salts) to encourage the production of healthy foliage. A slow release nitrogen fertilizer is also beneficial as it feeds the rose over a long period of time.
Pruning Roses to Encourage Re-Flowering
During the growing season (mid-summer), you can prune roses lightly to encourage re-flowering. Observe the arrangement of leaves on the rose stem. Below the flower will be a single leaf, below that sets of leaves with three leaflets and then a series of leaves with 5 leaflets. Remove spent flowers by cutting back to the stem with 5 leaflets. This produces strong vigorous growth and new blooms. Remember to always cut to an outward facing bud.
What Happens If I Prune Roses Lightly?
One of the most common mistakes we see with roses is being too gentle. New gardeners are afraid to prune hard. There is nothing wrong with pruning lightly, but it will cause the rose to produce tall spindly plants and early but inferior blooms as opposed to strong, shorter plants with strong blooms.
If you have any questions about rose pruning, please feel free to contact us at Art's Nursery during business hours, 604.882.1201. Or better yet, drop by and see us in person!