Prune When?? Become a Weather
By Sandy Lundberg
(From The Charleston Rose,
You must become a weather watcher. You must let Mother Nature, rather
than the calendar, tell you when t o prune. Since 1995 when I began writing
this column, I have advocated this pruning principle.
In the Lowcountry (Charleston, SC), we normally prune at the end of
February. But in recent years the weather, with its unpredictable nature, has
sprung unwelcome surprises on us. Last year, 1998, we were hit with two nights
of 20-degree hard freezes the second week of March, which is extremely unusual.
Last fall, the weather stayed hot until well into November. And now, in early
January 1999, we have had near record lows.
Time Your Pruning
What does this mean for you and your roses? It's anybody's guess as to
our weather will be typical at pruning time. The best advice I have is to
study the long-range weather forecasts and let the plants tell you when to
prune. It is time to prune
when the bud eyes become red and slightly swollen. Pruning too
early, coupled with an unexpected cold snap, can result in short stems, blind
shoots, and rosette type growth.
Pruning produces strong growth in healthy canes, and encourages new ones to
grow -- new, healthy, vigorous basal breaks. Remove the older canes and leave
the one or two-year old canes when possible.
- Pruning Shears. Always
use sharp pruning shears that have a curved blade (secateurs). Felcos are
preferred by most rosarians and they come in several sizes and models.
Shears with straight cutting edges will mash the stems and canes, leaving
bushes susceptible to insect and disease damage.
- Pruning Saw. A sharp
pruning saw is a necessity for removing large canes. Many models are
available, but my favorite is a Felco 60 which cuts easily though very
large canes, locks when in use, and folds into the handle.
- Loppers. A sharp pair
of Toppers (long-handled pruners) are needed to reach inside the rose bush
and access the bud union.
- Pruning Gloves. Good
sturdy thorn proof gloves, preferably gauntlet style, are essential
protection for the rosarian.
- Disinfectant Solution. Clean
equipment with full strength rubbing alcohol to prevent spread of disease.
Pour some alcohol into a small jar for dipping pruning equipment during
the pruning process.
- Clean the beds of old
fallen leaves before you begin to prune. Pull back the winter protection
to expose the bud union and the ground around it. Keep mulch nearby in
case you need it again if a freeze is expected.
- Study the plant to
help decide on pruning strategy.
- Remove damaged canes, diseased
canes, and growth showing freeze damage. If you see brown pith in the center
of a cane, continue to prune until the center reveals white pith. If
necessary, remove damaged canes union.
- Disinfect pruners,
loppers, etc. as you proceed from bush to bush to prevent spreading
- Remove all but three to
five good healthy canes. However, many knowledgeable rosarians say it
is fine to leave more canes as long as the canes are robust and
- Remove weak canes that
are less than the diameter of a pencil as they will not produce vigorous growth.
Their removal will encourage new strong basal breaks and large thick canes
that support good growth.
- Make cuts to a height of
18 to 20 inches. The cuts should be made at a 45 degree angle above an
outside bud eye.
- Seal pruning cuts with some
type of sealer such as Elmer's Glue or orange shellac
- When finished, the bush
should be open in the center with a vase or urn shape.
- Cut away any leaves
remaining from last year's growth. Cutting rather than stripping will
prevent tears and damage to the canes.
- Finish up by spraying
the entire garden with a good effective fungicide and insecticide solution
at regular strength. Then, the weekly spray maintenance program should
Pruning Minis and Floribundas
Miniature roses may be pruned, depending on the size and age of the
bush, to a height of 10 to 12 inches.
Floribundas that produce sprays should not be pruned as heavily as
hybrid teas. A finished floribunda should look similar to a tree with some
Pruning Grafted Fortuniana Bushes
Rose bushes grafted to fortuniana understock should not be pruned as low as
the typical hybrid tea bush. Diann Giles (of the Giles Nursery) recommends a
height of 16 inches.