The pruning methods you use will vary according to the type of rose plant, said David Hillock, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension consumer horticulturist.
“Rose bushes are a great addition to any landscape, but it’s important to keep them pruned so they look their best. Pruning is typically pretty drastic in the spring,” Hillock said. “Because you should prune a couple of weeks before the average date of the last killing frost, gardeners should get out their pruning shears now. However, climbing roses should be pruned following the first flowering in the spring.”
Gardeners are encouraged to follow a few simple rules to improve the appearance and vigor of their rose bushes and control the quality and quantity of the flowers. Some fundamental practices of pruning roses correctly in all gardens, regardless of type, are: 1) remove any canes that have been damaged by insects, diseases or storms; 2) remove one of two canes which may be rubbing one another; and 3) remove canes that are spindly or smaller in diameter than the size of a pencil. After pruning, according to these general recommendations, cut hybrid teas, floribundas, grandifloras and polyanthas back to 12 inches for large flowers and 18 to 24 inches for many smaller-sized flowers.
Climbing roses generally are pruned to renew plant vigor by removing the old canes, since the most productive and finest blooms on climbers are produced on canes that arose from the bottom of the plant the previous year.
Hillock said these newer canes produce more desirable growth and flowers. Since the canes may become quite long, it is necessary to prune them back so they are maintained in the desirable area.
“Old fashion or antique roses require much less pruning than modern roses. Left unpruned, old fashion roses will naturally obtain a rounded shrub shape,” he said. “Pruning these roses should be confined to some shaping of the plant, removal of damaged branches and careful trimming back to encourage growth.”
On all roses, consider the cutting of flowers as a form of pruning. When gathering roses, always leave at least two sets of leaves on the branch from which you cut the flower to ensure plant vigor. When removing faded, spent flowers, cut only as far as the first five-leaflet leaf. Make cuts on the ends of branches at 45 degree angles just slightly above an outside facing bud with the lowest point on the side opposite the bud, but not below the bud itself. Never leave stubs when removing branches, since these die and can cause problems on the plant later. Always remove branches by cutting to a lateral branch or bud, or back to the base of the rose plant.
For more information on growing roses in Oklahoma see fact sheet LA-6430 Roses in Oklahoma at osufacts.okstate.edu.
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