Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Pruning Roses Can Be Easy

Tea roses are the highest-maintenance plant in any garden, but they don’t have to be.  The easiest way to prune a rose is to cut it to the ground.  No, I am not kidding.  You can bring any rose to new youth and beauty simply by cutting it to its crown; you cannot kill a rose by cutting it down occasionally.  It will thank you for it with beautiful flowers in short order.
            Anytime from early spring to early fall is a good time to do it; if you prune heavily in late fall or winter, new growth will start in the first warm spell and be frozen by the next hard freeze. 
Once new growth starts in the spring, it’s a good idea to take all the old leaves off if you aren’t going to cut it to the ground, so they won’t infect the new growth with fungi, and because the bush looks so much cleaner with the ratty old leaves gone.  Any proper winter will have taken all the leaves off by mid-winter, but Southern Oregon doesn’t have proper winters, and roses never go dormant here, as the soil a foot down stays 50 degrees Farenheit all year.
Your new rose leaves are apt to be infected soon enough anyways.  This year in Oregon, it was a bad (good) spring for fungal infections, what with all the late, cold rain.  My rule is, if it has fungus up the buds, cut it to the ground, especially if the buds are infected.
Another good reason to cut a rose to the ground is if it is too big for your taste or its spot.  Any tea rose has a certain size to which it grows its canes; some want to be 8 feet tall.  If you wait until all the roses have bloomed before cutting a cane, the new canes will be the same height as the old.  If you want it to be shorter, cut it down when it is in full glory and put the roses in vases; it will come back smaller.  The sooner you cut it, the shorter it will be.
If your rose isn’t covered with fungus, and you like its size, you can keep up flower production by continually cutting bloomed-out canes, forcing new growth and flowers.  This is one way to control black spot, as it forms on old leaves, and roses bloom on new growth. 
If there is no black spot or other fungus, you can instead deadhead blooms back to the first 5-leaflet leaves, as the rose fanciers prescribe, or let hips form in late summer to stop them from trying to bloom all winter.  If they bud in winter, cut the buds and put them in a vase indoors, where they can open instead of molding.   

Published at AssociatedContent.com under The Natural Gardener.

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