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A Merry Gardener

Horticulture for daily living
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Roses are Red, Pruning's for You

With Valentine's Day just behind us, I have roses on the brain. It's a good thing too, because it is time to get out and do some spring pruning on your rose bushes. While it may still be a little bit early according to the calendar, the early warming here in Southern Illinois has spring on the fast track. Forsythias are blooming, maples are breaking bud, and daffodils are showing their sunny faces.

The basic reasons for spring pruning rose bushes is to remove dead wood, keep the bush shape open and orderly, and encourage the growth of flowering wood. The optimal shape for your rose bush will have an open center that will allow for good light penetration and air circulation.

Here are some basic rules to apply when pruning your roses:

  • Use clean, sharp pruning shears
  • Make cuts ¼ inch above an outward facing bud
  • Make cuts at a 45 degree angle, slanting away from the bud (long edge on the side of the stem with the bud)
  • Remove all dead canes. They will appear darker in color or shriveled
  • Remove thin canes less than a pencil width in diameter

An exception to the rule for spring pruning is once-blooming roses. Wait to prune once-blooming roses until after they have flowered.

For modern ever-blooming roses, one-half to two thirds of the plant is pruned out in early spring to remove older woody growth. After removing the dead canes and small stems, select 3-5 sturdy, young canes evenly spaced around the plant to maintain. Cut out the rest of the branches and trim back the remaining canes to 3-5 outward facing buds long.

For ever-blooming shrub roses, pruning will not be required in the first few years of growth. When the shrub is three or more years old, prune out one-third of the oldest canes, keeping the shape of the bush even. Severe pruning is not recommended for shrub roses, as this will reduce flower production.

Doing spring pruning maintenance will help to keep your roses looking their best and full of blossoms.

For more information on rose varieties and care, visit "Our Rose Garden" at or download the free "Our Rose Garden" app in the iTunes or GooglePlay store.

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