Pruning and Deadheading Roses
Maintenance is the key to BEAUTIFUL Roses.
Let's first clear up any misconceptions out there among the baby-boomer generation: deadheading roses has nothing to do with the Grateful Dead. It means to remove the old flowers.
Rose bushes are fruit trees in disguise and they will attempt to "set fruit." When you remove the spent blossoms, you interrupt the fruiting cycle and stimulate the plant to fruit again, producing another bloom cycle. If you don't cut the blossoms, they become the "hip" or seed pod and the bush stops blooming.
You want to deadhead weekly if not more often. The rule-of-thumb is to cut back the stem to just above an outward-facing bud above a five- or seven-leaflet leaf close to the end of the stem.
The rule-of-thumb assumes the plant is healthy and strong. If not, cut back less. If you own a type of shrub rose, like Rugosa, where hips are part of the display, just clear away the spent petals. After about October 1, do not cut the blossoms to allow the plant to begin to harden for winter.
In principal, you prune roses to remove dead, redundant, and diseased wood, open up air circulation, encourage healthy growth, and shape the plant. However, the closer you get to species roses, like old garden roses, shrub roses, English roses, or hybrid teas, the more severe the pruning required for healthy plant growth and blooming.
If you climate is mild, prune roses in the fall, during November. If your area gets frosty, then prune your roses in the spring, around March or April, when it's a bit warmer. Use the following guidelines:
- Use clean, sharp pruning shears. Felcos are widely accepted as the best.
- Cut at a 45 degree angle, about 1/4 inch above an outward-facing bud.
- Prune each cane 4-6" (10-15 cm) above the crown.
- Remove all dead, crisscrossed, diseased, or dying canes.
- Remove all thin, weak canes that are smaller than a pencil in diameter.
- If you seek suckers coming out of the ground and your roses are on grafted rootstock, dig down and tear off (do not cut) all suckers at the root. Cutting suckers encourages re-growth.
These pruning guidelines can be used for yearly pruning of dormant, planted rose bushes. These are guidelines and things to look for as you prepare to prune your roses. For a detailed picture of the Anatomy of a Rose, click here
For more information specific to your locale, contact your local American Rose Society.