by Jerry Parsons, Ph.D.
Horticulture Specialist, Texas Agricultural Extension Service
in San Antonio
Roses have already begun growth but if you haven't
pruned you should do it as soon as possible. Annual heavy
pruning is essential to insure the prolific bloom and long-life
of a rose bush.
Explaining the concept of rose pruning without
a live bush to demonstrate on is difficult, so let your mind
loose to help visualize the following steps in rose pruning.
Pruning of roses is actually done year round.
Every time you cut off old blooms and remove twiggy growth
you are actually promoting new growth. There are two times
a year when you prune more seriously, spring and fall.
You will need the following items: a good pair
of hand pruners (preferably the scissor type, not anvil type),
a sharp keyhole saw and large loppers, a heavy pair of leather
gloves, a pruning compound and a dull knife.
The first step in spring pruning of Hybrid Teas,
Grandifloras, Floribundas and Climbing roses is to remove
any canes that are dead or just old and non-productive. These
canes are usually gray in color and scaly.
This pruning will encourage future "basal"
breaks which are the life blood of any rose bush. Basal breaks
refer to new shoots, soon to be producing canes, which arise
from the graft union. These should not be confused with "suckers"
which arise from the rootstock below the graft union. Remove
The next step involves taking a good look at
the bud union. If you have any old, dry scaly wood on the
union, remove it. Use the dull knife to scrape the bud union
to remove the scaly wood. By doing this it will again make
it possible for new basal breaks to come about.
Beginning to fine tune the pruning, remove all
twiggy growth on the remaining canes. (Note: The fine tune
pruning on climbing roses should be done after they bloom
in the spring.) Try to clean out the middle of the bush as
much as possible. This allows for good air circulation to
prevent insects and disease.
Now you are ready to prune on the good healthy
canes. With the early flush of growth on the roses the most
important procedure this year is to prune each cane back to
a dormant bud. A bud that has already begun growth will continue
to grow vigorously and bloom very little. A dormant, non-growing
bud will initiate growth after pruning and will produce an
abundance of blooms.
One comment always heard is to "prune to
an outside bud." This means when picking the point one
a given cane to cut back to, make sure there is a good bud
on the cane facing toward the outside of the plant. This will
insure the growth of the new bud is to the outside, therefore
keeping the center of the rose bush clear and open for air
Another guideline in pruning back an individual
cane is to cut the cane at the point when the diameter of
the cane is the size of a pencil or slightly larger. This
is normally at a height of 18 to 24 inches. Because of the
need to prune back to a dormant bud, the size of the cane
may be larger and the cane length may be shorter.
If old and large canes have been removed to
the bud union, it is a good practice to seal these large cuts.
This helps prevent insects and diseases from infecting the
cuts. Smaller canes in many cases don't need to be sealed.
Use some sort of sealing compound such as orange shellac or
even Elmer's glue.
When pruning is completed remove any old foliage
left on the canes and spray with a mixture of Funginex or
Benomyl and Orthene or Diazinon as a clean up spray. Spray
the entire bush and the ground around the bush.
The final product of your pruning should be
a rose bush about 18 to 24 inches tall with 4 to 8 canes.
Add some fertilizer and regular pest spraying, and that pitiful
looking rose bush will soon give you a shower of flowers.
What about pruning the new miniature roses?
Use the same guidelines given for the larger type roses except
do it in miniature. The end product will be a rose bush about
4 to 6 inches tall with 4 to 6 canes.
If you don't have any miniature roses, plant
some this spring. You will be surprised at the wealth of blooms
such a small plant can produce.
Use the miniatures in groups of 3's, 5's, or
7's to make a real splash. The miniatures also work well as
a border plant along the front of a shrub bed. And finally,
try some miniatures in clay pots and decorative containers
to add color to decks, patios and apartment balconies.
For additional information about pruning roses,