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Pruning Roses is a Spring Gardening Chore

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Flower gardening is popular in Oklahoma and roses continue to top the list of the most popular plants grown each year. Some rose varieties are considered to be high maintenance while other species are more carefree for gardeners.


As the list of spring-related garden chores is made, pruning roses typically tops the list. Most varieties shouldn’t be pruned before mid-March. Pruning encourages new growth, which can fall victim to late-season freezes. An exception to that is climbing roses, which should be pruned after they flower in early spring.


What’s the purpose of pruning? It’s to help the plant maintain its shape, remove dead and diseased wood and regulate desired flower size. For those who prefer only a few larger flowers, prune more severely. Gardeners who like a large number of average-sized flowers, only light or moderate pruning is necessary. 


Pruning equipment consists of long-handled pruning clippers/loppers, along with a sharp pair of hand clippers and a sharp, fine-toothed pruning saw. 


Pruning methods can differ according to variety, but some fundamental practices that are good for all varieties of roses include removing any canes that insects, disease or storms have damaged; and removing one of two canes which may be rubbing one another. Remove canes that are spindly or smaller in diameter than a standard pencil. 


Hybrid tea roses typically require heavy pruning due to winterkill of the canes. Remove the dead or diseased cane, then cut back the remaining canes to 6 to 24 inches, depending on desired flowering and plant vigor. Make cuts just above outward‑facing buds. Make the cut slightly above and angling downward away from the bud. Remove branches that grow toward the center of the plant. When two branches cross, the smaller one should be removed.


Ramblers and small, flowered climbers that bloom only once in the spring should be pruned immediately after bloom. Larger flowered climbers that only bloom in the spring also are pruned in the spring after flowering. Cut back the side shoots that have flowers and remove the oldest canes. 


Spring pruning for plants that bloom all summer should include the removal of only very weak or dead branches. 


In the first year of growth, avoid heavy cutting of flowers, particularly those with long stems. This allows the plant to become more established. In the fall, remove all flowers or flower clusters just above the first five leaflets once the petals begin to fall. Be careful not to remove too much foliage.


Oklahoma State University Extension fact sheet Roses in Oklahoma provides additional information about pruning, as well as other aspects of rose care, including site selection/preparation, planting procedures, pest control, maintenance and more.


Also, Casey Hentges, host of OSU Agriculture’s television show “Oklahoma Gardening,” has tips and tricks for pruning roses

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