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  • Writer's pictureJefferson Landscape

Show Your Roses Some Love

It’s almost February and you know what that means: Roses!! No, I’m not talking about that overpriced dozen you need to order in time for Valentines Day, I’m talking about pruning.

February is the optimal time to prune your rose bushes. This is right after the coldest weather and last frost, and right before the spring and warmer weather begins. Pruning encourages new stem growth and new blossoms, so even if it’s been a warmer than normal winter and they haven’t gone dormant, you’ll still want to prune to ensure bigger and more fragrant blooms. Pruning is vital to the health of your rose bush. It helps to prevent disease and encourages flowering.

Don’t worry, it’s almost impossible to kill a rose bush by over pruning. However, if you do manage to take a “little too much off the top”, just as your hair will grow back after a bad trip to the salon, so will your roses. They are abundant growers and will fill in quickly. But what’s the best way to prune, you ask?

Before we start, let me just say, leave the rose hips on during the fall and winter. Rose hips are the small, round (usually orange or red) fruit that is produced after pollination. The rose hip tells the flower that it’s time to go dormant.

Now, as with anything you’ll need the correct tool for the job. This is not the time or place for those rusty kitchen scissors tucked in the back of the junk drawer. You’ll need a good pair of sharp Bypass Shears. Bypass blades overlap and make a clean cut. Anything else, the blades are too close and can crush and damage the stems (canes). Remember to always clean your tools to prevent transferring disease from one plant to another.

Start by removing any remaining leaves. This will allow you to see and remove any pests or disease. Next cut all dead or dying wood down to the base. Good rule of thumb: “If it’s brown, cut it down. If it’s green, let it be.” Then remove any thin or weak growth. Any stem thinner than a pencil should be cut down. Finally, remove any crossing branches. They can rub together causing damage and spread disease. This will also open up the center of the plant so that it grows in a natural V-shaped or vase like way.

Once you have done that it is time to start pruning the healthy stems. You can cut them to your preferred height. You’ll want to make a 45 degree cut about 1/2 inch above any new bud. The cut should be sloping outward and away from the new bud. This will allow the water to run off while encouraging the new growth outward rather than inward.

Lastly, roses may look like delicate, petite little flowers, but they have hearty appetites. You can by specialized rose food at any store. Roses also love and thrive by being given banana peels and/or coffee grounds about once or twice per month. Be careful not to over-caffeinate your roses as the high acid level can burn them thus doing more harm than good.

So this February while you are giving some roses to your love, give a little love to your roses. Happy Pruning!

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