California Gardens - The Year Round Gardening Site

Rose Pruning

The first step in pruning roses is to have good quality tools. Dull pruning shears will damage the plants. Loppers are handy for larger branches, but I prefer to use a small pruning saw if branches are so large that my pruners won't do. I sharpen my pruners regularly using a whetstone. I tip the branch gently away from my blade. This stretches the wood fibers and makes the cutting much easier.

There are two purposes in pruning a rose in the winter. The first is to remove the damaged and diseased material, mostly the foliage. The second is to promote healthy growth for the next year.Rose pruning in California is a little different than in colder parts of the country. We will not see a frost that will damage the plant unless you live at a resort elevation. We can leave the roses taller than can be done in points East or in Europe where wind and ice can destroy plants.

I prune twiggy branches because canes never get much thicker and stronger as they age.  Fat canes are born from near the base of the plant. When a new branch breaks out most of the cane above that new strong growth slows down dramatically. I remove the material above the cane break. Canes are productive for about 3 years. After that it is difficult for a new cane to break out through all of that old bark. Keeping the branches from rubbing on one another and keeping their spacing so air can readily flow through the plant helps keep the fungus problems to a minimum. I always prune down to an outward facing bud and when possible one that has not produced any new shoots yet.

In the summer the game plan is about the same, just not as severe. I make the same cuts in the same places but leave the tops of the new growth to provide the next round of flowering. I cut just above where the new growth is coming out. Since the plants are growing much faster due to the thinning of all of the twiggy material and older growth there is little accumulation of diseased material except when the weather conditions are at their worst, warm and damp. While harder pruning like this results in somewhat fewer flowers, the flowers are larger. Having longer stalks below them also makes these roses much better for enjoying indoors.

David Austin Roses are a large group so it is dangerous to generalize, but many of them grow like the Grandiflora's and Climbers. I trim them accordingly.

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