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Pruning is one of the most important practices in growing successful roses. The ultimate goal of pruning is to maintain an attractive plant shape and to encourage good flowering on a healthy plant.
For my David Austin rose garden, I usually do this in a two-step process. After the first frost, I come through and prune to reduce the overall height by about half. Then this time of year (anytime from now to just before bud break) I go in to reshape and thin the plant. The remaining canes should be cut to a height of 18 to 24 inches.
This technique and timing works on hybrid teas and floribunda roses as well. The pruning cut should be above a healthy bud on an angle so water doesn’t stand or collect on the tip of the cane and to an outward facing bud to direct the growth out toward the instead of into the plant.
Directing growth outward will help with air movement and reduce chances of disease. Be sure to prune out any diseased, dead, damaged or weak canes.
Old-fashioned roses and climbers that bloom once a year are to be pruned immediately after flowering. Old garden roses are not heavily pruned like modern roses are. These old types of roses are pruned by removing no more than one-third of a rose bush along with removing the oldest stems that are no longer flowering.
Climbing roses are pruned by leaving five to seven strong canes untouched because flowers are produced on stems at least 1 year old. All weak or damaged stems, along with older canes, should be removed without damaging healthy stems.
Knockout roses are treated differently in that they do not have to be heavily pruned since they are intended to be large shrubs. Knockouts can be lightly pruned to control the size of the shrub in late February. If you want to severely prune Knockouts then they are probably planted in the wrong location (i.e. too large for the area). When pruning, make the shrub more open in the center to improve air circulation to prevent diseases.
The Wilson County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers are ready to help you with your roses or any gardening question by calling 252-237-0113, Wednesdays from 1to 3 p.m., or email anytime at email@example.com. Also, be sure to attend our Rose Gardens talks on Tuesday, Jan. 22, at 3 p.m. at the Wilson Ag Center, 1806 SW Goldsboro St.