Roses: Belated Winter Pruning

I will be pruning my roses within the hour. In previous years, I’d prune my roses by mid-January, cutting down my roses to about one-third to one-half their height. Tending to some unexpected car troubles and work at the office, I’m now ready to prune. No worries: roses are resilient and can withstand a pruning that’s a bit tardy!

The painful thing – besides being impaled by thorns – is that the delay allowed some flower buds to form and flower. Now comes the sad task of cutting those lovely flowers, too. In the long term, it’s better for the plant, and more flowers and stems will arise after the pruning. Notably, I give my climbing roses a lighter pruning because the canes were meant to be longer – no use in stunting their growth by cutting them down to the ground.

It may seem quite awful to have a desolate garden of cut-down rose plants, after many months of flowers on graceful stems, but the roses come back year after year.

I’ll also remove any plant debris – spent flowers and leaves – that are on the ground to minimize the potential for spreading plant illnesses. I’d noticed a bit of powdery mildew on a few leaves this season and if these leaves are left on the plant or on the ground, when I water the plant, the water splashing back onto the plant  is likely to re-infect the plant and the surrounding plants as well. This is my strategy for treating powdery mildew and maintaining a healthy rose garden.

But do monitor your pruned roses from time to time to catch the emergence of new plant growth. It’s so exciting to see that pruning is leading to new growth, but also provides assurance that the pruning did not prove detrimental to the plant, which was my thought when I did my first-ever rose pruning.

My second, lighter pruning will be in August. Roses may seem like a lot of work, but as I’d mentioned in previous posts, these plants can live for many years with proper care. Importantly, the time and money spent on replacing less hardy plants makes roses, by comparison, a worthwhile investment in a garden, a true touch of elegance and loveliness.


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