Pruning Roses

Pruning or trimming is described as a science of cutting away dead or overgrown parts of a plant for a number of purposes, mainly to promote new growth. Pruning is also undertaken to ensure that the flowers remain healthy, make the plants further productive, and check the size of the plants as well as to direct the plants to grow in a particular direction or have a specific shape. In fact, the type, amount as well as the timing of the pruning is largely subject to the variety of rose, the extent of winterkill, the hardiness precinct of your garden, the plant's present condition, and your expectations from the roses. If a rose is not pruned properly and timely, it will again grow into tall and thin plant and produce inferior quality blooms.

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As mentioned above, pruning your roses will encourage new growth - a vital factor for all flowering plants, as several rose varieties will only produce blooms on new shoots. The pruning requirements of different rose varieties differ. It is essential to give all hybrid teas, grandifloras, floribundas and miniature roses a heavy pruning once each year with a view to ensure that they remain in their best shape. On the other hand, climbing rose varieties may need heavy pruning or just a slight shaping, subject to which time of the year the pruning is being undertaken and various other conditions. At the same time, several garden roses and rose shrubs just need a light pruning annually, similar to what you would be doing to the other woody plants you are growing.

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Apart from stimulating growth, pruning is also effective for redirecting the growth of a plant. In fact, cutting away some parts of a plant makes its remaining buds to develop new leaves and stems. Generally, the root system of the plant is responsible for proving the food required by it to grow new leaves and stems. In fact, it is the root that stores most of the food reserves of a plant. When the root system is established properly and can provide steady supply of food, the plant can replace the pruned parts quickly and is often able to develop further than its earlier growth. On the other hand, if a weak plant is pruned heavily, it will generally take a longer time to recover its ability for new growth or even to grow to its earlier shape and size.

In fact, both the roots and the top growth of a plant are dependent on one another. When the root system is not well established, the other parts of the plant do not receive enough nutrients for growth. Therefore, it is important that pruning should always be at what is least required. This will help the plant to recover its losses easily and quickly, while you can also fulfill your objective.

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Pruning roses - the basics
Pruning different kinds of roses
Maintenance pruning of roses


Disbudding or removing flower buds is a form of pruning that aims at producing a solitary, large bloom atop a rose cane or the formation of a further uniform spray. In order to accomplish these, you need to remove all the flower buds lower than the one at the top of the cane. When you do this, the plant will drive its entire energy for growing just one flower that will be twice the size of a normal flower.

This pruning method is vital for producing display quality grandifloras, hybrid teas, as well as climbing hybrid teas that needs to be exhibited with just one flower on each stem with a view to be eligible for the top awards.

Disbudding involves removing all the smaller secondary buds that are around or below the main flower bud as soon as they appear. You can remove these buds by chaffing them with your fingers. Alternatively, you can also use the tip of any small equipment, even a toothpick, to get rid of them. In case you don't remove them immediately when they emerge and wait very long to remove these flower buds, which may have grown up to an inch or bigger by then, it will result in lasting black scars when you disbud them later. Some rose varieties do not require disbudding, as they naturally produce just one flower on each stem.

Some rose varieties bloom in sprays. These include the grandifloras, floribundas, climbers as well as a number of miniatures. These roses naturally grow in a manner that their central flower bud is the first to open. The buds surrounding the central flower start opening only when the latter begins to wither. When you remove or cut off the central flower, a large space is left behind right in the middle of the spray, which makes the plant appear somewhat unsightly. In order to avoid this, cut away the central flower bud immediately when it appears. When you do this, it allows the other flowers on the steam to fill in the space and they blossom almost simultaneously presenting a more beautiful effect. However, removing the central flower bud does not help in increasing the size of the other remaining flowers. Usually, floribundas are exhibited as they appear in sprays, but you can also display them as one flower on each stem.

As far as disbudding of miniature roses is concerned, it entirely depends on what effect you desire to have. It also depends on whether you desire a solitary large bloom on a stem or you want uniform sprays. On the other hand, shrub roses, climbers, old garden roses and polyanthas are seldom disbudded, because doing so would harm their natural look. In fact, the beauty of these rose varieties lies in the large clusters of blooms produced by them.

Pruning hedges

If you are growing your roses as a hedge, the initial few years are vital. After you have taken a decision regarding the overall shape of your hedge, ensure that you get rid of the growth on the top and sides of the hedge that does not conform to your plans. While the plants keep growing robustly, you will be required to undertake pruning every spring to get rid of more unwanted parts each year. In fact, you may also be required to prune the plants again after their initial flush of flowering with a view to get rid of the unruly branches, if there are any. You should always ensure that the hedge's base needs to be broader compared to its top, as this will enable the hedge to receive enough light on its surface. The base of the hedge will not receive sufficient light if you are trying to keep a hedge that is vertically sided, or make the hedge curved at its lower edge with a view to give it a ball shape. In this case, the hedge will become further open and only show its branches.

You also need to remove the oldest stems of the plants systematically as the hedge grows older. If you get rid of a few old canes every year, it will not make any large or conspicuous gaps in the hedge. On the other hand, it will promote new growth and formation of more productive wood. In addition, getting rid of older canes gradually will help the hedge to produce better blooms. At the same time, you will help to create sufficient space for air and light to penetrate the innermost parts of the hedge.

Roses usually have an inclination to form a casual style hedge. While you can certainly give your hedge a further formal geometric shape if you undertake careful pruning from time to time, when you shear the plants continually to maintain the sharp edges of a formal-looking hedge it will be inclined to have a somewhat dense external skin. If this happens, it will prevent the plants from receiving adequate air and light in the innermost parts of the hedge. When you prune your roses very often, you will actually be destroying several emerging flower buds. This will eventually rob your hedge of much of its color. Nevertheless, if you still want to grow a formal hedge, it is suggested that you only continue with plants that are naturally inclined to grow into such a form. Make the best use of such plants.

Suckering problems

There are two ways of growing roses - either on their own roots, or by grafting or budding on a rootstock. If the roses you are growing are on their own roots, the suckers appearing from under the ground will also have similar growth habits and bear the same blooms. Suckers are basically robustly growing shoots that develop from the foot of plants growing on their own roots. In fact, suckers also provide you with several new flowers.

On the other hand, if a rose is budded, the suckers will grow from beneath the bud union and they will be somewhat different from the blooms on the top. Therefore, it is important that you get rid of these suckers immediately when they appear or the moment you notice them. In fact, these suckers need to be cut back right from the place where they emerge from the main stem. In case a stub remains, usually it will grow many new shoots from the buds that have been left behind. If you find it difficult to prune these suckers, you can press the shoot down till it comes away from the plant's main stem.

You need to be careful while pruning the suckers, because any injury to the stems may cause crown gall infection or invite other diseases. However, in reality, pruning the suckers seldom injures the plants and this is the best way to handle suckers, which are undesirable. When you transplant budded or grafted plants, ensure that you bury the graft union much below the soil surface, as this will be very helpful in reducing the appearance of suckers.


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