In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
January, 2014
Regional Report

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A pair of sharp pruners, sturdy gloves, and a little knowledge are all you need to prune your roses.

Time to Prune Roses

Get your clippers ready - it's time to prune your roses. Even if you still have flowers on your plants, they're as deep into dormancy as they get here along the coast. Here's how to get started.

You'll need a pair of sharp by-pass pruners, and possibly long-handled loppers. Anvil-type pruners are not suitable for roses because the blade will crush the stem. Use the loppers for any branches larger than 3/4 inch in diameter so that you don't ruin the blade of your hand-held shears. Keep a small file on hand to keep your clippers sharp.

Remove Dead Wood
Start by removing any dead, diseased, or injured wood. To figure out if wood is alive, scape a little bit of bark back with your fingernail; live wood will be green. When removing a branch, make your cut close to the nearest bud scar. Sometimes the bud scars are difficult to detect. Look for a dark line with a small bump on the upper side of the branch. Make your cut 1/4 to 1/2 inch above the bud scar.

Remove Suckers
Remove any suckers, which are shoots that comes up either from below the graft union -- the swollen part of the main trunk -- or through the soil at the base of the plant. These suckers are sprouting from the root stock, and, if left on the plant, they will form vigorous, nonblooming branches that will eventually replace the desirable blooming portion of the plant. Cut out suckers as close to the base of the plant as possible.

Keep the Center Open
The next step is to remove any branches that cross through the center of the plant. Roses need maximum air circulation to reduce problems with fungus diseases such as black spot. By removing the crossing growth, you open the center of the plant so that air can move freely through the foliage, keeping it dry and less likely to get infected.

Prune for Shape
Then it's time to prune for shape. For hybrid tea and grandiflora roses, aim for a vase shape, leaving 5 to 7 main branches, 18-24 inches tall. The more vigorous the plant, the shorter it should be after pruning. If the branches are left too long after pruning, the plant may eventually grow to a tremendous height. By keeping the branches short and close to the ground, your plant will remain compact.

To develop larger flowers on hybrid tea roses, disbud the new branches along a main stem, leaving only the terminal (top) bud as new growth begins in the spring.

Pruning Shrub Roses
Shrub roses and miniatures should be cleared of any dead, diseased, or injured wood and then given a general grooming. Cut the sprawling branches back to within the bounds of the planting bed. Roses grown in hedges can be cut to a height of about 2 feet.

Post-Pruning Care
After you have finished pruning, rake up and remove all debris. If any leaves are left on the plant, strip them. Make sure that the soil under your plants is clean and free from fallen leaves and flowers. Fungus disease is spread by water splashing spores back up onto the foliage. To ensure that your roses remain fungus free, spray them with a lime-sulfur spray after pruning.

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