rose pruning: a little work for a great reward

January 28, 2019 53 Comments

rose pruning: a little work for a great reward

Hello and welcome to my first blog post! I am so excited to share my passion for roses and gardening. The goal of this blog is to be a continual source of rose growing information and inspiration. Your questions are important, so please let me know what you'd like to know about roses. I want this blog to be as comprehensive and inclusive as possible, so your collaboration and input are greatly appreciated. To submit a question, simply comment below and we'll be sure to answer. As you follow along, you will see that I'm a rather unconventional gardener who does what works for her through curiosity, trial and error. There is no right or wrong way to grow plants and I'm always looking for ways to make my roses happier. I'm looking forward to this new blogging journey and sincerely appreciate your support!

Rose Pruning: A Little Work for a Great RewardIt's January in California and that means rose pruning time! To be honest, up until recently I've always dreaded pruning, not because of the work involved, but because it meant stripping my roses down to naked canes and the lack of beauty in my garden. It was only recently that I've learned to look at pruning as a period of rejuvenation - a new beginning for my plants. All of my mistakes from the previous season are wiped away, giving me a new palette to work from for the coming season. If we didn't prune our roses, we wouldn't have a magnificent spring flush with flawless foliage and fluffy blooms, so a little work is worth it. We all need rest in order to refresh, and our roses are no exception! When choosing an image to accompany this post, I thought these fluffy Evelyn roses were the ideal choice since they are that perfect "great reward" from the work of pruning!

Here at our rose farm, pruning is just part of our rose care routine during the dormant season and over the coming weeks I'll share what we do to prepare our roses for spring. So why do we prune our roses? The goal of rose pruning is to remove all dead, unproductive and diseased wood on the rose so the plant will push new growth to the healthiest canes. Each year when we prune our roses we're given an opportunity to bring vigor and beauty to the plant. To get the job done, you need just a few tools:

  • Pruners: We use Felco F-2 bypass pruners as well as Felco 100 pruners. Felcos are a great investment for anyone wanting to grow roses and they will last you a lifetime if you take care of them. The guys who work at our farm use Felco F-2 pruners to cut thousands of stems each week and then they use their same pair of Felcos during our dormant season to prune. My personal preference are the Felco 100 pruners because they hold onto the stem after you cut it, which means you can cut roses and prune your roses one handed. No bending down to pickup fallen canes. Perfect for the slightly lazy gardener!
  • Loppers: These are my favorite lightweight loppers from Felco. They're easy for women to handle and slice through old wood needing to be removed with very little effort.
  • Pruning Gloves: We love these gloves and have never had a thorn get through them. These are also great rose pruning gloves in synthetic leather I personally wear since they're cruelty-free (order up a size as they run small). No matter which gloves you use, make sure your forearms are protected from thorns.
  • Dormant Spray: We use a combination of copper and horticultural oil for organic dormant spraying. Chapin makes high quality garden sprayers for home gardeners. 

    In addition to the items above, you should have a trash can, rake and whatever gardening tool you prefer to pull weeds around the base of your roses.

    I'm going to preface this tutorial by saying "it's really hard (or impossible) to kill a rose by pruning." Last winter when we were preparing to transplant 5,000 roses to our new farm we literally took a chainsaw to our roses. Yes, a chainsaw! Granted, we were moving and had to very quickly cut them down in order to transport them (hence the chainsaw) and we gave them a proper pruning once they were in their new home, but even if we hadn't pruned them, they would have been just fine. Please do not take a chainsaw to your roses, however us doing so proves it's really hard to kill roses. People tell me time and again how afraid they are to prune their roses. In reality, there is no right or wrong way to prune and how much one removes from their plants is up to them. I've seen people cut their roses back to 6" from the ground and others leave 3' canes. Some gardeners leave three canes, some leave nine. The most important thing to consider when pruning is this: leave as much wood on the plant as you wish, so long as it is healthy. This means if a part of your rose looks diseased, unproductive, damaged, spindly or otherwise questionable, remove it. Leave only the best looking canes (wood) on your roses so the plant sends all it's stored energy to healthy canes and buds once it wakes from dormancy. Here are some tips:

    • By the time pruning season comes, our roses are massive. We like to cut off all the top growth from our plants before we get into pruning. Our video explains this process, but basically it means removing the height from the plants so we can see what we're working with. It doesn't matter how/where you make these cuts. Just remove all the "octopus arms" so you can see the bottom 3' or so of your plants.
    • If a cane is thinner than a pencil, remove it.
    • If a cane is crossing over/behind another cane through the middle of the plant, remove it.
    • If you have two canes really close to one another that may rub into one another on a windy day, remove the thinner of the two.
    • Use your loppers to cut out the oldest, unproductive wood near the crown of the rose. Generally we use our loppers for any canes more than 1" wide.
    • When standing over your rose after pruning, it should appear that the center of the plant is open. Canes should move outward forming the sun or spokes so the inside of the plant is free of crossing canes. It may take a couple of years to get your rose to have a nice shape, so don't worry if it doesn't happen the first time you prune. The most important thing is to keep the center of your plants open and airy - the health of your roses will depend on it later in the season!
    • Thoroughly clean your rose's bed by raking debris and pulling weeds. Do not leave any leaf or cane debris on the ground as pests and disease will overwinter and cause BIG problems in the spring. Always give your roses a nice, clean and level bed before you mulch. Rose clippings should never be used in mulch or compost. They must be bagged and hauled away or burned. We will do a blog and video on mulching soon!
    • Once your roses are pruned and all leaf/cane debris is removed from the rose's bed, apply your dormant spray per the instructions on the bottles. Copper will treat disease and horticultural oil kills insects and overwintering eggs (ewwwww).

    When to prune roses? Pruning should be done in January/February in warmer climates (zones 8-10) and early spring or after the last frost in colder climates (zones 5-7). If you live in a cold climate pruning roses is simple: just cut back the canes that were killed in winter.

    This video shows how we prune our roses at the farm - all 15,000 of them! For those wondering, it takes six people about a month to prune our roses, including pulling all the weeds and raking up what seems like an endless amount of debris. It's a job I'm so thankful to have willing and able hands to do the majority of the work. As you begin pruning, remember it may take you several years to get a nice shape from your roses and there is no right or wrong way to prune. You will not kill your roses by pruning them, in fact, they will come back healthier than ever with a good chop (sounds like hair, right? This is coming from the girl who won't cut her hair, ha!). Be artistic in how you shape your plants and enjoy the process - your roses will thank you for it!

    My next blogs will be on planting bare root roses, frost protection, mulching and spring feeding. What else do you want to see covered here? xo

     


    53 Responses

    Catherine  Eldredge
    Catherine Eldredge

    March 10, 2019

    Would you prune a florabunda rose the same as these tea roses? I live in a zone 5. Tea roses are a little harder to winter over here. I have tea roses but I loose them more easily if winter has been hard. Advise please!

    Mary K Broshear
    Mary K Broshear

    March 10, 2019

    Thanks for the excellent instruction. I didn’t know it was best to keep the center of the bush so open, “like spokes”. Such a good way to describe how to do it.

    Carrie
    Carrie

    March 10, 2019

    What would you recommend as a reference to organic rose care? I’m thinking newly planted ones (from you of course), maintenance, pest control, etc. THANKS!

    Anna
    Anna

    March 10, 2019

    I’m off to prune my roses, and found this very helpful! Thank you!

    I would love to get specifics about what else you use to treat or feed your roses. Again, thank you, what beauty you are adding to this world!

    Tenille Enger
    Tenille Enger

    March 10, 2019

    Such awesome information here that makes me feel like I could possibly pull off keeping a rose alive! Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

    Barbara Warren
    Barbara Warren

    March 10, 2019

    Great advice! I live in Michigan so pruning is pretty self explanatory. But oh how sad it was to cut as many canes as I did last year! But, never fear, they bounced right back when the weather encouraged them! I am especially waiting for your chicken wire planting cages you promised to demonstrate. Love your account on Instagram!

    mandy
    mandy

    March 10, 2019

    This video was so helpful. Im always second guessing myself when rose pruning. Thank you for clarifying and demonstrating the correct technique.

    Mary Anne
    Mary Anne

    March 10, 2019

    Nice video..thanks for sharing. More power to you too!!!

    Nina
    Nina

    March 10, 2019

    So happy to have found this blog/website! Wonderful, instructional video…I’m inspired to grow roses! Looking forward to watching your progress throughout the year :)

    Beccy
    Beccy

    March 10, 2019

    When you talk about leaf debris are you talking about rose leaves. Living in colder climates I have often used tree leaves to help insulate my roses over the winter and never thought about the leaves harboring pests and diseases. Thanks for your video of how you prune your roses!

    Lila Avery-Fuson
    Lila Avery-Fuson

    March 10, 2019

    I just love your rose farm. The varietals that you’ve chosen and the scale that you’re doing it in is fabulous. I’m on the Central Coast as well about two hours from you and I cannot wait to be included in one of your farm tours this season I am very interested in your spacing, plant size, hole size, amending material and irrigation. Also when will your roses be available for purchase? Thank you so much Gracie I love what you’re doing 🍃
    Janet K
    Janet K

    March 10, 2019

    Thanks so much for a great post. I am a fairly new and inexperienced rose gardener. I have not really known what I am doing when I’ve pruned. I got some great tips from this and look forward to following along with your blog. Thanks again!

    Jen Ronsani
    Jen Ronsani

    March 10, 2019

    Hi Grace,
    I read about your farm story on Floret’s blog, what an amazing story! Could you post about bud propogation, that you mentioned in your interview? How, when, and who to contact if the plant is patented? Thank you!

    Joanne
    Joanne

    March 10, 2019

    Loved the video and your posting. I have a few roses planted sparsely around my garden and plan to move them to a single sunny bed this year. I think they will be more impactful that way so I appreciate your helpful tips. Looking forward to your next post and continuing videos!

    Vanessa Pennington
    Vanessa Pennington

    March 10, 2019

    Hi Grace

    I enjoyed your first blog – thank you! I have a few questions with regard to David Austin roses – do you cut them right back too or keep some of the long canes? Also do you do any summer pruning? For the David Austin roses I’ve been wondering if there’s any special way of cutting/pruning them (when picking for cut flowers) to ensure theycontinue to produce long stems over summer….any advice would be hugely appreciated! Thanks heaps Grace in advance.

    Regards
    Vanessa

    Pat
    Pat

    March 10, 2019

    Hi. Beautiful roses. I am in Maryland and after many years of gardening and no significant pest problems, the last few years I have had an issue with what I believe are sawtooth fly larvae decimating my roses. It started with one plant the first year and now seems to affect all of them, even though they are in different areas. Last year I hand picked the roses, thought I was good, only to have them back later. Any suggestions before this season.

    Maureen
    Maureen

    March 10, 2019

    Wow, a very informative pruning demonstration. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Janine
    Janine

    March 10, 2019

    Your roses are beautiful….thank you for sharing your expertise with everyone!

    Nancy Reeves
    Nancy Reeves

    March 10, 2019

    You’re roses are so beautiful! Thanks Floret for posting your interview. I have decided to grow my first roses this year and will be purchasing them from your farm.
    I cannot wait to get started and look forward to watching your upcoming videos.

    CC Bell
    CC Bell

    March 10, 2019

    Thank you for sharing this information. I admire your rose farm and to now have you share your tips and tricks for my garden is so appreciated!!

    Latoya
    Latoya

    March 10, 2019

    As a novice rose gardener, I really appreciate the growing tips you provide. This video is super helpful as I start pruning today. Looking forward to your feeding tips ; )

    VB
    VB

    March 10, 2019

    Very informative, thank you!

    Mindi Bruckhart
    Mindi Bruckhart

    March 10, 2019

    I loved watching your video. Thank you so much for sharing your rose pruning techniques!! Now I can’t wait to get out there and prune mine. I would love to know how you prune climbing roses? Do you allow them to climb? Or do you keep them cut back. I’ve been debating what to do with some of mine that really seem to want to climb. How closely I have them planted would make it difficult. Any tips would be appreciated. Thanks!!
    Mindi

    Alejandra
    Alejandra

    March 10, 2019

    I feel like I just hit the jackpot reading your blog! I can’t wait for more to come!

    April
    April

    March 10, 2019

    This is so helpful! Thank you Gracie and Ryan!

    Sandy A., Leonardtown, MD
    Sandy A., Leonardtown, MD

    March 10, 2019

    Thanks so much for sharing your rose pruning tips! I’ve started cultivating English roses, so I will be following your blog posts very closely! I just love following your journey on Instagram – your bodacious roses inspire me daily. :)

    BeeBee
    BeeBee

    March 10, 2019

    Most awesome. Excellent education. Now I know, and can do. Woohoo. Thank you! 😊👍❤🌱🌹

    Adriana
    Adriana

    March 10, 2019

    Hi there!
    I have been following your instagram and never realized you are in California! This blog post is sooooooo helpful. I just ordered all the items you recommended because I have over 85 rose plants in my garden that are over 10 years old. I have a passion for roses that was passed on by my grandmother. I would love to see a post about rose garden layout. I am working on revamping my “english garden” area where I have a combo of 25 rose plants. But I would love to replace them with a mix of bright and light pinks, fragrant and climbing. Looking forward to your next post and definitely planning a visit/tour of your farm. Also, will definitely sign up for a beginners class. Subscribing below as well!

    Kristine Daniels
    Kristine Daniels

    March 10, 2019

    Thank you so much for this informative post and video!
    I see you plant your roses in blocks versus bed rows. Are they planted as a matrix with 3 feet spacing? I was worried about being able to access the roses.
    Thank you!!,

    Alex
    Alex

    March 10, 2019

    can you talking about caring for climbers as well? :)

    Mary Brooks Jamison
    Mary Brooks Jamison

    March 10, 2019

    How does it differ, if at all, for climbing roses?

    Roseann Gutierrez
    Roseann Gutierrez

    March 10, 2019

    Thank you so much for this post and video! It’s so helpful. Do you mix the copper and horticultural oil together in the sprayer at the same time? Also, do you prune your David Austin roses the same way as in the video? And climbers too?

    Florésie
    Florésie

    March 10, 2019

    Love this new blog idea! Can’t wait to read more and get to learn how to better tend to my beloved garden roses. Thank you for sharing your experience!

    Minnie
    Minnie

    March 10, 2019

    Thank you for doing this. I have been waiting to prune my roses, but wanted to see your video first. Looking forward to more videos☺

    Annette Gomez
    Annette Gomez

    March 10, 2019

    Wonderful tutorial! Thank you so much for sharing and good luck with your blog! I can’t wait to follow along.

    Mara
    Mara

    March 10, 2019

    I learned a lot- thanks so much. Tips for spraying for a small scale gardener please!

    hazel zembal
    hazel zembal

    March 10, 2019

    Newbie here with a passion for roses. Would you be able to do a close up on “outward facing bud eye” to better understand? And you mentioned you clear away the rose leave/stem debris as you dont have a hard frost – is this still critical if you live in area with winter (snow, ice, freeze for months). THANK YOU!!!

    Maria Panter
    Maria Panter

    March 10, 2019

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge! I am excited to follow along! I am wondering if you have tips for growing roses for florist work. For example, post harvest treatment for bugs? When I cut roses last year, they seemed to shatter fast in the vase. Any tips for that?

    Flo
    Flo

    March 10, 2019

    Thank you for a great tutorial! It’s simple, clear and takes the ‘fear’ away. I’m looking forwards to reading your next blog!

    Cara
    Cara

    March 10, 2019

    This is so helpful, Gracie (and Ryan) – thank you! At some point could you address when is best to transplant roses and if there are any tricks to doing so? Thank you, again!

    Kim Hubbard
    Kim Hubbard

    March 10, 2019

    Thank you, Gracie and Ryan, for such an easy to understand guide to rose pruning! I garden organically, like you do, but I have never know what sprays are safe to use on my roses. I’ve ordered the ones that you show (so easy, just click on them) and I’m excited to see how they work! Thank you 🌹

    Victoria Hayden
    Victoria Hayden

    March 10, 2019

    Congratulations on your new blog!! I loved reading your first post on pruning and learned some valuable information I didn’t know! I started growing David Austin’s in my gardens in 2014 and finally feel like I have some understanding about rose growing through my own trial and error. I am excited to use some of the tips and info in pruning my roses this year to make them even healthier! Thank you!! I’m already looking forward to your next post and learning more! One of the things I’m interested in knowing more about, is moving roses. I have moved a couple into new beds a few times and so far have had success with those. I do have several I need to move this spring though due to over crowding in some of my beds and would like to know the best tips in making it be successful so hopefully I don’t lose any. So far, I have over 60 roses with some new additions coming this spring, which one of those is one I bought from you, excited!! One day I would love to have land and grow a lot more, so for now, my smaller gardens will keep me busy and happy. I just love your rose farm and all that you share, thank you so much!!
    Victoria 💗

    Abi Dirkse
    Abi Dirkse

    March 10, 2019

    Thank you for this helpful post!! After the roses are pruned what are the places you made the cut supposed to look like? Does the cane just dry out a bit and stay the same color or do the ends normally get darker?

    Evelin
    Evelin

    March 10, 2019

    Hello!!! I’m a rose lover but I’m a big time slacker at feeding my roses because I just thought that they were blooming a lot by pruning and some water . I’ve lost maybe three rose bushes since I’ve been living in my house for almost 12 years and that’s how old they were(bummer). The bottom became brown-ish but it was still giving growth on the top. Giving me a few roses here and there. I also noticed that when I pruned there was a holes later down the week maybe something made hole for a home😒. I’m going to try your technique and the sprays so wish me luck. I’m in southern Texas zone9A.

    Jenna
    Jenna

    March 10, 2019

    Love this! Thank you so much!

    Sara
    Sara

    March 10, 2019

    Hi Gracie,

    Thanks so much for this piece. Definitely is an eye opener. I love planting them, but yeah still learning about providing best care for them. The video is lovely and the caption is great help. 1 request though if it is not too much trouble. To maybe lay a white sheet on the ground for contrast maybe. I rewatched it a few times but it was still difficult to clearly see the shape of pruned plant against the weeds on the ground.

    I do have some questions. I hope you will consider answering them.
    1. I have troubles with black spots. I used the spray I’ve bought at the nursery. But if it gets too bad, I’ll remove the leaves. Leaving them bald at times. Do you have any other tips to handle these blackspots?
    2. I read about twisting the stem to promote blooms. But I have no idea how to do so. Could you maybe make a video on how we can twist (?) it
    3. I plan to buy an Evelyn rose plant. Is it an easy plant for beginners like me? And do you have some tips on growing them to be happy plants?

    Thank you!

    Mindi
    Mindi

    March 10, 2019

    Thank you so much Gracie and Ryan for sharing how you prune your roses! I look forward to learning more from you. I actually enjoy the pruning process and now I can’t wait to get out there and prune. One question, do you treat roses that are climbers any differently when pruning? For example, James Galway. Thanks for sharing what you Do!

    Elaine
    Elaine

    March 10, 2019

    Hi Gracie!

    Thanks for sharing your tips! I am trying to get one of my roses to climb up a pergola but I started somewhat late (August in SoCal) to hold it up. The stem is still quite narrow and wondering if I should prune it back and try again this coming spring?

    Lynn
    Lynn

    March 10, 2019

    When I can purchase your private fertilizer mix – I really would like to – I’m so envious of your huge roses & dahlias😁

    Andrea
    Andrea

    March 10, 2019

    What a great post and video! Thank you for the detailed description of how you prune your roses. Can you tell us about your irrigation? What kind of drip tubing you use, how often you water, and how much each rose gets? Thank you so much for sharing your wealth of experience!

    Simone Rogers
    Simone Rogers

    March 10, 2019

    Thank you for this blog post! It seems pruning roses is always a hot topic and people are just really nervous to cut down their roses. Personally it’s one of my favorite things to do when caring for my roses and something I’ve told people over and over is don’t worry you can’t kill your rosebush by over pruning! I do have a question on irrigation, what is your irrigation set up, especially for home garden? What supplies or irrigation system should we have in place?

    Ann
    Ann

    March 10, 2019

    What do healthy bud eyes look like?

    Shana
    Shana

    March 10, 2019

    Thank you for the pruning tutorial! It was very informative and easy to follow- I just started growing roses and the pruning process is a little intimidating at first, but you made it look easy!

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