KC Gardens

Time to prune the roses

Pruning will help improve the appearance and blooms of just about any roses. Members of the Kansas City Rose Society used sharp clippers to trim spent roses from the bushes in the summer of 2015 in the Laura Conyers Smith Municipal Rose Garden in Loose Park.
Pruning will help improve the appearance and blooms of just about any roses. Members of the Kansas City Rose Society used sharp clippers to trim spent roses from the bushes in the summer of 2015 in the Laura Conyers Smith Municipal Rose Garden in Loose Park. tljungblad@kcstar.com

Roses have always been a garden favorite. Our gardens used to be loaded with hybrid teas that were fussy but provided beautiful, large blooms. Then along came the easy care or landscape roses that just bloom. It is hard to find a landscape without one of the easy care roses.

No matter what type of rose you have in the landscape, pruning will help improve their appearance and blooms. Now is the time to prune these landscape staples.

How you prune roses really depends on the type of bushes you have. I am going to make it simple and break it down into two groups. (Sorry, Rosarians, but I want to use the KISS approach). The two types are the larger flowering hybrid tea types and the landscape, easy care shrub roses, also known as Knock Out roses.

For the traditional types such as hybrid teas, grandifloras or floribundas, we start by removing any tissue that has been damaged by the winter conditions. Make the pruning cut at least 1 inch below the black discoloration so the live tissue remains. Once the dead wood is removed it is now time to shape the bush. Remove pencil-size canes to the ground. These small shoots will not develop nice flower buds.

For a nice plant leave three to five of the strongest canes and cut them to between 8 and 16 inches high. It is recommended to make the cut just above a large bud that is pointed outward on the plant. This creates a better shape and more open rose for best growth. The plants will look pretty bare at first but soon new buds will develop and flowers should appear in late May.

Landscape, or shrub roses, such as the Knockout, EarthKind and other types are pretty darn simple. Simply do nothing except remove the dead wood and you are set for another year. For those that would prefer a shapelier bush, cut all the canes back to about 12 to 18 inches. If possible cut the canes back to a large, plump bud that is pointing outward from the bush.

Older canes that have developed a woody, bark-like texture can be removed completely. A pruning saw is handy for this step. The younger, green colored canes are more vigorous and produce the best flowers. This helps open up the plant and reduce diseases. In no time shoots will develop, and by the end of summer these vigorous bushes will be just as large as last year.

Climbing roses are the exception. Before flowering remove only the winter-killed tissue. The bulk of pruning should be done after the first flush of blooms. At that time, old, or less vigorous canes can be removed to the ground. This will stimulate new shoots to develop and keep the plant fresh and in better condition. Also, keep in mind that climbing roses will flower better when the canes are grown horizontally instead of vertically.

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