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Pruning Rose Bushes

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#1 Lucy


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Posted 22 March 2012 - 12:38 PM

The rule has been when the forsythia blooms you can cut back your rose bushes. Well, the forsythia has bloomed and my rose bushes are going crazy - really leafing out. Is it too late to cut them back?
Thank you.

#2 Lynnmac


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Posted 22 March 2012 - 03:59 PM

The forsythia bloom time is a rule of thumb. Roses need to be pruned because they flower on new wood. My husband has about 30 rose bushes and we haven't pruned yet!

#3 Janet Macunovich

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 01:11 AM

We just cut back a half dozen roses yesterday -- tea and climbers. All budding out already but that's no big worry. We'll be cutting others even later as we can't get to them all.

Maybe the best thing we ever learned about roses was from a gardener we met at the world renowned Niagara Falls School of Horticulture, where she was in charge of the rose garden -- we later worked with her at Chicago Botanic Garden and then she moved on to garden at an estate on Vancouver Island. Lots of rose experience.

What she said was about the Niagara Botanical Garden roses. We were there that year in... late April? And some of the tea roses weren't cut yet, and none of the old roses were. I asked "So will you have people in to help you get these all done right away" She chuckled and said, that, no, these 300 roses were hers to do and she'd get them done, some later than others and it had never hurt them to wait, or be cut early... that perhaps 10% got pruned at the "right time."

Go look at that rose garden some time, or Chicago Botanic Garden's. Gorgeous roses.

#4 Beaufort



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Posted 24 March 2012 - 10:34 PM

What about rugosa roses? I didn't prune mine last year because I got these from Cape Cod and I've always liked the thick hedges they make along the dunes and in the fields there when left on their own. But mine are bursting out leaves all over the place and heading for the sky. Are they going to get scraggly if not cut back? I'm a rose dunce. Do rugosas bloom only on new growth?

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Posted 25 March 2012 - 12:05 PM

That's good! Rugosas are roses for rose dunces like us!

I have one two four five-that-I-know-of white Pavement series rugosas. Mine do get bare knees if they don't get a whackin' now and then. The danger with them is, if you cut them early they seem more likely to come back with reinforcements five feet from the original plant. Mine normally don't spread in a thuggish/annoying way though (unless they come up in the middle of something else :angry: ).

I'm pretty sure they bloom on old wood - the first flush at least. I do the "remove about 1/3 of canes, oldest first" method after the first flush of flowers is done. Don't know if that's what the experts say is right but they're still alive and well.

Beware though - my established plants, which were supposed to be only about 3' at maturity, can push out canes longer than that in a single season in average soil and morning sun with absolutely no problem. A little nip on the ends here and there is not going to slow them down much. You've got to show them who's boss.

Finally, don't assume all the stuff you read about more "refined" roses applies to rugosas. I did that in the first few years, and they started throwing up big, thick canes so fast I was a little concerned they might jump out of the ground and head for the village. I've cut them off fertilizer-wise, and only water if surrounding plants are desperate. Their immediate neighbors are now nepeta "Walker's Low" to cover those bare legs, so that's not very often. Since I've found nepeta is also better-behaved without fertilizer and supplemental water, I think they'll get along well.

#6 dlewis1962


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Posted 02 April 2012 - 09:52 AM

Saw Janet yesterday at English Gardens...talked to her about all my rose bushes. She said cut them back...I said but they are so beautiful, she said cut them back. I said BUT..she said CUT THEM BACK..lol So we came home and cut them all back....lol Is now a good time to move them to another area?
Dave and Diane

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 12:28 PM

Dang if I know. I move mine when I walk by and think "I should move that thing since I have the Big Shovel out."

I moved a tiny rugosa last summer, without a heck of a lot of root (other than the connecting runner) thinking it has a 50/50 shot. I looked out the bedroom window the other day and see it is not only alive, but apparently quite happy. I moved a bigger sucker off the original plant the spring before and it grew like a weed. And I moved an Explorer (Quadra) several years before in the fall when after three years it failed to perform at my Country Estate (/sarcasm) and transfered it to a different location on probationary status. It was fine too, except it brought home something vaguely fungal in appearance [WHACK! STUFF!]. It's fine.

Actually is taking over a stairway and will need a teutor or something this year. Or I could leave it to prevent burglars I guess. It would make a good guardrose. It certainly deters me from using those steps to get to the back yard.

#8 hannahj1


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Posted 05 April 2012 - 01:29 PM

I have a similar question about transplanting. I have a knockout and 2 others (not sure what type). I want to move them to a sunnier spot. Everything I read online says move them in the spring while they are dormant. Of course they are no longer dormant because of the two weeks of heat in March. Can I still move them this spring?

#9 Janet Macunovich

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Posted 06 April 2012 - 03:57 AM

Guardrose. Yup!

You can move them now. Probably the best time to move them is late summer or very early fall because then they have the maximum time to put out new roots before they have to deal with summer. Summer is when they really need a wide root system to pull in enough water.

About pruning the rugosas. We prune them every year in early spring to
1) take out some old wood completely,
2) then shorten and clean up the other parts to get rid of weak wood or control size/shape.

Like dlewis says, even if they've already leafed out in spring when we get there, we cut, saying "sorry Charlie, this is for your own good." (Once at a botanical garden, talking to the horticulturist in charge o fthe 300 rose bush collection -- about 2/3 hybrid teas/floribundas etc and 1/3 old roses andd climbers), we asked, "So do the other gardeners team up ith you in spring so you can get all lthese cut in time?" She laughed and said, "None of us have time in spring! Out here, it's just me and these roses so I just start cutting in winter and keep cutting. So I get to some 'early' and some 'late,' does it look like it hurts them?!"

We wrote about prunig shrub roses, with before and after photos, in... well, in a minute I'll go Search it out on the What's Up part of the site, then come back here to add a link. For pruning the climbers and low shrub roses like 'Carpet' series: http://www.gardenato...ping-for-roses/

If you cut them all the way back they will always be more likely to respond like mad things, suckering all over. One of the reasons so many pruning rules say "remove only 1/3" is that proportion seems like a safe one -- it doesn't "scare" the plant into thinking "Good lord, I'm in trouble, put up new shoots quick!" Those of us who've seen the ash trees attacked by madly proliferating emerald ash borers, and seen those super fast sucker burst out all over from the trunks and the bases of main branches, can testify to what happens when healthy roots are cut off from their foliage. The roots say "Need more leaves! Quick!"

Difference between ash and rose -- a plant that suckers readily from roots, like the rugosa rose, develops the needed new foliage from root shoots rather than making new branches from a trunk and main limbs.

What's scary about seeing how far away from the main plant a rose suckers, is that THE ROOT SYSTEM IS THAT BIG. The roots don't suddenly get wider roots when the plant's cut down, to make those sucker sfar away. They plant's simply suckering from more of the roots it already has. It's like they sucker from close to the rest of the canes if they are just business-as-usual replacing foliage, but from all over if they're really scared "to their toes."

#10 Janet Macunovich

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Posted 06 April 2012 - 04:21 AM

Hmm. So I went to search for it and only one of the two I was looking for came up. Then I went to our log of articles, the one we're using as a guide to posting stuff on the site, and saw, ah ha, it's still in the queue of articles written pre-website waiting for us to get them ONTO the site. But it's 'way back there in the line-up because it's already been re-published on the CD Potting Up Perennials.(We had to prioritize since we couldn't get all 3,000+ articles put up before we launched.... First priority are those articles that were published just the once and have since been unavailable. Anything that was already republished on CD or magazine took a back seat.)

We do make exceptions. If we find as we are writing new articles that we need to refer to something already written to avoid RE-writing, then we pull things out of line and post them. Or if a Sponsor says "I'd like to Sponsor that article about X" we post that article even if it was 'way back in the queue.

So I said to myself, okay, before you go back to the Forum, post that article. Started to do it -- it's something we've done so many times that it's like an auto-response. But then, ARGH! I'm in Boston working right now and don't have all the flles with me. So I can't, yet!

So I'll put that file up as soon as I can over in What's Up, and link it here. Meanwhile if you have the CD Potting Up Perennials or you've been reading us a while and save back issues, it's in What's Coming Up #88.

Okay - now it's posted. http://www.gardenato...pruning,-roses/  It's What's Coming Up #88, which contains some of our best rose pruning illustrations -- and roses are NOT easy to photo in that way!

#11 drupnorth


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Posted 28 September 2013 - 02:54 PM

only have one big rugosa but have never pruned it-guess i'll make a note to do that in the spring. thanks for the advice.

#12 Dsmith74


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Posted 28 September 2013 - 10:05 PM

Remember - not too much on a happy rugosa in the spring or you get the Suckers Revenge. I guarantee at least one will come up dead center in the middle of your absolute favorite perennial (probably an irreplaceable one that's resentful of disturbance). 

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