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Tip: Roses

April 26

Prune and Feed your Roses

Look to begin pruning when the forsythias are blooming (meaning the soil is roughly 50-55 degrees) and you can see the beginning of new growth on the rose bush. There are three basic steps to pruning:

Remove dead wood. Dead canes are black or very dark brown in appearance. Examine each cane and find the place where the dead wood ends and the live wood begins. Live wood is usually green or red, with red or green buds showing. You should cut to ¼” above a vigorous outward-facing bud, making a diagonal cut slanting away from the bud.

Remove any broken canes, damaged canes, canes that cross or rub against each other, or canes growing inward instead of outward. Don’t worry; you can remove a good deal of wood without hurting the plant.

Lastly, and importantly, clean up all rose debris from around the plant, including leaves, dead twigs and trimmings, and throw it away. Lay down a fresh layer of compost, mulch, and/ or garden soil conditioner around the plant. This is the best and easiest way to protect your roses from fungal diseases like blackspot!

Some small variations:

Roses planted in the last two years should be pruned as lightly as possible to give them more time to establish.

Well-established hybrid teas, grandifloras and floribundas benefit from aggressive pruning. Cut out all spindly growth, leaving 3-5 major canes less than 12 inches tall.

Climbing roses can be shortened slightly, and the side shoots shortened to six inches or so. Now is a good time to tie your climber out laterally to encourage heavy bloom.

Antique roses that bloom once per year should not be pruned heavily until after they bloom, if at all. In the spring, all that’s required is a little cleanup. Wait until after blooming to prune antique roses.

After the spring pruning activities are completed, the roses should be feed – especially hybrid teas, grandifloras, and floribundas. Use a good granular, organic rose food such as Rose-Tone. All roses enjoy a fresh addition of compost worked in to their soil, and no rose will turn down a sip of delicious fish emulsion or liquefied seaweed!


April 26
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