March is an excellent time, weather permitting, to clean rose beds of leaves and debris from the previous winter. Spores of the three most common molds that prey on the rose in Colorado, powdery mildew, black spot and rust, overwinter on dead leaves.
Middle to late April, after the last frost, is considered the best time to prune and first feed roses. There are people who do prune in autumn. Roses that bloom once a season are pruned after they have bloomed – some as late as the end of June. Tall roses threatened by wind and snowfall would benefit from pruning anytime to protect them from exposure. With our unseasonably warm weather, many of us are seeing a great deal of new foliage emerging on canes suggesting that early pruning might be in order. Common sense is the rose gardener’s best guide.
The process of pruning is very straightforward. All dead and diseased canes should be removed initially. Where disease is prevalent and before moving to a healthy rose or other plant in the garden, clippers and hands should be washed with hot water and soap, and then rinsed with rubbing alcohol. Gloves should be changed.
Roses like air and light. The gardener is wise to leave plenty of space between the rose and surrounding plants when pruning. Opening up the center of the rose also allows for good air flow and light.
The preferred shape of the rose, its size and the number of roses or other plants in any given garden all will determine how much pruning a rose will need from season to season. A rule of thumb is that no more than a third of a healthy cane should be pruned away in most cases. A diagonal cut is made just above an outfacing eye bud (about a ¼ inch) located below an emergence of healthy new growth. A drop of water soluble Elmer’s Glue applied to the freshly cut cane will protect it from carpenter bees and other boring insects. When the rose has died back to the ground the cane should be cut back to the available new growth accordingly.
There is no mystery to growing lovely roses. They require pruning once a season; feeding every 4-6 weeks before August 15th; deadheading as needed to keep blooming; and proper watering. Depending upon soil structure and weather, an inch per week during growing season is standard. As with any other shrub or plant, check soil moisture before watering. Roses don’t like wet feet.
The roses featured here are, in order of appearance: Just Joey, hybrid tea; Scentimental, floribunda; Vavoom, floribunda; the Crimson Fairy Rose, ground cover; Neptune, hybrid tea; Remember Me, hybrid tea.