How to Prune Roses
Michael Cevola shows how to prune roses without overdoing it.
How to Prune Roses
Paul James: The rose—fragrant, romantic, colorful. Well, not always colorful. We’ve all got to start at somewhere and before you can get that beautiful bloom, you’ve got to start-out with something that looks a little more like this.
That’s where Master Rosarian Michael Cevola comes in. He’s going to give our rose bushes a good trimming so we’ll have more blooms for our buck this spring.
Mike, why do you think it is the—so many home owners is scared to death to prune their roses?
Michael Cevola: Well, I don’t know. I think they get into it and they kind of decide ‘Well I'm going to kill it.’ or ‘I'm going prune too hard’; ‘Oh I cant fix it yet’
Paul James: But that’s just not so. Roses are actually one of the most forgiving plants when it comes to pruning. So don’t be afraid to cut away.
Michael Cevola: What I look to do is clean out some of the branches. But before I always start pruning and I will always like to step back a little bit. Take a look at the plant and kind of visualize what canes I want to take out of it.
Paul James: Before we get snipping, we need some tools to work with.
First, you’ll need a nice sharp pair of secateurs with a rounded edge.
Michael Cevola: And the purpose of not using a straight-edge is it cracks the stem—it crushes it so don’t you get a clean cut.
Paul James: And when you got those big canes, then you have your choices of—you can go with some loppers?
Michael Cevola: Monster loppers.
Paul James: You’ve got to have this. And for even bigger stuff—good old bow soft/
Another important accessory when working with thorny things—gloves.
The rubber tipped variety can help you avoid pricking. And cotton ones were great for pruning miniatures.
We’ve got our tools. Now it’s time to think about what shape we’d like the plant to grow into. Once we know that, we can start out by pruning off the dead rose.
Michael Cevola: Now I allowed the downward growth like this which is not going to do much of anything, we cut that out also.
Paul James: So it’s like the same rules apply when you’re pruning a lot of other things. If you got deadwood, you got crossing branches—
Michael Cevola: Exactly.
Paul James: Those you want to get rid out first?
Michael Cevola: Exactly.
Paul James: Then you can kind of get a better sense of what’s left afterwards.
Michael cleans up this Ronald Reagan Hybrid Tea Rose by cutting off some of the central material. That way, there’s not too much crisscross action going on in the middle.
Michael Cevola: This is going to be the growth of the plant. And so that’s what we’re looking to have everything shaped outward.
Now if you get a lot of the canes that are pointed inward here, once they start blooming, you just want to thumb prune those off so you don’t get the centers cluttered up again.
Paul James: Pruning not only makes the plant look less clutter, but it also promotes air circulation in the interior and minimizes fungal disease.
Michael Cevola: Star pruning a few of these branches. Here’s an outward branch right here about 45 degree. We cut that off.
Paul James: And the 45 degree angle allows water then to just trip right off. So water isn’t going to collect on that cut portion and allow that tissue to rot.
Michael Cevola: And if you cut them down too close to the bud themselves, what happens is it sometimes you just want to promote that rose and will eventually die and you have to trim down lower.
Paul James: Cutting isn’t an exact science. Sometimes, it’s just trial and error.
Michael Cevola: A lot of theory is when you have the canes coming down. They meet not to really cut bellows because a lot of times they consider die back to take place.
I've been pruning roses for several years now and I notice when I prune, I cut back below that and I’ve never had any problems.
Yeah. And if it happens and you have any die back, you could cut lower. You’re going to get new canes or eventually are going to come out anyway.
Paul James: So when pruning, be prepared to visit, revisit, and maybe even revisit that same plant again.
Michael Cevola: There’s a little bud, you can see it’s starting to slow out. Once they start loosing out, you can kind of see the direction that those buds are going to grow in. And you can go down you got to prune it down a little bit lower. You can make it more symmetrical and you’re not going to hurt them—I mean you have a lot of cane there. You could shape it up the way you want to fit in your particular area.
Paul James: One down looks like we’ve got about—oh, maybe a hundred to go.
Michael Cevola: I better get my hand loosened up.
Paul James: Now that we’ve got our cuts made, it’s time to clean up.
Michael uses a wire or brush to remove the dead bark. Just a light stroke will do.
Michael Cevola: Theory is I helped prevent any disease or insects from hiding in between the bark. But also encourages new basal breaks—this new little bud eyes. What it does is it encourages new canes to start growing from there.
Paul James: Really?
Michael Cevola: And so that’s one of the theories. I’ve been doing that for a long time as well as many rosarians does that.
Paul James: We learn something new everyday.
Don’t forget to pick-up after yourself once you’re finished. It's important to throw canes in the trash, not in your compost bin. That’s because these little buggers have the habit of carrying fungus and other diseases.
Alright Mike, we got another one here that looks like it could use a little bit of help. This is a Weeping Floribunda?
Michael Cevola: Yes. And what I think I like to do here is kind of keep it in its form as sweeping, but I like to clean out a lot of the dead growth that it’s in here right now.
A one thing about a lot of these roses, you have to be really flexible to move around and to prune it.
Otherwise you’ll get stuck.
Paul James: To keep our Weeper, well, weeping, Michael cuts out all of the unproductive branches and leaves and overall umbrella-like shape.
Don’t forget to watch out for crossing branches especially in windy areas. Those branches will rub and rub and rub and actually open up, destroy the cane and even open up the tissue and then you got a site for—
Micheal Cevola: A ruining fungus.
Paul James: Yeah.
And again, one of the most important things I think—you make a few cuts, you stop, and take a look at the tree as a whole before you make any more cuts.
Once you see how it shaping out, then you can make additional cuts.
Paul James: You could move the cane over like this and I use Styrofoam or some of the other little blocks here that kind of clean it like that.
Michael Cevola: Little lymph spreader, exactly.
Paul James: Well, just make a little lymph spreader some of the prunings there.
That helps a little bit.
Michael Cevola: It looks good.
Paul James: Just because these roses are tiny, it doesn’t mean you should prune them any different from those big guys. Michael gives this mini floral the same tough love treatment as the rest.
And again, we’re not harming the plant.
Michael Cevola: I'm not harming the plant.
Paul James: Now you maybe wondering, when is the perfect time to prune.
The answer really depends on which zone you live in. But a general rule of thumb is to wait until you see just a little bit of bud break.
If you aren’t sure which zone you live in, just click on HGTV.com/zone for more info.
And once the pruning is done, all you need to do is patiently wait and then stop and smell the roses.
How to Prune Roses
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