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Roses are plants, too!

Say Goodbye to Pruning Season

Mary Rose pictured above is still one of David Austin’s greatest Roses.  You can purchase it directly from David Austin Roses in Tyler Texas.  Tell em Paul sent you.
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses
Mary Rose pictured above is still one of David Austin’s greatest Roses.  You can purchase it directly from David Austin Roses in Tyler Texas.  Tell em Paul sent you.
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses

In a comment on a post a while back titled “Transplanting A Rose During The Growing Season” a reader asked a question about her “Mary Rose” bush. She had planted it next to a path thinking it would keep to a nice 4’.  Next thing she knew it was throwing out 6’ canes and costing a fortune in snagged sweaters.  First off let me say Mary Rose does usually keep to a nice size, but sometimes in warmer ones she will get larger.  The reader asked me what to do about it.

This to me is further proof roses have somehow become segregated into a separate botanical plant care category.  If it was any other plant, the reader would have done what any good gardener would, and simply trimmed it following her own good gardener’s instincts.

But not with roses!  Oh no, trimming can only take place once a year during that mysterious time period known as “pruning season”.  One only trims roses during that period and failure to do so will result in death of all your roses.  Or worse yet a stern lecture from a rosarian likely wearing some form of rose print clothing and a glazed look.  A Floral Clad Stepford Wife with secaturs.

But if Roses Are Plants, Too can’t we trim all season then?

Of course you can!  Trim away, have a ball, save your sweaters.

However, follow a few simple guidelines.  Try to trim no lower than around 1/3 of the mature height.  Much more may be too much.

The best time to trim and reshape is after each bloom flush.  You can trim and deadhead at the same time.  Simply trim down to the size you want the rose to be, wait for it to bloom and trim again.

If you want to take that a step further, take note of how long the new “stem” gets before it blooms.  If it’s only 6” long before it flowers than you can cut down to 6” below the height you want, and the rose will bloom at the desired size.  If the stem blooms at 12” then you cut 12” below and so on.  You can figure this out by simply measuring from the previous cut when it does re-bloom.

And lastly keep in mind this won’t work if you are trying to keep a rose with a mature height of 6’ down to 2’.  That’s too radical.  Roses, like other plants, have different heights of maturity and you need to plant accordingly.

So if your roses are grabbing your clothes, scaring your neighbors or your cat is missing grab your secaturs and start trimming – just like you would with any other plant in your garden.

Happy Roseing

View Comments


  1. snollygaster 09/14/2010

    Satori in Victoria! Enlightenment, flooded with sudden knowledge. Duh, I get it - Roses Are Plants, Too!!!! Sheesh, took me long enough to get the point but I've finally got it. Thanks, Paul, that's about the best advice I've ever received regarding roses and believe it or not I've read volumes on the subject. I began the new pruning strategy yesterday but only in my back garden for fear of provoking the F.C. Stepford Wife with secateurs. If all remains quiet I'll sneak out front early one morning and start on the front garden roses. Wow, what a cognition blaster!

    On a similar subject, this summer I planted several Sunsprite roses and must say have been delighted with their colour, charm and fragrance until recently, that is. A couple of weeks ago one shot up a tall spar with a cluster of small terminal buds. The thing looks odd. Do you have any idea of what's happening here? Previously, everything seemed to be going fine and the bushes were growing in a shapely habit. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  2. PFZimmerman 09/14/2010

    I've seen that sometimes happen due to heat, the bush trying to sport or any other odd thing. Just cut it back. If it happens again we might have an issue but I doubt it will.

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