A reader sent me an email a little while back asking about moving a rose.  During the discussion she raised the point that the rose had several old canes and should she keep them or cut them out.

Periodically cutting out old canes should be part of any rose maintenance program.  It actually rejuvenates the rose by causing it to send up fresh new canes that bloom better.

But, it’s a scary thing to do for the first time.  You feel like you are hacking away at the bush and taking most of it out.  In actuality what you doing is taking out material that is tired, old and bloomed out.  A friend of mine David Stone says of old canes, they’ve finished their job and have nothing left to give.

The first time I did this (while holding my breath) I was stunned at how much new growth emerged later in the spring.  It seemed for every old cane I took out, three to five new ones emerged.

But how do you know when it’s time to take out an old cane?

There is no calendar to time this by, so simply let the rose tell you.  When you see a cane that is wooded over, sending out nothing but thin twiggy growth and ceasing to flower – it’s time for that cane to go.  The first time you do this don’t be radical and take them all out at once.  Take out maybe 1-3 making sure you leave plenty of other growth so the rose can manufacture food via its leaves come springtime.

Then in the years to come just incorporate this into your regular maintenance program as the old canes tire out.

The photos above give you various views of the rose our reader wanted to work with.  The very last photo, which I sent back to her, shows via white lines which canes I advised her to take out.

So as you are pruning this New Year watch out for the old canes.  Then bravely grab your loppers or your pruning saw and cut out the old to prepare to welcome the new!

Happy New Year of Roseing!

To read the complete article, join now!

With FGplus, you'll get exclusive:

  • Articles – Exclusive articles for more advanced gardeners.
  • Videos – Join our editors on their behind-the-scenes journeys.
  • Digital Library – Gain access to our digital library of special issues.
  • Need help? Our Ask-the-Expert contributors will answer your questions.