I was on-line surfing some rose forums and someone asked if it’s okay to prune a young rose or should they leave it alone. I’m glad I ran across it, because it is a question I’m frequently asked. Since this is pruning time in some parts of the country it’s a good opportunity to answer it.
First, let’s define “young rose”. This would be a rose you planted last year, be it spring, summer or fall. It’s not how old the rose was when you got it, but when you planted it that counts. As we’ve talked about before, bareroot plants can be two years old when you get them and some own-root bands can only be 6 months old.
Now that we know what we mean by a young rose we can turn our attention to the question should you prune a young rose.
In my opinion this is not a good idea because I feel it’s best to let my roses get to mature size and fully establish themselves first. To get established and truly settle in their root system, they need food to create the energy to do so. A critical part of this is their leaves – known of course as photosynthesis. The less foliage a plant has, the less food it can make and the less energy it has to get established. By established I’m particularly talking about the root system. Remember the old saying. Roots first – tops second.
If you worried about keeping canes on a newly planted rose nicely shaped – don’t. If everything goes according to plan the canes that were on the rose when it arrived in your garden will be gone by the third year or so. Replaced by new canes that have grown from the base of the plant.
The reason this is a goal on every new rose I plant, is because the canes on it when it arrived had likely been cut back several times during production and while it was for sale. This is to keep it a sellable size, get it to bush out better thereby making it more attractive at the garden center and other reasons. I feel chances are these canes will never make a nicely shaped plant.
For this reason I like to focus on getting new canes to grow from the base of the plant. These are sometimes called basal breaks. I will allow these canes to grow unhindered to their mature height and these will form a nicely shaped plant. As these canes come up, and I feel can replace an original cane, I cut the original canes out. Over time all the original canes are gone, having been replaced by new ones.
Of course these new ones need energy to form and grow. Energy provided by the leaves on the original canes. My way of thinking is, the more foliage I have at the start the faster I’ll get those new canes popping up. This is one of the main reasons I do not prune young roses.
Are there exceptions? Of course. If a plant takes off like a rocket and throws out long canes feel free to keep them in check. Particularly if you feel they might snap off in a windstorm. Use a light hand and try to keep as much of the cane as possible.
When it comes to pruning young roses my rule of thumb is not to do it and use a very light hand if I do.
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