Often the key to keeping roses happy, healthy, and looking their best is proper pruning. This is done using specific techniques and timing, depending on the type of rose you have. The following is a simplified way to approach rose maintenance that won’t take a blueprint or countless hours to accomplish. (See some of our great low-maintenance roses with incredible fragrance.)
Deadhead spent flowers on rebloomers
For roses that repeat their flower show, deadhead spent blossoms to keep them looking clean and to encourage rebloom. For onetime-only bloomers that develop hips, keep the spent flowers on the bush so that fruit can form to provide fall/winter interest and food for wildlife. Some roses—and eight of those mentioned here—are “self-cleaning,” meaning they neatly drop their spent petals on their own. Some varieties, however, hang onto dead flowers. It is best to deadhead these to keep their bushes looking tidy.
Concentrate on tidying and tying with ramblers and climbers
In early spring before growth commences, trim out any dead wood on rambling and climbing roses to keep the plants looking neat. In late summer and fall, tie the vigorous new shoots (growing horizontally outward) to your support system of choice. This encourages blooms along those new branches, keeps their thorn-covered stems at bay, and prevents the new branches from being blown around and damaged by cold winter winds in the coming months.
Cut out a third of the canes on shrub roses
In late winter or early spring, remove at ground level approximately one-third of the oldest and weakest canes to encourage growth of vigorous new canes (left). If space is at a premium, you can also keep shrub roses in bounds by shortening the remaining canes by roughly one-third (right). This approach can help to encourage larger blossoms too.
Scott Warner and David Kirchner battle wind, salt spray, and sandy soil in order to garden in North Truro, Massachusetts.
Illustrations: Jessica Daigle