Say Goodbye to Rose Pruning Season
Sometimes the best time to trim a rose is whenever the pruners are sharp
A reader recently asked a question about her ‘Mary’ rose bush. She had planted it next to a path thinking it would keep to a nice 4 feet tall and wide. Next thing she knew it was throwing out 6-foot canes and costing a fortune in snagged sweaters. First off, let me say that ‘Mary’ roses do usually keep to a nice size, but sometimes in warmer ones they will get larger. The reader asked me what to do about it.
This to me is further proof that 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 the 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.
But then if roses are plants too, can’t we trim all season?
You can trim roses at almost any time
Just follow a few simple guidelines to ensure you’re not doing more harm than good. These are the rules I tend to live by when it comes to rose pruning.
Try to trim no lower than around a third 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.
Take note of how long the new “stem” gets before it blooms. If it’s only 6 inches long before it flowers, then you can cut down to 6 inches below the height you want, and the rose will bloom at the desired size. If the stem blooms at 12 inches, then you cut 12 inches below, and so on. You can figure this out by simply measuring from the previous cut when it does rebloom.
Keep your expectations reasonable. This won’t work if you are trying to keep a rose with a mature height of 6 feet down to 2 feet. 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 or scaring your neighbors, grab your secateurs and start trimming—just like you would with any other plant in your garden.
Get our latest tips, how-to articles, and instructional videos sent to your inbox.