How to Prune & Care for Roses

by Ken Lain, The Mountain Gardener, Watters Garden Center

March is when roses get excited about spring. Prune, clean up and fertilize your roses, and 45 days later, they will show fragrant appreciation.

Six rose types are planted locally: hybrid tea, floribunda, grandiflora, climbing, Carpet and shrub roses.

Shrub roses are the easiest to care for and bloom the longest with minor disease and insect issues. The newest varieties of Easy Elegant and Knock Out roses have large, fragrant flowers.

Grown in pots, raised beds or directly planted in the garden, this new variety likes growing locally. The benefit of planting a shrub rose is the ease of care. They self-prune spent flowers and rebloom automatically for nonstop fragrance May through October.

Upright shrub roses make bold statements in a garden due to their blooms and sprawling growth habit. However, these large shrub roses can be somewhat wild and ill-behaved in their growth and must be tamed through pruning.

Pruning is a simple process.

Start by removing any broken or diseased portion. Shrub roses should be pruned by cutting stems back to a healthy bud. After the cut, look for healthy white wood in the cut. If brown, continue to cut until you reach white wood.

Make cuts at a 45-degree angle, about ¼ inch above a bud.

Top tips for pruning shrub roses

  • Prune in March when new shoots begin forming on the canes.
  • Cut to about one-third of the desired final size. They typically triple in size after pruning.
  • Remove dead or damaged wood as you see it.
  • Remove one-third of old growth every two or three years to rejuvenate the shrub.
  • Rake all fallen leaves, twigs and branches away from your bush.
  • Apply 2 to 3 inches of premium mulch over the root zone for longer bloom times.

Deadhead the flowers — this extends the bloom period significantly.

Rose food — feed at least three times annually in spring, again in summer and a final application in the fall (March, July, and October). Water thoroughly after each feeding.

Watering — roses need water and appreciate being on a drip system. Water must get to the roots. Water thoroughly twice a week if there is no rainfall. To discourage black spots and mildew, water in the morning and avoid moisture on the leaves.