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Gardening in Gwinnett: Pruning important to keeping roses blooming

Roses need periodic pruning in order to keep them attractive and healthy. They respond to pruning and grooming (removal of old flowers) by producing larger, more attractive flowers.

Pruning encourages new growth, removes dead or diseased canes and flowers, and trains roses to a desired shape. Periodic cosmetic pruning and grooming is done throughout the growing season.

In pruning roses, make sure you have cleaned, sharpened pruning snips and loppers. On all rose types, remove any dead or diseased wood at any time of the year. Prune the plants to make them more open in the center to increase air circulation.

Cut the stem a quarter of an inch above the leaf buds facing out from the center of the plant. Roses send out new growth from the buds below the cut. If two canes are crossing each other, remove one.

Different roses have different pruning requirements, but the first step should be to remove any dead, damaged, or weak canes. The hybrid tea roses, floribundas and grandiflora roses, and roses such as "Nearly Wild" and "Knockout" are repeat bloomers and should be pruned heavily early in the spring before new growth begins.

When the buds begin to swell in the early spring is the time to prune them back, like in late February or early March. With hybrid tea roses, when pruning the shrubs in early spring, remove all but four to six of the most vigorously growing canes. Those, cut back to within two to three feet from the ground. To produce large specimen flowers, remove all the buds on the shoots except the main one, and then only allow one flower to develop on each main shoot.

The floribunda roses tend to have a shrub-like growth habit and should be pruned to maintain the shape. Grandiflora roses are pruned much the same as with hybrid tea roses. The removal of dead flowers can be done at all times of the growing season, and should be done in order to keep the plants blooming.

Climbing roses, such as "Lady Banks" roses, that bloom only once a year are pruned after they have finished blooming in the spring. Do not prune early in the spring before they bloom since they produce flowers on old wood from the previous year's growth.

Climbing roses, during flowering, develop new canes where the flowers will be borne for next year. Prune out the older canes near the ground to produce vigorous new shoots to grow.

Some of the "old garden" rose varieties need very minimal pruning to preserve their shape. To keep their shape, remove only the oldest stems that are no longer productive. Most of these types of roses bloom only once a season and should be pruned shortly after blooming.

Pruning is one of the most important steps in growing attractive, healthy roses. Proper pruning at the appropriate time will improve the overall shape, promote new and healthier growth. For questions regarding roses, call The Gwinnett County Extension office.

Timothy Daly is an agricultural and natural resource agent with the Gwinnett County Extension Service. He can be reached at 678-377-4010 or via e-mail at timothy.daly@gwinnettcounty.com.