by Grady Cobb, OCNT, Ohio Pesticide Applicators License • Maintenance Foreman
Spring—as far as we can tell—is here! We've been fortunate to have more sun and 50+ degree weather the past few weeks. With this sun and warmer weather, plants are just as excited to finally come out of the cold winter weather as we are.
One of those plants that is excited to come out of hibernation is the rose. You may have seen some little red buds that have started to pop up on the twigs. Those are the new branches that are about to start growing and give that famous rose flower that we all like to see. Since the rose has just started to shift its energy from the roots to the branches of the plant, early spring is a good time during this transition phase to do a good rejuvenation prune on your roses. A good rejuvenation prune now won’t put a whole lot of stress on the plant as the weather is cool enough to allow the rose to recover—and the rose is currently transitioning its energy from the roots of the plant to its branches, compared to summertime when most of its energy is IN the branches!
With the buds coming out, you can tell what branches survived and which ones didn’t. The branches that did not survive the winter are the first branches that you should prune out of the rose plant—as well as any branches that are definitely diseased. By removing these two types of branches out of the plant you will help create more space for light and air to penetrate the center of the plant. This in turn will promote more rejuvenated growth and help prevent mold and disease from establishing. Getting light and air into the plant is key to the rose’s health and overall flower performance—which leads the second type of branch you should look for to remove...cross branching. Cross branching (branches that rub against each other) can create bad scars that may lure disease to the rose. If you are having a tough decision as to which cross branch you should prune out, go with the older one so the younger branch can take its place.
Now, when you prune a branch, you should prune about a quarter of an inch away from either the crouch of two branches or one of the new buds of the rose. By doing this you help prevent where you pruned the branch from dying back too far and killing the new bud.
Once you removed the previous two types of branches you will want to prune the rose down no more than half its height as you will want to be mindful of the one third rule which says to not prune more than a third of a plant in a single pruning to help prevent severe stress on the plant. After doing all these steps your rose should look about half its height with lots of space between branches so that the new growth can come in and flourish while putting on a nice flower display for the year.