Pruning Roses as They Age

Pruning Roses in Later Years

Treatment of old roses is not quite so simple. Different methods must be employed for the various types and classes, while the severity with which rose bushes and standard roses are cut back will depend on whether blooms are required for exhibition or for garden display.

pruning roses new growth


Pruning Hybrid Tea Roses

Moderate pruning is needed for most hybrid tea roses grown for display. This means that each strong main growth will be shortened to within four to six buds of its base, and each sturdy side growth to one or two buds.

Very old, weak or diseased growths must be cut right out.

I begin by taking these out and also such old growth as can be removed without sacrificing good stems growing from it. By tackling the job this way I find it simplifies the task of pruning the remaining younger growth.

Some very vigorous roses, and particularly several hybrid perpetuals, well-known examples of which are Frau Karl Druschki and Hugh Dickson, must be treated even more lightly.

After removing old, worn-out and diseased wood, the strongest young growths should be left about 3′ in length, more weakly shoots being cut back a little further and laterals shortened to just a few inches.

Hard pruning of bush roses is almost entirely confined to hybrid tea varieties grown for exhibition. Here the aim is to produce a few blooms of the finest quality, and so the whole energy of each plant is concentrated on a very limited number of shoots.

Each strong growth is pruned to within two or three buds of its base and practically everything else is cut out entirely.  Where bush roses are going to be cut back hard in March I have found no harm in cutting them back by about half in November.

Admittedly, this means going over the bushes twice but I believe it prevents a lot of wind damage and root disturbance, particularly in exposed areas.


Pruning Floribunda Roses

These roses like fairly light pruning. After cutting out all old, weak, diseased or dead wood the best of the younger stems are shortened by about half, a few being cut back rather more severely, especially if the plant is not growing very strongly. The object is to make a fairly big, well-balanced bush with plenty of strong young growth to bear an abundance of flowers.


Pegging Down Roses

A difficulty with some very vigorous bush roses is that they soon attain such a height that they start to look ungainly. Pegging down offers a simple and effective means of overcoming this.

When the roses are pruned only four or five of the strongest shoots are retained, all other  growth being cut out. Then these long shoots are shortened slightly, so as to get rid of the unripened tips, and are bent down and fastened to pegs driven into the soil. In this way a large area of ground is covered.

Side shoots grow freely from the ‘eyes’ along the length of each shoot, and bear flowers profusely. Only the number of shoots required to form the next season’s plant are allowed to grow from the base of the plant. Then the following spring, all growths that have flowered are cut out, and the young stems retained for the purpose are pegged down in their place.

Many climbing roses may also be treated in this way, and when grown this way, make a pretty covering for steep banks. Lady Waterlow and Zéphirine Drouhin are two varieties that respond particularly well to this treatment.

The latter is one of the few thornless varieties of climbing roses and so easy to handle for this method of training. Rather more shoots may be retained according to the strength of the plant. Some moss roses are also suitable for the pegging-down method.


Pruning Standard Roses

Standard roses are treated on similar lines to bushes. The main stems must be kept clear of all growth, but the branches forming the head are pruned each year like those of bush roses of the same kind.


Pruning Rambling Roses

Rambler roses of the wichuraiana and multiflora types should be pruned in autumn, or even in late summer after the flowers have faded. These vigorous growing roses bear their best flowers on strong growths made the previous year. My aim in pruning these is to get rid of as much as possible of the old growth, including that which has just flowered, but to retain all the strong young stems that have not yet flowered.

With some varieties, such as Excelsa, it may actually be possible to do just that every year, for when growing well they make a lot of new growth right from the base. Other varieties, such as Alberic Barbier and Albertine, almost always make some good new growth from the old stem, sometimes many feet above soil level, so it would be impossible to cut out all old growth without at the same time sacrificing most of the new stems.

With these, you must compromise and keep as much of the old wood as is necessary to bear plenty of young growth too. The reason for pruning ramblers early is that the wood retained is exposed in this way to all the autumn sun and air, which ripens it well to withstand the winter.


Pruning Weeping Standard Roses

Weeping standard roses have a tall main stem which may be as much as 7′ high and on this a very vigorous rose, usually of the rambler type, is grown so that it forms a shower of growth reaching nearly to the ground.

Rambler roses grown in this way must be pruned in a similar manner to other ramblers but even more care must be taken in order to space the young shoots, after pruning, at regular distances on the umbrella—like wire trainer which is commonly used to shape these roses. There is no point in letting them hang too far down at first, as in the summer the heavy flower trusses will hang down even further and look unsightly if stained with mud splashes.


Pruning Climbing Sport Roses

Even when established, these types of climbing sport roses require a somewhat specialised form of pruning. Some of these roses are inclined to make several main stems from which strong shoots grow, but not particularly freely towards the base.

The best of this new growth should be retained at practically full-length but occasionally I either bring a main stem to the horizontal or cut one back quite severely, to encourage more strong growth from low down and so prevent the bottom of the plant becoming bare.


Pruning Other Climbing Roses

In addition to the climbing sports there are various other climbing roses which thrive on moderate thinning.

The aim should be to remove some of the older stems but to retain plenty of young growth, either at full length or shortened a little but not by more than a third.


Pruning Shrub Roses

pruning roses The hybrid musk roses and many of the vigorous hybrids now lumped together as ‘shrub roses’ require little pruning. It is only necessary to thin out a little of the older wood in March to make room for new growth. Every third or fourth year I find it pays to give a more drastic thinning out, particularly if the bushes tend to fill up with a good deal of thin growth.

Much the same applies to the wild roses, or species, which require little or no pruning but may be thinned out if growth is too crowded or if they are exceeding the space available for them.



22. July 2010 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Roses | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Pruning Roses as They Age

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