You may think that pruning rose bushes and other shrubs is just a case of cutting back to make room for new growth, but the prime time to prune for best results depends on your climate.
If you’re in a warmer area, then prune at the beginning of the year, just before your shrub has a real growth spurt. In colder areas, you should wait for the last frost of the early spring, although this can be something of a game of chance; taking your cue from the plants themselves will indicate a suitable spot generally between February and April.
Why Prune at All?
Like all plants and shrubs, rose bushes can get straggly and overgrown, and this in itself can lead to fewer and poorer quality flowers. Cutting back dead wood will not only manage the size of your plant, but it will ensure that essential nutrients are only diverted to living branches. You’ll be able to tell when you hit a living branch by the green bark; make sure you cover each cut with a little white gardening glue to protect it against pests and also to encourage quicker healing. Thinning out the center of the bush ensures that it doesn’t get too dense and that air can circulate through properly.
And, Why Prune Roses?
By fall, roses have grown tall and leggy and that can adversely affect flowering. Pruning removes the diseased as well as dead stems and canes and also reduces the overall size of the plant. It helps the plant to stay well-proportioned and dense. The first spring bloom demonstrates how pruning results in an annual process of renewal.
What Are the Best Tools?
There’s no better investment for a keen gardener than a good pair of pruning shears. Both blades should be curved to make sure you get a good clean cut. One thing to note is that there’s no real budget option – make sure you go for makers with a proven track record, and do your research first. If you’re a southpaw, look for left-handed versions, and also equipment that is easier on weaker wrists and grips. You should also look for a pruning saw and lopping shears, both are essential if you have mature plants with thicker branches that a smaller tool just won’t cope with. Last but not least, you’ll need good quality gardening gloves to save your hands from painful chafing.
The right place to make your cut should be reasonably easy to spot; look for the slight swellings – or eyes – on branches where leaves used to grow, and cut a quarter of an inch or so above this. This will encourage the eye to grow properly.
Real experts can even dictate the size and direction of blooms with appropriate pruning!