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Gardening Q&A

When and how do I prune my rose bushes?

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Guadalupe County Master Gardeners is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or

February 2, 2015 | 3,346 views | Post a comment

My major pruning dates are Valentine’s Day (or a couple of weeks thereafter) and Labor Day, with the spring pruning being heavier than the fall pruning. Pruning improves air circulation, helps control the size and shape of the plant, and promotes vigorous blooming.

Tools needed include scissor type pruners (the anvil type will crush tender branches), large loppers, and possibly a pruning saw. Make sure your tools are sharp and that you use heavy leather gloves for the process. I keep a solution of equal parts bleach and water handy to sanitize my tools between cuts, thereby reducing the chance of spreading disease.

Cut off all branches that are smaller in diameter than a pencil. Remove large canes growing in the center of the plant. Remove any branches that are growing cross-wise or toward the center of the plant. Trim branches just above dormant buds that face the outside of the bush so that new growth will be outward. Make 45-degree cuts. Remove the foliage.

Your end result will be a vase-shaped plant that is about 18 inches to 24 inches tall, has 4 -8 canes, and is open in the center. Remove old debris around the plant, as it may harbor insects or disease.

During the summer, you will only need to remove any diseased foliage or canes and to deadhead the faded flowers by cutting the stems just above the first leaf with five leaflets.

Fall pruning is much lighter. Remove twiggy growth along with crossing or dead canes. All foliage is left on the bush at this time.

Can I grow roses organically?

Yes, you can, although it is helpful if you select varieties that are resistant to black spot and powdery mildew in the first place; such as, certain tough hybrids and most of the antique roses.

To fertilize, you can use a watering can containing one tablespoon of Epsom salt and/or cup of alfalfa meal per gallon of water. Mulch bare soil with alfalfa hay or shredded hardwood bark. For ongoing maintenance, spray the foliage every two weeks with a mixture of fish emulsion and seaweed.

At the first sign of black spot or powdery mildew, spray with a solution of four teaspoons of baking soda and one teaspoon of dish soap per gallon of water. Spray lightly every three days.

How can I learn more?

On March 5, the Guadalupe County Master Gardeners will offer a class on companion plantings taught by Peggy Jones. Peggy is very knowledgeable regarding the care of roses. The class will be located at the AgriLife Extension Office at 210 E. Live Oak Street in Seguin from noon to 1:00 p.m.

Penny Wallace is a Texas Master Gardener with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. If you have a question to be answered, call the Master Gardeners at 830-379-1972 or leave a message to be answered. The website is The Master Gardener research library is open Mondays from 8:30 to noon, at 210 East Live Oak Street in Seguin.
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