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How to prune roses

Published on July 23rd 2018
A close up of a flower
July is the best time to prune roses in most parts of the country.
Whether it is done early or late in July doesn’t affect the start of flowering in spring. If pruning is delayed into August, the flowering will be delayed accordingly.
If they are still flowering right now, you are welcome to delay to the end of the month and enjoy. One can also leave the odd flowering stems on the pruned bush and cut them back later.
I have already given three pruning demonstrations this season. When I start cutting the sample bushes, very soon the questions come from the audience – “Why are you not looking to outside facing eyes and why are the cuts you make not slanted?”
And this after giving pruning demonstrations and writing about pruning for well over 40 years. That is how ingrained such "Do’s and Don’ts" are. The reasoning for wanting to do so does not apply anymore and certainly not for our climate.
Rose pruning is easy, and you cannot prune wrongly!
However - there is always this, however - roses can be manipulated and will react to it.
Partially, it depends on what sort of performance we expect from the pruning, as well as the condition of the bush and to a degree the growth characteristics of a variety.
A sharp pair of secateurs, a quality lopper and pigskin gloves will make the task a breeze.
If you have limited water, prune lightly, leaving short side stems on the main branches to enable them to quickly form new green leaves which give power to the roots.
If one wants lots of blooms and a good show of colour from hybrid teas a light pruning is advisable. The side stems in the centre of the bush are best removed. They would green out and prevent the sunlight falling onto the main branches which will restrict the sprouting of good strong stems from the base.
For good, long-stemmed blooms, prune a bush down to about knee height leaving 3 to 4 stems.
Floribundas are expected to provide a show from base to top and they too are pruned back to about knee height. Light pruning results in the lower part of the bush being denuded of leaves.
‘Iceberg’ is the odd one out. It can grow from the old wood for years and the rule of cutting out old stems and keeping younger ones does not apply. It depends on the height and spread of the bush and how much you want to neaten them up. To watch a YouTube video on how to prune Iceberg's click here:
Iceberg prune video
Spire roses are cut down to about chest height with older stems cut out. They will soon flower again at the desired height of 2m plus.
The spreading Colourscape types i.e. ‘My Granny’ or ‘Deloitte & Touche’ can easily be trimmed with a hedge shear. They grow sideways into the light, so opening up of the centre of the bushes is not as important. Watch a short video here:
The Panarosa varieties too start spreading and are trimmed back to a manageable height and width, with most of the twiggy growth removed.
Pruning and espaliering Climbing roses take extra time and the determining factor is where one would like most of the flowering to take place. The long climbing canes are maintained, maybe shortened somewhat and best tied to a support, be it a pole a horizontal stretched wire or fanned out on a wall. Find a how-to video here:
Most of the Mini roses are simply cut back to between 30 and 50 cm and many of the basal stems removed. However, they might have grown into nice hip-high shrublets and in that case, one does a light pruning, cutting away obvious small twigs to open up the bush. Watch a quick and easy video here:
The AFTER PRUNING entails spraying the remaining stems with our cocktail that suffocates scale and other insects and some diseases on the remaining stems. Use it at double the recommended strength - 100ml in 10l water. If you noted lots of scale insects on the remaining stems it is best to brush them loose before spraying.
We don't recommend using lime sulphur. Why torture your nose?
The important part is to check the friability of the soil. Pushing in a digging fork next to some bushes will show. If it goes in easily, the soil is good.
Sprinkle VIGOLONGER controlled release fertiliser around the bush and lightly turn over the soil with the old mulch or some extra compost and water well.
The VIGOLONGER fertiliser releases small doses of fertiliser over up to 8 months. It truly gives the plant a very balanced nutrition, where you can apply Vigorosa in September and again in December and March instead of monthly.
If it is difficult to push the fork or a spade down it is best to do some good soil rejuvenation.
Spread out a thick layer of compost and our preferred soil conditioner (peanut shells) and the VIGOLONGER and proceed to turn the soil and additives over. Break up any lumps and work everything in well so that it is equally mixed.
If some of the roots of the roses are loosened in the process this is not a problem. They love the freshly aerated environment. Water very well after this.
We show you how to prune all the different rose types on our YouTube channel.
Remember that pruning to roses is like having a haircut for us. There is no pain involved and all that happens is that they grow back more strongly!

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