The weather is getting nicer and it is time to take the winter coat off of your rose bushes. Pull off those winter rose cones when you see the forsythia blooming and get the pruners ready when you see the daffodils sprouting. We have to take care of the roses that are already in our landscape and we can even plant new ones. Early spring is also a good time to plant new bare-root rose bushes.
Rose pruning rules
If you are ready to hack away at your roses, arm yourself with heavy gloves, long sleeves and sharp clean pruners. Always cut the rose canes at a 45 degree angle about a quarter inch above an outward facing bud. This will help the new buds face outward. The center of the cane should look white. Get rid of anything that looks diseased or damaged.
Remove any branches that grow toward the center of your bush to open the center for better air circulation. Then go after the canes that cross each other, pruning out the weakest one. Suckers along the base of the plant also need to go. If you have hybrid teas, grandifloras and floribundas, keep their canes 12 to 24 inches long. Get rid of all old canes, leaving the nine to 12 healthiest.
Climbers need to have the spreading buds clipped. This will help them produce more blooms. Cut them back, leaving four or five buds. The oldest wood can be removed at the base to encourage new growth.
Clean your pruners with an alcohol swab between each cut just to be sure you aren’t spreading disease from one shrub to the next. If part of the stem has turned dark green or black, cut back to the bright green wood, then clean your blades so you don’t pass it on to the next cane.
A Rose Funeral
If you have bushes that aren’t sprouting yet or have brown canes with no signs of life, you have a bit of a problem. You’ll have to have a funeral for any dead bushes. Dig them up and examine the roots. Look for grubs, damaged or swollen roots. It is possible that the shrubs are in hard clay and not able to expand into the soil around your planting bed and may have gotten too wet.
Cane borers are also common with roses. They will go right down the center of the straw-like rose cane and lay their eggs. Once they hatch later in the season, the larvae eat their way out of the rose cane. A big enough population can kill the plant. Usually you will notice the plant wilting with yellow foliage and dropping leaves. To fight them off, some rose growers will seal all cuts with white glue. This helps prevent rose cane borers from entering. You can also use tree wound paint, wax or nail polish. Another trick is to add a drop of food coloring to the glue so that you can tell which canes have been treated.
Spider mites will also cause damage to your roses. A herd of mites can desecrate a bush in just one day. Look for tiny webs under the leaves and they like to spread from one bush to the other. Spray water under the leaves in the morning, then look for spider mite insecticides from your favorite home and garden store.
Roses are big eaters, so fertilize now with amendments with the numbers like 5-10-5, 10-10-10 or 12-12-12 to encourage bloom strength. You can find bags of this concoction at your favorite home and garden center. Some hardcore rose growers like to use pine mulch around their beds to keep the roots moisture all spring and summer.
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