Calling all rose experts!
January 29, 2018 4:52 PM   Subscribe

I moved into a house that came with roses in the backyard and I don't even know the name of them, but they're really tall and scraggly looking and definitely not the bushy variety. I did a hard pruning last winter and probably did it wrong because they're weird looking now. So before doing it again this year, I thought I would try to get some advice about how to properly prune.

I've read tips online and watched videos and think I got the gist of it, but I wanted to clarify:
- For Northern California, is now a good time to prune?
- A lot of advice says to cut off "dead wood" (is that the same as brown wood?) down to where the healthy green stems are, but for these roses, almost everything on the bottom is brown wood, and the bud eyes on those segments also look dead, but could they just be dormant? If the whole thing is dead, are we supposed to just cut it all the way to the ground or what? What's confusing me is that there are green stems higher up on the brown wood.
- I think I also have a few suckers, as they have thicker stems with bigger thorns. I've read that pruning them might just make them grow back even more, so how should I deal with them?
- If you know of any helpful videos to watch for this, I'd appreciate any recommendations.

I'm sure this question was probably really confusing so thanks for reading!
posted by Forty-eight to Home & Garden (4 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Dead wood is dead wood, not brown wood. It’s usually paler and dry, you’ll be able to tell if you cut it and it’s brown all the way through. Live wood is green inside. I try not to cut down to brown wood for roses, they end up looking pretty gnarly.

Also, do not prune roses to the ground, most are grafted and you’ll get the original (undesirable) root stock instead of the chosen variety. Prune to an outside facing bud so the new branches won’t crowd he center of the plant.
posted by lydhre at 5:09 PM on January 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

A traditional time to prune roses in that environmen is Valentine’s Day.

Keep at your aggressive pruning, they likely need it. Think in terms of a 5 year horizon, not the next few seasons.

Or just murder them and plant something that looks nice and blooms well in your area without so much upkeep. There are literally hundreds of options. Roses suck, especially roses like that.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:39 PM on January 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

In pruning I was taught a few things:

1) If you're pruning new-ish growth, clip a quarter inch or so above a new bud. The direction of the bud will be the direction of the new branch, so you can shape the bush.

2) Try to keep your cuts diagonal. Supposedly it means that water will run off rather than pool and the cut will heal faster rather than rotting and harboring mold.

3) The preferred shape of a rose bush should be something like a vase - upright and contained, without too much bulk in the middle. Supposedly this promotes air-flow and drying, and will reduce diseases.

4) If you suddenly get a very vigorous branch coming up from somewhere near or below ground level, it's probably coming from the wild root stock. Unless you like super-thorny branches that bloom once a year, clip it off - it is not the rose you're looking for.

*obligatory disclaimer: I am not a professional, just a person whose mother is just a tad rose-mad, and who hasn't actually killed anything yet.
posted by ninazer0 at 7:24 PM on January 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

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