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Prune roses taller for faster bloom

Sierra Foothills Rose Society offers free pruning and rose-care videos online

Several pruned rose bushes
These hybrid teas, floribundas and grandifloras benefit from pruning taller, not to the ground. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

How short – or tall – should you prune roses? It depends – on the kind of rose as well as its age and health.

But in most cases, taller may be better than shorter.

Traditionally, hybrid teas, floribundas and grandifloras – the most common classes of garden roses – were pruned very short, taking canes to under 12 inches or less. Many people, including professional gardeners and landscapers, still follow that method, whacking bushes down almost to the ground.

Tall pruned rose bush
This is About Face, a very tall
grandiflora rose that appreciates
less pruning.

However, pruning roses so short forces the bush to put a lot more energy into regrowing its height before it starts setting blooms. That can delay those first flowers several weeks.

In addition, it risks pruning below the graft, the knotty connection where the bush you want – the hybrid variety – is attached to rootstock. If the bush is pruned below the graft, the hybrid is gone and only the rootstock will grow.

To get blooms faster and also support healthier growth, prune the rose bush taller. For most hybrid tea, floribunda and grandiflora bushes, that’s about waist high – 36 inches. Shorter, more compact bushes – such as smaller landscape and shrub roses as well as some floribunda varieties – can be pruned down to 24 inches, about knee high.

The idea behind this pruning approach: Bushes want to grow to a certain height. A hybrid tea rose that typically grows to 4 or 5 feet wants to be 48 to 60 inches tall before it bursts into full bloom. If pruned to 36 inches instead of 12, that bush will start flowering in force much sooner and with more energy than if it had to regrow all that cane.

Another positive: Pruning taller takes less time – and less work! So you can prune your rose garden faster with less effort.

Two people preparing to prune a tree rose
Charlotte Owendyk and Baldo Villegas demonstrate how to
prune a tree rose in a segment of the Sierra Foothills Rose
Society's pruning video. (Screenshot)

Get more expert advice on growing, pruning and caring for all sorts of roses via excellent new videos produced by the Sierra Foothill Rose Society. Instead of hosting its usual in-person winter rose-care workshop, the club hosted its workshop via Zoom and recorded the presentation to share on YouTube.

Local rose authorities Baldo Villegas and Garry Chin host the virtual rose-care workshop, assisted by other members of the rose society. Breakout sections on pruning climbers and tree roses as well as pruning basics and tool selection are available, too. And the best part? It’s free! Watch online, then try out your new skills.

See for yourself:

Debbie Arrington, president of the Sacramento Rose Society, is a master rosarian.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of June 4:

Because of the comfortable weather, it’s not too late to set out tomato and pepper seedlings as well as squash and melon plants. They’ll appreciate this not-too-hot weather. Just remember to water.

* From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, melons, squash and sunflowers.

* Plant basil to go with your tomatoes.

* Transplant summer annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias.

* It’s also a good time to transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia, salvia and verbena.

* Let the grass grow longer. Set the mower blades high to reduce stress on your lawn during summer heat. To cut down on evaporation, water your lawn deeply during the wee hours of the morning, between 2 and 8 a.m.

* Tie up vines and stake tall plants such as gladiolus and lilies. That gives their heavy flowers some support.

* Dig and divide crowded bulbs after the tops have died down.

* Feed summer flowers with a slow-release fertilizer.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! This “blanket” keeps moisture in the soil longer and helps your plants cope during hot weather.

* Thin grapes on the vine for bigger, better clusters later this summer.

* Cut back fruit-bearing canes on berries.

* Feed camellias, azaleas and other acid-loving plants.

* Trim off dead flowers from rose bushes to keep them blooming through the summer. Roses also benefit from deep watering and feeding now. A top dressing of aged compost will keep them happy. It feeds as well as keeps roots moist.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushier plants with many more flowers in September.

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