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‘Blind shoots’ make rose stubs, not buds

A blind shoot on this Miss Congeniality rose will never produce a flower, even though there are blooms elsewhere on the bush. (Photo: Debbie Arrington)

Y o-yo weather pattern confuses roses, stops production of new flowers

Usually, June is full of roses in my Sacramento garden. It’s the second wave of bloom after the big burst of first roses in April.

But not this year. Where there should be buds, there are only stubs.

Those are “blind shoots,” growth that never produces a flower.

In early May, I dutifully deadheaded spent blooms to prepare the bushes to generate new buds. But May’s confusing weather – triple-digit one week, 30 degrees cooler the next – created equally confused plants. Is it August? Is it March?

The stems look healthy with lots of foliage and fast growth. But no matter how long those stems grow, they won’t sprout a bloom.

Blind shoots are the result of extreme fluctuations in temperature and growing conditions. Our yo-yo

weather confused many bushes, especially when temperatures plunged back below normal.

Another oddity: Blind shoots can appear on the same bush with normal blooming stems.

Some rose varieties are more sensitive to temperature fluctuations than others. But this week, I’ve seen blind shoots on more than 100 bushes in my own garden. They’re appeared on almost every hybrid tea in my garden as well as most of the floribundas and many miniatures. Even the David Austin shrub roses have blind shoots.

This is a condition on modern reblooming roses, which covers most varieties commonly grown in home gardens. Old garden varieties introduced more than a century ago include many once-blooming roses such as Lady Banks banksia roses or Dorothy Perkins ramblers. Their growth after initial spring bloom is all foliage, no buds.

But modern roses are valued for their reblooming qualities. And an abundance of blind shoots will prevent the bush from producing new buds this summer.

Fortunately, the cure for blind shoots is easy: Prune them off. Restart the growth by cutting the cane or shoot back about 5 or 6 inches, snipping about 1/2-inch above a leaf with five leaflets.

So, I’m back deadheading my roses again, but all I’m snipping off this round are a bunch of stubs. Hopefully, if weather cooperates, I’ll have a new round of blooms – in August.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 26:

Sacramento can expect another inch of rain from this latest storm. Leave the sprinklers off at least another week. Temps will dip down into the low 30s early in the week, so avoid planting tender seedlings (such as tomatoes). Concentrate on these tasks before or after this week’s rain:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Knock off aphids with a strong blast of water or some bug soap as soon as they appear.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to help corral blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees, which are now in bloom and setting fruit.

To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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