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All stems, no blooms on roses? It likely was the weather

'Blind shoots' are the result of spring temperature fluctuations

Miss Congeniality, a grandiflora rose, has a blind shoot where a bud should have been.

Miss Congeniality, a grandiflora rose, has a blind shoot where a bud should have been. Debbie Arrington

An odd phenomenon is happening in my Sacramento rose garden – and I’m sure I’m not alone.

Where there should be buds, there are only stubs.

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

Due to our roller-coaster spring weather, my roses started their big spring bloom about two to three weeks later than normal. That meant they hit their first peak of bloom in May, not April.

I’m currently in my first big round of “dead heading,” snipping off spent blooms. As I removed those faded flowers, I noticed many, many stems with blind shoots.

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 in April and May 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. In the last two weeks, 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; their growth after initial spring bloom is all foliage, no buds.)

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.

Modern roses rebloom in warm months six to eight weeks after deadheading. So, trimming off those spent flowers and blind shoots now should produce a fresh wave of flowers in mid to late July.

Rose bushes need more nutrients for that next round of flowers. After deadheading, deep water and feed roses a balanced fertilizer. (Always water before feeding to prevent foliage burn.)

If possible, put down a 1-inch layer of aged compost around bushes. That mulch both feeds the plant as well as maintains soil moisture and keeps roots comfortable during hot days to come.

How much water do roses need? During summer, a full-size hybrid tea requires about 5 gallons of water per week. If using drip irrigation, roses do best with at least two or three emitters, spaced on either side of the bush. That gets water to all its roots, not just on one side.


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Garden Checklist for week of June 23

Get to work in the mornings while it’s still cool.

* Irrigate early in the day; your plants will appreciate it.

* Generally, tomatoes need deep watering two to three times a week, but don't let them dry out completely. That can encourage blossom-end rot.

* 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 early 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.

* Avoid pot “hot feet.” Place a 1-inch-thick board under container plants sitting on pavement. This little cushion helps insulate them from radiated heat.

* 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. Mulch to conserve moisture and reduce heat stress.

* Cut back Shasta daisies after flowering to encourage a second bloom in the fall.

* 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.

* 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.

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