How much should I prune?

by Rachel Willcox
(Greenville, SC, USA)

Your rose question:
Hi there! I live in Greenville, SC and have just purchased a home with 8-10 rose bushes. I'm not sure what type of roses, or how old they are. The previous owner of this home lived here more than 50 years. Some of the plants are very big (long shoots leaning and some laying on the ground) and I'm not sure how much to cut back? I was thinking about just cutting the entire plant back but I'm afraid I'll do irreparable damage. What is your suggestion?

Thank you!
Rachel Willcox

Annelie's Answer:

Hello Rachel,
The rose with long canes laying on the ground is most likely a climbing rose.
That rose you should remove a few of the oldest canes at the base.
The rest of the plant can be pruned off to keep it in bounds.
Other rose bushes can be pruned down by a third, or more if you think they are to tall.
Also remove all spindly and criss-crossing canes.
Your aim should be to open up the interior of the rose.
After pruning, spray the canes with dormant horticultural oil to kill off any fungus spores and overwintering insect eggs.
Wait to feed the roses until you see new growth coming.
Also wait to prune until all danger of frost is over.
Here is my page about pruning roses.

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