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Pruning Roses

Pruning roses is a necessary step to be successful in growing healthy beautiful roses but many people find it intimidating. After learning some basics and practice you will become very comfortable and your roses will thrive because of it.

Why Should You Prune Your Roses?
It removes dead or damaged wood and encourages new growth and stronger more abundant blooms. Pruning allows you to shape your plant and provides better air circulation which helps in disease prevention.

Tools Needed
Bypass pruners, loppers (long handle pruner), pruning saw and gloves.

When to Prune
The best time to prune repeat blooming roses on Long Island such as Floribunda, Grandiflora, Knock Outs and Hybrid Teas is late March or early April while the plant is still semi dormant and when the buds are swelling and about to pop open. Old fashioned roses and climbers that bloom once per year should be pruned right after blooming. Do not prune these in early spring because they flower off of last year’s growth.

Basic Tips

-Always use clean sharp tools. Disinfect them with rubbing alcohol before you start.
-Make your cuts on a 45 degree angle ¼” just above an outward facing bud (where a new branch is coming out of the stem).
-When you make your cuts, make sure the center of the stem, which is also called the pith, is a creamy white. If the pith is brown or black keep moving down the stem until you see white.
-Always prune the dead canes off first and try to do this as close to the bottom of the bush as possible.
-Older stems that have a hardwood outer stem should be the next thing you may want to prune. Roses bloom better off of the new growth that has green stems.
-Remove any leaves left over from last year’s growth as they may contain disease like black spot or powdery mildew.
-After you are done pruning spray the plants with Bonide Horticultural Oil Spray to kill any overwintering insects.
-There is no set rules on how much you should prune off but usually 1/3 to 1/2 of the shrub is recommended. Cutting back more of a heavily overgrown shrub is not against the rules either. Use your best judgment. You know I trust you.

After you prune your rose, incorporate Bumper Crop Compost into the soil which has mycorrhizae root builder. Choose your favorite mulch and spread this around the base of your roses to help retain moisture and prevent weeds. Mulch also helps keep the soil cool in the heat of summer. Fertilize with Espoma Rose Tone organic fertilizer by late April then follow up once per month thru the growing season.

Don’t worry about messing up your roses if you aren’t experienced with pruning.  Roses are very forgiving and it is very hard to do permanent damage. Get out there and practice.


Espoma Rose-tone® 4-3-2

For All Types of Roses

All Natural Plant Food with Bio-tone® Microbes

Rose-tone is available in 4, 8 and 18 lb. bags;

1 pound equals approx. 3 cupfuls

Rose-tone is a premium rose food designed to supply the necessary nutrients for growing prize winning roses. The organics in Rose-tone breakdown gradually providing a safe, long lasting food reservoir activated throughout the growing season. Rose-tone”s all natural formula now contains Bio-tone®, our proprietary blend of beneficial microbes. Bio-tone biologically enhances our natural plant food to ensure superior plant growth.

New Plantings

  • Dig a hole about 12″ across and 18″ deep.
  • Roses thrive in a well drained soil, rich in organic matter. Add peat moss & 3 cups of Rose-tone to removed spoil & mix thoroughly to achieve this.
  • For bare-root roses, partially refill hole with mixture making a cone of soil to place plant on. For potted roses, refill hole with enough soil so that soil level is the same as surrounding area.
  • Spread roots evenly (for bare-root roses only) & plant at depth where graft knuckle is just below ground level.
  • Fill hole with amended soil within 2-3 inches of top, fill with water and let it soak in. Finish filling hole.
  • Spring planted roses should be hilled with soil (approximately 8″ mound) until new buds are about 1/4 in. long. Fall plantings should be hilled until buds appear in Spring.
  • After hills are removed, apply 3/4 cup of Rose-tone around each plant.

Feeding Established Plants
Feed monthly from beginning of the season to middle of September. Keep your roses mulched and watered.

Individual Plants
Sprinkle approximately 1 1/4 cup of rose-tone around the drip line of each plant and scratch it into the top inch of soil

Rose Beds
Work 6 pounds (18 cups) of Rose-tone per 100 sq.ft. into the top inch of soil.

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Black Spot and Aphids on Roses

Like clockwork, customers are coming into the store with branches of their roses wondering why they are turning yellow and the leaves are falling off. It’s that time of year when roses get blackspot or are attacked by aphids.

Blackspot is very common on roses and very easy to identify. It looks exactly like it sounds. The leaves have blackspots on them surrounded by yellow rings. The entire leaf eventually turns yellow and drops off and if not taken care of will defoliate the plant. The disease can overtake a rose very quickly in wet weather or when it is hot and humid.

The best way to not get this disease on the roses is by taking some preventive measures. When watering your roses try not to wet the foliage. Use a soaker hose around the base. If this is not possible, water them in the morning so the leaves have all day to dry. Keep them pruned properly to keep good air circulation around the plant. Also, when first planting roses, give them proper spacing to help with air circulation. Most roses prefer 3-4 feet between them. If you get attacked, cleanup of the fallen leaves and pruning of infected branches is crucial in preventing spreading of this disease. Start spraying them with a fungicide in early May such as Bonide Fungonil as this will prevent blackspot in being able to attack the plant. Follow with a repeat application every 2-3 weeks over the course of the growing season especially in the hot humid months of the summer.

Aphids are another pest that likes to attack roses. They are tiny insects that are very easy to see as they usually will congregate on the buds or stems. It is very hard for an aphid infestation to kill a healthy rose bush but they can damage flower blooms and for the rose enthusiast they just don’t look good on the plant. If your rose is unhealthy and not taken care of they can do enough damage to kill the plant. Aphids don’t take bites out of the plant. They suck the juices out of it. The byproduct of this is called honeydew which is a sticky sweet sap that attracts dust on the plant called sooty mold. Even though sooty mold can’t hurt the plant it just looks ugly. Honeydew also attracts a lot of ants who eat the honeydew. The easiest way to control aphids is spraying with Bonide Rose RX or release lady bugs in your garden. If you have both blackspot and aphids a combination spray such as Ortho Orthonex will take care of both problems at the same time.

Having a rose is just like being in a high maintenance relationship. With a little TLC and preventive measures you and your rose can have a beautiful friendship together.