6 Steps To Caring For Your Roses During The Dormant Season
It's important to prune during dormancy to stimulate growth. The more pruning, the more resulting growth. Follow heavy dormant pruning with light pruning in March to control new growth and shape the shrub.
1. It All Starts With The Right Tools and Sanitation
- Bypass blade hand pruners are most versatile for roses. Bypass pruners (hand shears): use on rose shrubs with limbs of 1/2" diameter or smaller. Some pruners are made to handle up to 1” diameter limbs.
- Use lopping shears or a pruning saw for cuts larger than ½”. Using too small a tool for too big a cut results in splintering wood, allowing access for pests and disease and potentially damaging your tools. Loppers (long-handled pruning shears): the most useful tools for almost all larger pruning jobs. Use pruning saws for very large cuts on old rose shrubs with large limbs. Pruning saws have a handle with an 8” to 15” curved saw blade with teeth set wide, about 6 per inch.
- Keep tools sharp. Clean, accurate cuts mean minimal damage and better healing.
- Clean tools with a 10% bleach solution or spray with rubbing alcohol between rose shrubs or after cutting unhealthy areas.
- Set tools on something other than the ground to prevent picking up fungus or pathogens.
- When pruning out disease, prune well below the infected area.
2. Pruning Your Roses
- Remove dead or damaged wood, which act as magnets for pests and diseases.
- Cut off suckers growing from roots. The new growth of a grafted rose will not be the same as the rest of the plant.
- Remove spindly or very old growth. Canes thinner than a pencil aren’t strong enough to support top growth. Thick, very old canes are not vigorous.
- Prune canes that rub or are near rubbing. Rubbed areas are easy entry points for pests and diseases.
- Trim remaining canes. For canes that you will keep, make a 45° angle cut above an outward facing bud.
- Remove foliage. Strip remaining leaves by hand to remove leaf and leaf stem, where overwintering insects could hide.
Follow Winter pruning with a 2” layer of organic compost topped by 1” of mulch to control weeds and hold moisture.
3. Clear The Area
- Clear away debris pruned from roses and leaf litter that may have accumulated underneath during cool weather. Cut or fallen material on the ground creates a breeding ground for pests and diseases.
4. Protect Your Roses
- Tips for Spraying:
- Apply New Year's and/or Valentine's Day
- Spray early in the morning when it is neither wet nor windy
- Always spray prior to bud-bread
- Completely coat surfaces
- Bonide Copper Fungicide: targets leaf spot, downy mildew, rust, powdery mildew, black spot (more natural option)
- Monterey Liqui-Cop: Liquid copper fungicide prevents powdery mildew and black spot
- Bonide All Season Spray Oil: superior parafinic oil controls the overwintering of red spiders, scale, aphids, bud moths, leaf roller, red bug, codling moth, blister mites, galls, whitefly, mealy bugs and others
5. Fertilize and Amend
- E.B. Stone Rose and Flower Food
- Osmocote Outdoor & Indoor Slow Release Plant Food
- Bayer Advanced All-in-One Rose and Flower Care
- Bayer Advanced 2-in-1 Systemic Rose and Flower Care
- Ortho Bug-B-Gon Rose and Flower Insect Killer Plus Miracle-Gro
6. Maintenance of Tools
For general cleaning, rinse pruners or loppers and scrub with a wire brush or scouring pad, then dry thoroughly.
To remove stubborn built up sap, take pruners apart, scrub pieces with a scouring pad and warm soapy water to remove all residue that prevents making a quick crisp cut. Reassemble pruners. Refer to the instructions and/or diagram that came with your pruners if you forget what goes where. If your spring has lost its tension after a few years of use, it's easy and worthwhile to replace.
Sharp pruners that make clean cuts are critical to plant health. Many online guides exist to help the home gardener properly use files and other sharpening tools or you can have your pruners professionally sharpened.
The final step for your pruners: lubrication to maintain smooth cutting action. Spray lubricant is easiest. Apply to the central joint and work in well by squeezing the handles several times. A leather scabbard keeps your pruners handy while protecting them from pathogens they might pick up if set on the ground or other outdoor surfaces.