Why do we prune shrub roses?

Maxine(5MA)March 29, 2012

Dear Garden Folk

I have 2 lovely shrub roses by the name of 'Lovely Fairy' (not The Fairy)

I know that by to cutting back dead and diseased canes the goodness in the plant is rerouted to the healthy canes. I also know to cut back flowers that have come and for the same reason

But, I also know (I think I know) that cutting her back will change, not only change her shape but also invigorate her and what I donâÂÂt know is how/why this happens

Share with me.

Thanks so much!


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Campanula UK Z8

If not one human being lifted a pair of secateurs again, roses and other shrubs would not suffer. The process of 'pruning' is a continual natural one - animals come along, pushing and grazing, wind, snow and other weather elements do their worst, branches fade, die and drop off. It is a continual renewal system allowing old bits of the plants to be replaced by new juvenile growth. By cutting back artificially, the plant believes itself to be under some form of threat and so directs its vigour, its green spark, if you will, to the parts where growth would be most advantageous. Growth always follows the knife....unless, in extremis, the opposite occurs - death.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 5:05AM
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Just tidy up your plant to remove dead growth, and you can take off faded sprays during the season if you wish. If your plant is growing and blooming well there's no need to "invigorate" it .
The best reason to prune a shrub is to maintain a graceful shape and to keep it from infringing on its neighbors.
There is NO mandatory pruning of shrub roses, just for pruning's sake! That's one of the lovely things about growing them. Feed 'em, water 'em, and watch 'em bloom!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 1:15PM
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that was lovely
thanks to both of you for your insight and experience!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 1:44PM
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seil zone 6b MI

Taking out the dead wood and crossed canes reduces the risk of diseases getting in where there is damaged wood. Pruning is to keep the plant in bounds and in a more pleasing shape for the grower and the space available.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 5:39PM
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Why do I prune them?
To get rid of diseased rust-infested leaves that come in our wet falls.
To keep my roses a decent size as my garden is much too small and crowded.
To keep canes from being weighed down on the ends with blooms.
Or just because . . . .

    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 6:06PM
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Mostly to shape them and get rid of canes that catch me as I pass.

But Dale - I know that by to cutting back dead and diseased canes the goodness in the plant is rerouted to the healthy canes.

Not exactly. If the cane is dead, your removing it doesn't re-route anything. If it's diseased, your removal doesn't re-route either, although it MAY help prevent the disease from spreading. Don't forget, the leaves are the things that do the work and they don't ship carbs all the way across the rose plant.

As far as re-invigorating, a lot depends on the timing. Depending on the time of pruning, you direct energy to vegetation or to fruiting or to storage.

But you don't need to prune if you don't want to. You may end up with a bunch of blooms on top of leggy plants though.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2012 at 2:16PM
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what do you mean?

(Don't forget, the leaves are the things that do the work and they don't ship carbs all the way across the rose plant.)

    Bookmark   March 31, 2012 at 2:44PM
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rootman(zone 5/6 W.PA)

Every different class of rose is pruned differently. The extremes being from grooming hybrid tea types for exhibition purposes (intense pruning), to letting old garden roses grow practically unpruned to achieve their maximum impact in the garden.

IMHO the most important pruning any rose bush gets is every so often, and with great care and much deliberation, removing the oldest, most non-productive, declining cane as close to the crown as possible. Such canes are usually at least 3-4 years old. This encourages fresh basal growth (the most valuable growth a rose bush can make), reduces disease and insect problems, and rejuvenates a rose bush like nothing else can.

Young bushes do not need this procedure until they get old enough to show such canes, and then usually only the oldest one or two canes a year are removed per bush, the exact number dependant on a number of factors: vigor, growing conditions, etc.

I have seen the shrub rose Kockout managed as a hybrid tea, pruned for exhibition purposes, which is somewhat out of context for a Knockout. The results are very nice, though.

It (a mature Knockout bush) is pruned to 6 evenly spaced canes about 10" tall each, in spring. The lateral growths from these canes terminate with flower clusters at about 2 ft. When the cluster is done blooming the spent lateral growths are pruned back to the first 5 leaflet that also has an ideal minimm stem diameter of about a pencil's thickness. The balance of the bush is also considered and summer pruing back heights to the first 5 leaflets are adjusted down farther, as needed, so the bush does not grow too tall on one side. New growth emerges and blooms in about 40 days from every fresh 'deadheading to the first 5 leaflet'. The entire bush is in costant bloom, always very fresh looking and stays under three ft. tall by summer's end.

An interesting adaptation of a shrub rose, don't you think so? All done by pruning not usually reserved for a shrub rose.


    Bookmark   March 31, 2012 at 7:08PM
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Dear rootman

I�m trying to understand what you're saying. I get 'pruning back to 6 10" canes' but after that...(I�m not well versed in this subject) when you say lateral do you mean sideways growth from the 6 canes? What about the 5 leaflets? Also, I think you've got a method in here (your post) that tells me how I can have continuous blooms. Can you help me 'get it�?



    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 6:05PM
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If the rose your pruning isn't a repeat or continues blooming rose then it wont bloom all season as mentioned.

Knock Out Rose pretty much bloom all season even if not pruned. Other than the advice to remove the dead and/or diseased canes, and what may please your eyes whats more practical is a rose by type and/or even name for helpful pruning suggestions along with your intentions of what you may want for a shape.

Laterals: secondary smaller stems that are more commonly found on climbers (but may not develop unless the main cane(s) are bent or grow to some degree of an angle)

In this example: If you have an arch shaped rose and a lateral is growing far enough out that it distracts from the intended arch then prune the laterals back toward the inside of the arch leaving some early season growth which could be/would be, five leaves. As could be/would be remaining is what is good to to your eyes and likings

A general principle for pruning is to help promote new growth and rid dead or diseased growth. If in doubt to what to prune or not it's probably better to leave it and cut later than to cut now and not get back.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 3:32AM
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i think i've asked this before but is there a way to prune so that the center of the shrub gets fuller (more full?)

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 12:50PM
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