Oh no- did I over prune my Knockouts??

new_beeMarch 11, 2009

I am concerned that I may have over pruned my K/Os this weekend. We planted 6 K/Os along the front foundation of our house last Memorial Day weekend. We had recently moved to Northern Virginia from Northern New Jersey and hadn't realized how long the growing season was here; it was much to our delight when the roses bloomed 6 separate times last summer/early fall. That long growing season brought enormous growth to the roses and by the end of the fall, they were super scraggly. This past weekend was in the low 80's so I went outside to prune- and I pruned- and pruned.

I got too carried away, which is my concern. I want them to be hedge-like and tall, 4-5 feet, and now I am worried that won't happen because I cut all the main canes down to about 2/2.5 feet. I wasn't completely sure how/where to prune so I cut right above a newly forming bud (the bushes seem happy- the buds have grown about .25 of an inch since Sunday.)

Did I completely mess up??

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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

They should be fine. Wait another month and you'd be happy. I've pruned mine back severely from 6ft to 1-2ft twice. I'm not going to fertilize them for sure this year.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2009 at 9:22PM
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pfzimmerman(6/7 Upstate SC)


The first thing to remember about pruning is that roses are plants. They grow back if you overdo something and keep going if you don't. Learning is part of the fun.

In reading how you went about your first season I would offer this advice. You want these roses to be a hedge about 4-5 feet tall. So prune them all year that way. We get locked into thinking roses should only be pruned once a year but that does not apply to garden roses.

I would advise this. Every time after they bloom bring them back down to the 4-5 feet you want. Then during dormant season get in there and take out dead wood but only bring them to 4-5' like you want.

Hope this helps

    Bookmark   March 11, 2009 at 9:24PM
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Hi Paul,

I love learning but don't want to learn any expensive lessons (i.e. need to replant something I've killed. Not to mention, hubby would probably kill me if I asked him to replant another uber-prickly K/O.)

Truth be told, when I was in Jersey, I pruned a gorgeous climbing rose mid-summer and the entire cane turned black and died. Then the other main cane turned black and died. I tried to prune it but the black just grew down further until I guess I pruned the graft because it never grew again. Was that the exception? It scared me away from pruning outside of early Spring (I've also read on this forum that we should only prune in the Spring because the plant needs the carbohydrates it has stored in canes and hips to winter over.)

I have much to learn. :-)

    Bookmark   March 11, 2009 at 9:36PM
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rosesnpots(z8 Tidewater area VA)

new bee

Pruning is not as hard as one thinks. Paul has created some great short rose care videos on youtube that really are quite good. The pruning videos are direct and to the point and they are free to view! Check out the link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Rose pruning videos

    Bookmark   March 11, 2009 at 11:26PM
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diane_nj 6b/7a

new bee, 2' tall isn't too short to prune Knock Out. At out community gardens, we take them down to 1' tall.

What Paul Z is trying to tell you is that you can keep your plants within your desired size by cutting them back to that size during the growing season. KO will take that type of treatment. Really, it will. We tell people to do thair hard pruning in the spring, but many people do maintenance pruning throughout the year for shaping, size, etc.

Whatever happened to your climbing rose sounds like some kind of canker. Make sure that your pruners are very clean and kept clean.

Oh, BTW, unfortunately, a lot of rose growing is trial and error, that's how we learn.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2009 at 8:58AM
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pfzimmerman(6/7 Upstate SC)

I've pruned for years and years all season. Quite often in the summer I do a light maintenance prune, taking advantage of the semi-dormant hot summers season to set the roses up for fall.

I agree with diane that you climber was an exception and I doubt it had much to do with your pruning it at that time.

Pruning in late fall is a bad idea because yes, having the carbs to over winter is needed but also anytime you prune that stirs new growth and that is the last thing you want going into winter. Being in northern VA depending on how far inland you are you might want to stop trimming after say Sept 1.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2009 at 9:08AM
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Thank you all for the encouraging words! Moreover, thank you for the link to Paul's videos -- I am going to watch every one! Maybe then I will have to courage to try some of the antique and other roses I've wanted to buy for years.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2009 at 2:37PM
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roseman(Z 8A GA)

Well, unfortunately, the average grower today doesn't know that Knockouts are shrub roses. Shrub roses should never be pruned as you would a hybrid tea. If you do so, they will take longer to come back, although they will. Shrubs should always be shaped up to fit their surroundings, They can be cut back one third if they get leggy or way out of hand, BUT PRUNED - NEVER. The phrase, "A rose is a rose is a rose," can often be misleading. All roses cannot be treated alike. You have to consider the type of rose they are and handle them accordingly. A prime example is Mister Lincoln. He does not like to be pruned, but will accept light pruning. To treat him harshly will make comeback time much longer then you anticipate.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2009 at 10:37AM
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How is pruning different from cutting?

    Bookmark   March 13, 2009 at 11:01AM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Actually, Knock Out isn't really a shrub. It's a floribunda that is classed as a shrub because of its disease resistance. Pruning it as a floribunda produces a perfectly reasonable, smaller plant. And in your climate, it is going to take more than a good spring pruning to keep Knock Out under five feet.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2009 at 12:50PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

KO roses don't seem to care if severely pruned back. I pruned 2KO from 6 feet to 2 feet then they're back to 6ft. I again pruned them back to 2 feet so I could dig them up and plant them in new spot. I had done the same for Rainbow KO when I severely pruned them back and moved them to a new spot and they came back like it was nothing.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2009 at 5:32PM
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sammy zone 7 Tulsa

I have 11 Knock Out roses in a bed in the front. I don't find them very winter hearty, and each year I cut them way down -- I think they are about a foot from the ground. I cut them early because I have so many roses to take care of, and they are not my favorites. Last year in my pictures they had sprung back to about 5 feet in the spring. They do well here, but always have the signs of our late freezes. Those canes with the dark pith will only be trouble later on.


    Bookmark   March 14, 2009 at 7:28AM
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Thank you so much for relieving my worries. This spring, my mom cut my Knock Out way, way back. I was sure she had butchered it and I was so mad. Now, I see so many people with gorgeous rose bushes just bursting with blooms. Meanwhile, I currently have 4 blooms, total. The bush is growing and healthy. So maybe mine will just take a bit of time to have lots of blooms? I have been thrilled with that bush every year in the past. I hope I can be happy with it again later this summer.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 2:33PM
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