Knockouts need help!

juleecat(z5 OH)April 26, 2014

I have several established knockouts-we have several acres, and they provide lots of color with little fussiness. I prune them back each spring, but this year, the plants are 5foot-ish, and only about 6" of green at the bottom of the canes. The winter was certainly harsher than ever-do they need a little more time to declare themselves, or should I cut them back to the green now? Thanks!

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dublinbay z6 (KS)

They are probably suffering from cold weather damage, though if you have had cold weather recently, it may not have warmed up enough yet for your roses to really get going. However, I'm inclined to think that with the 6" of green at the bottom, that is all the new growth you may get.

What color are the bare canes? If brown or black, they are definitely dead and need to be pruned off.

If they are still kind of greenish, try trimming a couple canes back about 6 inches and check the inner surface of the cut cane. Is it white or is it tannish/brownish in the center? If the latter, that portion of the cane is damaged and might produce a little growth with time but will then give up the ghost. So check further--go 6-12" further down the cane, and trim there. Check the color of the cut portion. If it is still tannish/brownish in the center, go further down 6-12" and continue that process until you get to white centers or run out of cane.

I sometimes have to prune practically down to the soil line in order to get rid of winter damage. The good news is that that growth near the soil line will really take off after the pruning of the dead/damaged canes and the weather warms off. By mid-summer that new growth will look "normal" though perhaps a bit on the shorter side than usual and by next year, the bushes will have attained their former full height.

Hope that helps.

I just re-read your post. You are not talking about new growth near the base of the cane, but just that that portion of the cane is green? If so, I probably would not do much of anything yet. Wait for some warmer weather to start buds forming down there and then prune just above the bud.

If you are tired of looking at brown (obviously dead) canes, you could trim a lot of that off now and then go back and refine your pruning when the buds start to form.

Good luck.


    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 10:38AM
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juleecat(z5 OH)

Thanks, Kate. The canes have some green at the bottom.....I think I will wait another week or two-it's still unusually cold, and lots of rain coming next week. Hopefully they will begin to leaf out soon and I can get them into shape for the summer.....

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 7:28PM
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seil zone 6b MI

As Kate said, I often do a fast prune of all the dead twiggy stuff and then go back when they begin to grow and take off the rest of the dead wood. It makes it easier to tell what's good and what's not.

I had a polar votex winter too and can tell you that I had to prune a lot of my roses down to just a few inches because of the bad winter kill damage. I wouldn't worry though. KOs are very tough and if they have any green cane left on them at the bottom I'm sure they will bounce right back in no time!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 7:56PM
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