rose size

prariegrower441April 23, 2014

Do any of the roses that you northern growers have ever reach the size that's stated on the tag? I cut mine down late in the fall to about 18" and cover them with compost and leaves. They grow like crazy when spring comes, but they never quite reach the 4-5' tall and wide. I've planted them with space to acommodate that size but now wondering if I can just fill in all those big gaps between with other roses! I've only been growing for a few years so I've got lots and lots to learn. Thanks for any information you have....

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seil zone 6b MI

I don't know if they'll ever get that large in zone 4, prariegrower. Mine often get 5 or 6 feet tall here but I never cut them down to 18 inches, not in the fall or the spring if possible. Are you using rose cones for the winter? Is that why you are cutting them down at that time of year? I never recommend pruning roses in the fall for cold zones. Wait until spring when you can tell what really needs to be removed and then prune. Roses store energy for spring in the canes in the fall. If you cut them off you're cutting off the energy they may need to come back in the spring. Yes, you're going to lose some cane but it may not be as much as you're removing for no reason in the fall. If that cane survives your roses will start out larger and may then get to be as big as you want them to be.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 5:14PM
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No, I don't use rose cones. Just the leaves and compost. I cut them back because it seems to be a common practice here in my zone. Like I said, I'm fairly new to this, so I regularly read blogs from the minnesota rose gardener and they do the same in the big rose gardens. Here is what they say:

"For those of you not accustomed to cutting back your roses in the fall, please be assured that there is no downside in doing this, when they have finished blooming. When roses are well mulched and protected all winter, they grow very aggressively in the spring, which is the strong growth you really want for the new season ahead"

Maybe I should try one year without cutting them back and see what happens....

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 6:44PM
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AnneCecilia z5 MI

As an alumni of zone 4, I can attest that Seil is correct. Don't prune ahead of winter; there is no advantage and may just be a reason the rose doesn't make it in the spring. I think people who recommend it just feel the need to "tidy up" the garden in the fall as part of putting it to bed, so to speak. They're doing it because it suits them, not because it suits the rose. Let Ma Nature tell you how much needs taking off in spring - she's an unpredictable lady and you'll never guess right ahead of time, that's for sure. Also, there is a big difference between pruning a hybrid tea and pruning a shrub rose so how much to take off depends on what you've got.

As to the size overall, IME roses grown in zone 4 are always at the low end of the size range given - or even less. I often had 2x2 or 3x3ft roses when others talked about needing small ladders to look into the blooms. When a rose starts off being cut back to the soil level in spring - and that spring doesn't come until May, there is only so much growing the dear thing can do in one season! ;-)

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 9:30PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

If you want larger roses, they are out there. They just aren't hybrid teas. Once you get into truly hardy roses, the ones that are perfectly cane hardy to -30 or so, the limiting factor seems to be water as much as anything.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 9:41PM
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seil zone 6b MI

Prarie, I think that's a good idea. Although this winter was a particularly hard one, for an average winter I think you'll see they don't need as much cutting back as you think.

In any given winter you know you are going to have some winter kill on the canes. That's a given. If you've already cut them to 18 inches it's going to start from there. If you leave them longer, let's say 36 inches, then it will start from there and go down. On the 18 inch cane you may get 6 or 8 inches of kill leaving you only 10 inches to start with in the spring. If you lose 18 inches on the 36 inch canes you'll still have 18 inches of cane to start with in the spring. Some years you may not have as much die back and others, like this one, there could be more but you'll still end up with larger plants the majority of the time.

I know the books say to prune in the fall. "That's the way it's always been done." But there is newer thinking on a lot of those "rules" and in my opinion for good reason. As I stated earlier the rose stores a lot of energy in the canes. That's the energy it counts on having in the spring to regenerate. If you cut it all off in the fall you've just cut it's chances of surviving to come back for you. That deep pruning in the fall may be why a lot of people in cold zones have lost a lot of roses that may have made it otherwise. And why roses have such a bed reputation as being finicky.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 10:25PM
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Thanks so much everyone! I'm really learning lots here, and learning that I've made many many mistakes too!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 7:21AM
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