Removing Buds of First-year Plants - Kim was RIGHT!

nippstress - zone 5 NebraskaMay 14, 2013

Yes this title states the obvious - of COURSE Kim knows more than I will ever know about roses - but I just wanted to add my voice to his wise words about helping make roses stronger in their first year. The idea is to be ruthless about pinching off any buds on a rose in its first year to force it to dig deep and make stronger roots to support the plant. This is particularly important for those of us in cold zones since having a strong root system is often the single factor in a marginally hardy or just plain wimpy rose surviving our winters. I presume the same is true in hot zones for roses surviving your summers.

It's one thing to know this, but an entirely different thing to do it. I recently recommended this to a rose buddy in my area and her reply was "I just can't stand to do it - does it really make that much difference?" Well, yep, in my yard it really did. I had a mostly new bed of roses where I ruthlessly pinched off any blooms last year, and it was hard to see dozens of green blobs doing lots of nothing. I plant a lot of roses each year, but last year I resolved to be faithful about cruising the beds and looking for cheeky little first year roses trying to bloom behind my back. On the one hand it was easier to find the buds since there was precious little to deadhead in that exceptional drought we were in, but on the other hand it was harder to stand pinching off the few blooms that were brave enough to try.

After 7 years or so of rose growing, I can add my testimony that it really made a difference. Usually I lose around 20% of my HT/floris over the winter and chalk it up to varieties of roses that are commonly listed as not being hardy in our zone 5. I figured my odds were good at that survival rate. Well so far, out of around 200 HT/floribundas planted last year I think I've only lost about 10 that weren't on their way out anyway by the end of last summer. I finally had success overwintering Deep Secret and Black Pearl, both of which were on their third and last try in my yard. Heck, I even had Tom Brown survive mostly unscathed, and he's a notorious wimp!

So thank you Kim, and all the other wise folks that have chimed in. Now go be ruthless with those first year roses, and they'll thank you next year and for years to come. In the meantime, plant some annuals for color in the rose beds and don't expect anything beyond survival at first.


P.S. OK, one little whine - if the rose has succeeded in sneaking behind my back and is JUST about to bloom, is it spending that much more energy to go ahead and let it bloom, or should I still be ruthless? It seems like once it's produced the flower maintaining it isn't much extra work, but I'm probably quibbling. Like everything it's a tradeoff of benefits to pain, but that one's the hardest situation to be wicked to the poor thing.

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ingrid_vc(Z10 SoCal)

Nipstress, I've practically made a religion out of nipping off buds on young roses, which in my case is because of the severe heat, and I'm a believer. However, sometimes I will let just one bud bloom on a rose I'm unfamiliar with, such as Lady Alice Stanley. It was so enjoyable to see that gorgeous bloom. I've missed some buds on Cl. Lady Hillingdon inside the bush since the yellow is difficult to spot against the green, but otherwise I'm good about it. I have, however, made exceptions with a few bands that were vigorous from the get-go and which for space reasons I didn't really want to get large, such as Pink Rosette, Poulsen's Pink and Pink Lafayette. Of course with your cold winters that's not something you'd want to do. I'm so glad you had great success with this technique.


    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 7:43PM
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Tuggy3(9b NorCal)

I've started doing this too although it's killing me. Kim is right again. It's kind of scary. Mary

    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 11:32PM
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Thank you! I'm thrilled you've had such successes with the method. It's honestly just common sense. Think about what you do with young stone fruit trees. It's frequently advised not to let them set fruit the first few years so the trees can develop the strength required for heavy fruit set. Preventing fruit frees resources for growth instead of that fruit, pushing the tree to grow and preventing the limbs from being damaged. But, really, what's the difference between that and not permitting an immature plant to flower? Most can either grow or bloom, your choice. Many are going to grow anyway, but THIS gives you the option, the power, to push them to self sufficiency faster. To mature into a hardier, more productive plant much more quickly. No, I don't think it's going to make a hill of beans difference letting ONE flower open, unless that plant is on death's door anyway. I'm just happy something so simple could provide such a dramatic benefit for you. That's great! Thanks. Kim

    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 12:27AM
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Of course Kim was right. Kim has more knowledge in his pinky finger than I ever hope to have. I don't do it, but I don't have severe cold, and I am fine with the rose taking its time. If I received a really small rose or a weak growing one, I would do it, though.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 9:23AM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

If you accidentally let a bud develop almost to blooming, might as well let it bloom.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 12:28PM
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I'm another who's merciless in removing buds from young plants. I've done it for years, and strongly recommend the practice to anyone who will listen.

However, I recently experienced an irritating downside to my ruthless bud-pinching: Two seasons ago (after a wait of several years) I at last received a very small band of a Bourbon that's available from only one source in the U.S. Last week, the first buds that I allowed to mature finally opened. I was sent the wrong rose, no question about it. Turns out, I invested a lot of vigilant attention and TLC in a rose I've no interest in keeping around. If only I had let one of those buds open 2 yrs ago . . .

    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 1:47PM
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Cynthia, I love your post script question!!!! it is so difficult......a little, tiny bit of blooming satisfaction is So nice! :-)

    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 8:01PM
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nippstress - zone 5 Nebraska

Thanks for your support - it's nice to know there are other "nippers" out there and I'm not the only mean old nippstress! And it's good to hear of the flip side, Jaxondel, about why a bloom or two here and there may be a good thing. Nearly all my bands from Vintage and Rogue Valley this year came with buds or blooms on them, and I do admit to pinching off all but one of them to see the blooms. Not that either of those vendors has ever sent a wrong rose, but it's nice to see the blooms in real life. Rene - nice to know you appreciate my little whine. I appreciate the official permission from Kim and MIchael to let the occasional bloom sneak by without too much guilt. With all those roses it's bound to happen anyway, so I might as well enjoy it when I slip up.

Still, I expect all the rest of you rose nippsters and nippstresses to be out there being ruthless and singing that ol' Monkees (or Smashmouth) song - yeah, I'm a Believer!!

That is, when I'm not swayed into other songs by rose tags

...ahhh-I found mah thrilllllll.....


    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 3:33PM
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I was actually going to try to do this but now I'm rather glad I didn't. If I had pinched off the buds I wouldn't have discovered that 4 of my 8 Hortico roses were not the ones I ordered until next year!

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 7:07PM
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I have removed buds from plants that were having a rough time until they were back into good health again.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 8:43PM
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