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Can I cut back hardy shrub roses now?

Posted by needinfo1 4b (My Page) on
Wed, Jun 26, 13 at 0:34


A pretty uninformed, casual gardener would like a bit of help.

I have a lot of shrub roses that are now about four years old. Many of these have grown quite a bit larger than I anticipated (and than the labels indicated they'd get), so I'd like to trim them back a ways. I think maybe I read that this should be done more in the early spring, and it is now early summer (finally) here in Minnesota. We were out of town for three weeks in the end of May. When we left things were just barely beginning to leaf out after an unbearably long winter, and when we got home everything was fully leafed out, so I missed any pruning opportunities earlier. Or, maybe I should have pruned even before there were any signs of leafing our. That is something else I don't know.

These are continuous bloomers, and they are just now in stages starting to finish blooming. Normally I'd start deadheading now, but I am wondering if instead of just deadheading I can accomplish two goals in one and instead cut them back. But, I'd like them to continue to bloom over the summer. If I cut them back, will I then lose all possibilities of further blooms this season?

What is your advice? Thanks so much.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Can I cut back hardy shrub roses now?

It would help if you named the varieties in question.

A hard pruning right now, in early summer, after the first flush of bloom, is a good time to get more 'control' over bushes that tend to exceed their bounds. The new growth they make now should have sufficient time to ripen/harden off in order to survive the upcoming winter in optimal shape.

You will also have less work next spring

The probability of repeat bloomers continuing to do so after a hard pruning, cannot be discounted, either, especially if they were repeat bloomers previously, who generally bloom on new or old growth.

Many rose experts recommend any hard pruning be reserved for just after the first flush of bloom is your timing is 'right on target.'

RE: Can I cut back hardy shrub roses now?

Thorntorn (love your name)--

Thanks so much for the help! I've got Marie Bugnet, Henry Hudson, Charles Albanel, Frau Dagmar Hastrup, and (what a misnomer) Dwarf Pavement roses. All of these are thriving, but it is the Dwarf Pavement that are in need of the most radical pruning--perhaps cut down a third to a half. The Frau Dagmar are next in need of pruning and the other varieties need more of some minor cutting rather than a radical hacking.

Does this additional information help? The roses are so lovely now that I definitely want to see them bloom again this year so don't want to completely ruin the chances of that occurring. But it sounds as though I may be in luck after all with plans to prune this year. Thanks again.

RE: Can I cut back hardy shrub roses now?

Thorntorn's advice sounds good to me. If you need to prune, go ahead.

Some roses that are light or reluctant repeat bloomers will repeat better if they are not pruned much. If you cut them back at this time they may respond by making extra vegetative growth to recover their size. But go ahead and prune now, and you can compare the summer performance with what they did last year.

Spring pruning is generally recommended for repeating roses. The best time to do this is when growth buds are just starting to break, but timing is not critical.

Don't just "trim them back." Remove crowded, twiggy growth and unhealthy-looking canes. As roses age (4+), it's good to remove a couple of the oldest canes at the base each year. Since you are pruning after spring flush, you may notice some areas that produced few blooms and weak, crowded growth because something is wrong with the underlying cane.

RE: Can I cut back hardy shrub roses now?

I'm not sure rugosas like being pruned very much. Dagmar is the only one I grow, so I'm no expert on rugosas, but since Dagmar doesn't grow very large, I don't think you need to worry much about its size anyway.

Of course, dead or damaged canes should always be pruned off.


RE: Can I cut back hardy shrub roses now?

Pavement roses aren't dwarf. IME, it is rare to find a happy rugosas that is less than 6 ft tall without regular pruning. If the current size is totally unacceptable, seriously consider moving them. It is going to be an ongoing problem.

Cutting them back now isn't going to be an issue. Thinning out older canes is necessary maintenance. If it isn't done, the whole shrub ages and a harsh winter can do a lot of damage to older canes. Thinning makes room for new canes.

RE: Can I cut back hardy shrub roses now?

So, can I thin out the old canes and also lop off end growth on the longer canes that have just gotten too long and made the entire shrub too big for me?

Thanks again.

RE: Can I cut back hardy shrub roses now?


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