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When to cut and how far to cut dead canes

Posted by nickjoseph 5 Miwaukee, WI (My Page) on
Mon, Jul 7, 14 at 13:20

Hi, I am so happy I found this site. All of you have been so helpful. I thought of another one. Most of my bushes are at least 10 years old, some much older. This past Winter I thought I lost all of them. All of the 13 bushes came back and are doing great. Lots of blooms & buds. I have a number of dead canes that are in the middle of the plants. A friend said I should cut them down as far as I can. I said I didn't want to do that (at least while they are blooming) because my fear is that if I cut the dead canes out in the middle, they could be what is helping the bush have some "weight" from the wind and strong rains. What do people do with dead canes right in the smack middle of a bush? New canes and surrounding original healthy canes have grown around the dead--so you don't see a lot of the dead. Thanks. (I am learning so much since I wandered upon this site).

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RE: When to cut and how far to cut dead canes

  • Posted by seil z6b MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Jul 7, 14 at 15:50

Cut them out down to as far as they are dead. If that is down to the graft than that's how far to cut them off. They are not helping the plant at all. They may be inhibiting the plant from sending up new shoots. If the bush is well rooted they'll be fine in the wind. They don't need extra weight. Dead cane left on the plant can be an invitation for insects and diseases.

RE: When to cut and how far to cut dead canes

Hi Nickjoseph

Glad you're enjoying GW and we're happy to be of help! For when to cut back dead canes, the easiest answer is "as soon as you can tell they're dead". It's easier to get to them earlier in the spring as soon as the rose canes start sprouting growth below the bad parts, but that kind of awareness of which canes are really alive comes in time with rose growing. You can always cut truly dead canes out at any time of the year. The rose doesn't know the difference - it's like cutting your hair, since it's all dead cells anyway. There's no reason to keep them, since the roots do the work of holding the rose down to the soil for rain and wind. In fact, being too top heavy might be a negative in that sense.

The rule for how far to trim back the canes is you keep cutting until you see healthy cane. What we mean by healthy cane is creamy white color inside the cane after you cut. If there's still a dark tan or brown center to the cane, it's doomed even if there's still live growth on that cane. Similarly, canes that have dark brown or dark purple patches on the outside are doomed even if there's live growth at the end of them. There is a big incentive for cutting down to healthy cane in these cases, since some kinds of unhealthy cane conditions (like canker) can travel further down the cane if unchecked.

Logistically, the dead canes in the middle of the bush are not fun to get to during active growing seasons, so wear long sleeves and brace yourself. If there's just a dead stub at the base of the plant, I usually let it be if it's in the middle of the bush and figure I'll get it further next spring before the growth takes off. If there are substantial dead canes in the middle, I'd take them out. It's OK if you have to cut back some portion of a live cane, though I usually wait till after it blooms, since it'll grow back if it's healthy. Once you get the pruning in shape this season you can tweak things further in the spring and then it won't be this complicated next year.

Hope this helps

RE: When to cut and how far to cut dead canes

Thanks so much Cynthia! I have a Garden/Flower folder that I keep all these so very helpful tips on.

RE: When to cut and how far to cut dead canes

Thanks seil, I only have a normal rose pruner. I tried cutting these dead canes off before I got all the new growth around it. I didn't have the proper equipment. Any suggestions for what to buy to get the fatter dead canes out? Would it hurt to wait til end of Fall when they stop producing cuz the dead ones are rightin the middle of the live--really hard to get at.

RE: When to cut and how far to cut dead canes

  • Posted by seil z6b MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Jul 7, 14 at 23:46

I use bigger loppers for the really heavy canes where I can. I also have a folding saw for tight spots. You need a saw that's very sturdy but narrow to get right down to the bud union. Just do the best you can. I'd cut off what you can now and then wait for late winter or early spring to really get down in there.

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