As I walk thru landscapes all over the St Louis area I am still impressed with what I consider to be one of the best shrubs in the landscape. The shrub rose has everything a Gardner could want. It is versatile for every landscape, it offers a continued beauty with flowers that are continuous throughout the season, and they grow in conditions that traditional roses will not tolerate. Shrub roses require little maintenance including minimal watering in drought like conditions. And they grow well in a hedge while compatible with other plants in the landscape. However like many low maintenance plants the shrub rose is not void of maintenance. Which leads me to the point of this blog topic.
Sometimes the maintenance of your shrub roses can be a little thorny. I know but a little landscape humor is always a good thing but need I digress. The need to perform winter maintenance on your shrub roses is necessary to the vigor and long life of your shrub roses, and will ultimately promote the proliferation of flowering as opposed to merely vegetative growth. The bottom line is that the more mature a shrub rose becomes the more vegetative it becomes. Long spindles of branches that lack true vigor and a diminished flowering of the plant begins to take over. Every shrub rose goes thru a natural vegetative cycle followed by a flowering state followed by decline and death. Proper pruning of the shrub rose must be done when the plant is in a dormant state completely void of leaves and flowering vegetation. In this state you can truly see the structure of the plant and make the proper pruning necessary to allow for the long term health and vigor of the plant. Let’s discuss the proper winter pruning maintenance of your shrub roses.
First of all you are going to need a sturdy pair of gloves. Remember I told you that pruning shrub roses can be a thorny situation. Small thorns that are more annoying than harmful can be voided with a sturdy pair of gloves. Secondly you will need a set of hand pruners and 2 inch loppers. Making sure that they are sharpened so that fresh cuts can be made and not merely tear the wood membranes. A trash can or small tarp will be helpful for collecting clippings for proper disposal upon completion. Once you have assembled your tools you will be ready to attack the job ahead.
Shrub Roses that have not been pruned in multiple years or never pruned at all will present a challenge of tangled branches. Understanding the steps necessary to follow will be helpful to the success of your winter Shrub Rose Pruning.
The first step is to remove all excessive growth from the plant and return the plant to a size and shape that is acceptable. Over time the vigorous growth of the plant can become unruly and even outgrow the space that it was planted. A properly plated shrub that has outgrown its space can become unsightly and detrimental to other plants in the landscape. As well as a once well-spaced landscape can become aesthetically crowded and unsightly.
The second step is to remove dead wood throughout the plant. Dead wood can be identified as Stems that are grey in nature and brittle and break easily. Recently dead wood will be black in color and brittle and break easily as well. Some branches may have dead or decaying wood on a live and living branch. It is important to remove this wood from the plant.
And finally remove all branches that tangled or lack maturity and vigor. By removing these branches that are intertwined you eliminate the potential for wounds to occur that ultimately promote disease to the plant. Removing branches that are growing inward as well. Eliminating these inward growing branches promotes the exchange of oxygen within the plant and promotes flowering as opposed to just creating a vegetative plant.
It is important to remember some basic pruning tips that include cuts should be at a 45 degree angle as to allow water to rub off the plant and to allow for proper growth in the future. Furthermore cuts should be made as close to a joint or a bud is possible. Cuts made above a joint or a bud will cause the wood to die back to the nearest joint or bud.
Once completed your winter Shrub Rose pruning should prepare your plant for a healthy and prosperous season ahead. The goal of this is to create a plant that is healthy and proliferated with abundant blooms.