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Roses respond really well to pruning, as they flower on the new growth that pruning stimulates. Pruning keeps them neat, attractively-shaped, healthy and sets them up for a magnificent flowering season. And the good news is, if you make a mistake it's no worse than a bad haircut - it will grow back!
July is the month when most roses are pruned. There are a few exceptions, including certain old fashioned roses, as well as banksia and many weeping standards, which should be pruned after they flower in spring.
For all other roses, now's the time to remove dead, old or diseased wood, shorten healthy branches to promote new growth and keep your roses a manageable size and shape.
So let’s get into it. Just like a good cook, it’s wise to gather ingredients and tools before you start.
1. Remove any weak, spindly, criss-crossing or dead stems, cutting at the base of the shoot/stem. If it’s an established bush, look critically at the stems and remove the oldest, thickest woody canes, by sawing them cleanly off at the base. Dead wood stays dead, so it doesn't hurt to remove it.
2. Prune about one-third of the length off the remaining green canes, cutting 5-7mm above a bud on the outside of the stem, angling your cut at 45°. Always choose a bud that faces outwards. The new growth will come from this bud, so plan ahead and it will head off in a favourable direction.
3. Look towards the bottom of the rose bush and remove any ‘suckers’ or shoots sprouting below the bud union (that's the knobby bit at the base of the plant where the rose was grafted onto its rootstock) to stop them from growing faster and taking over. They often pop up out of the soil close to the base of the rose. The best tip to get rid of suckers is to gently uncover them so you can see where they sprout from. Put on your gloves, support the stem with one hand and forcefully rip the sucker off with the other - this prevents them from re-sprouting from a cut stump. Make sure you remove suckers as soon as you spot them, they're quite difficult to wrench off once they get established.
4. Stand back and take a good look at the rose. Does the remaining wood seem healthy and vigorous? Is the centre of the bush nice and open so that the sun and air can get right into it? Complete any tidying up that’s necessary.
5. Remove any remaining foliage from stems, clean up any fallen foliage around the bush and discard it. Don't put leaves or cut stems in your compost, they can harbour diseases until next season; pop it into green waste.
6. Dilute Yates Lime Sulfur Concentrate and spray the whole rose - this helps remove any scale and fungal spores from the stems. Pruning time is the ideal window of opportunity to apply Lime Sulfur, as it will defoliate the leaves on any new growth - don't leave it too late to spray!
7. Add a good layer of organic mulch, like pea straw or lucerne around the base of the bush, taking care to avoid direct contact with the rose trunk.