June 9, 2012

1 - Roses survived the freeze. Would it be OK to prune them this summer?

Yard and Garden June 9, 2012


I was so happy that my roses actually survived and grew last year. Now, however, they are growing over my sidewalk and causing problems. After seeing my roses survive the freeze of 2011, I do not want to kill them now, but I need to cut the stems that are growing over the sidewalk. Can I do that now in the summer?

-Alice S.



Yes, you can prune aggressive or out-of-place stems now. If you do not prune off all the stems, your rose should grow well in spite of the pruning. Even if it was a problem for the rose, your safety and the safety of anyone walking on your sidewalk is more important.

Summer pruning of roses is a practice that should be employed. This is the pruning called "dead-heading" to remove spent blossoms and the pruning called "taking flowers inside for decoration". Gardeners know that they should remove the spent blossoms to encourage new growth. Many do not know how to do this properly, however. Many just remove the spent flower at the end of the stem. These flowers can be removed in this manner, but to better manage growth and to provide stronger stems for subsequent flowering, you can remove the flower down to the first five-leaflet leaf below the flower, or even further down. When doing this, remember the rule used in spring pruning - prune to a bud "looking" in the direction that you want the new growth to grow. This means prune to a bud that is pointed away from the sidewalk. It is best to choose a bud that will not grow into another nearby branch or toward the center of the plant, but definitely choose a bud that will grow away from the sidewalk.

The same rule holds true for cutting to take flowers inside for decoration. Cut back to at least the first five-leaflet leaf. If you want a long stem rose, you can cut well below the first five-leaflet leaf. Remember to cut back to a bud that will grow away from the sidewalk. When you cut flowers on any other side of the rose, cut the stem back to a bud that will grow in a direction that does not conflict with other branches. In this manner you can manage the size of the plant and control the direction in which branches grow during the summer.

For gardeners who are not familiar with the term "five-leaflet leaf," rose leaves consist of several leaflets. Just below a flower you may find a "simple leaf" that has only one leaf blade, but below that you may find a leaf composed of three, five, and sometimes seven or more leaflets. In such leaves, the individual leaf-like structures are called leaflets. The leaf is the unit that connects to the stem just below a bud; leaflets do not have buds at their point of attachment to the rachis of the leaf.

Now, prune those branches that threaten to scratch you and rip your clothing!

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email: desertblooms@nmsu.edu, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at desertblooms@nmsu.edu, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook page.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!