Now is the time to prune, fertilize rosebushes - East Valley Tribune: At Home

Now is the time to prune, fertilize rosebushes

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Posted: Wednesday, September 20, 2006 11:07 am | Updated: 4:11 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Now that our interminable desert summer is behind us, our roses are finally able to flourish again! Once high temperatures have dropped back into the 90s, we can do a light pruning that pretty much involves removing the top third or so of each bush with its stunted growth of summer and any dead, crossing or weak canes.

With frequent deep watering during the past few months, your roses should have survived their most stressful time of the year in fairly good shape. But if water was insufficient or plants were weak, there may be dead canes that should be removed flush with the bud union at the base of the bush. Any plant that failed to survive should be removed, along with surrounding soil containing its roots, to make room for fresh planting soil and a new rose to be planted in January.

Located at each set of leaves is a bud-eye capable of producing a new cane. Before attacking with your pruning shears, look down each cane beneath the poor summer output for a sign of new growth emerging and cut a quarter-inch above it. If the upper cane is thin and weak, look lower down to where it's at least pencil-sized, because the new cane will be no larger than that from which it emanates.

Floribunda roses are often easier to prune than hybrid teas as far as decision-making is concerned, because they naturally produce sprays (multiple blooms at once on a single cane). Simply look below the spray at the "oddball" lowest stem included in the spray and cut just above the highest leaf-set beneath it.

Once a spray has bloomed, floribundas often have already begun to grow a new cane at that particular bud-eye, thus offering an obvious clue as to where to cut. Do not remove remaining leaves from the plant (as we do in January after the annual winter pruning).

Bushes planted as recently as last January may not yet be mature enough to prune except perhaps very lightly -- and still may not be fully established even by next January, when we'll do our major pruning. Even then there's no need to "butcher" our rosebushes, because winter protection is unnecessary here in our mild climate.

Because fall pruning encourages the production of an abundance of beautiful roses beginning in November, it's also timely to fertilize this month for a boost in vigor. Always water well both before and after applying any fertilizer, follow directions provided and dilute to half strength for miniature and potted roses.

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