How to Prune Young Roses

Plants & Flowers
Pruning Young Roses

Many rose owners wonder when it's the best time to prune their roses. There are different opinions about this. Many inexperienced gardeners wonder if it's ok to prune a young rose or if it's best to leave it alone for the time being.

What is a Young Rose?

The first thing that needs to be defined is what a "young rose" actually is. A young rose is a rose that's planted the year before. The exact season is not important (spring, summer or autumn): all of these roses are considered "young". It's not really about how old the rose was when you got it - what it counts it when you planted it.

For example, a bareroot plant can be 2 years old when you get it and some own-root bands can only be 6 months old. So the age itself doesn't mean much.

When to Prune?

Now when we've cleared up what a "young rose" means, it's important to discuss pruning. So, is it wise to prune a young rose?

In short: no. Pruning a young rose is generally not a good idea because it doesn't allow a rose to reach its mature size and fully establish itself before pruning. If you want to let your rose establish itself and settle its root system you need to allow her to make enough energy to do so. In order for a plant to gather energy it has to have strong leaves. Your rose needs its leaves to grow and it can't do it if you prune it. The less foliage the plant has the less food it can make and the less energy it can make to get established. This is particularly important when it comes to establishing a root system. For this reason, pruning a young rose is not a good idea.

How to Keep a Rose Shaped

Some people wish to have their newly-planted rose perfectly shaped. It's not a good way to go. If you give your young rose proper care the canes that were on the rose when you got it will be gone about in three years. They will be replaced by the new canes that have grown from the base.

When you buy a rose, the canes it has when it arrives to you had likely been cut back several times. It is done to keep a rose down to a "sellable size". It also makes it bush out better and thus look more attractive at the garden center so people would buy it. These canes may look pretty at start but you will never be able to shape them perfectly.

This is why it's best to forget about them and focus on the new canes. The new canes are grown from the base of the plant. They are sometimes called "basal breaks". Let them grown unhindered to their mature height. They can form a perfectly shaped plant. As they grow, you can gradually replace the original cane by cutting the original canes out. Over time, all of the original canes will be replaced by the new ones and you'll have a beautifully shaped rose without excessive pruning when the plant is young.

The new canes have the energy to grow and properly form because they are given energy by the leaves on the original canes. The more foliage there is, the faster a plant grows. This is a good reason to never prune young roses.

However, there may be exceptions. Sometimes, a young rose will grow rapidly so you can start removing the old canes almost immediately. When pruning, however, don't go overboard and make sure to leave enough canes (and foliage) so the rose can properly grow and establish itself.

Photo credit: Justin Leonard

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