I recently moved into a house in Toronto. I’ve noticed a very tall and lanky rose bush in the backyard. It desperately needs pruning however I’m concerned that I’ve missed the ideal time to prune it. Is it too late in the season to aggressively prune a rose bush?
Now is perfect – we should be past frost damage time. To prune your rose, you’ll need clean, sharp secateurs and/or loppers, and tough garden gloves because you are entering the thorn zone!
If there is mulch around the base of the rose, clear it off first to allow water to get to the roots. Some branches may be dead right to the crown or graft (the knotted wood usually sitting at ground level). Cut those dead branches right to the crown. Next, remove the damaged or broken branches. These can be cut to the nearest green growing bud that faces outward, that is, away from the middle of the bush. This will allow that new branch to grow away from the plant, thereby allowing air circulation through the plant. After that, step back from the plant and see where further cuts can be made, to allow an even growth. Tall roses or climbers can be cut to a meter or so. Cut other branches as needed. All the cuts should be on a gentle angle, pointing down the branch opposite the new bud. The cut should be no further than about 1cm from the bud.
Next is TLC. Roses are heavy nutrient feeders and also need regular watering. Feed with a water soluble rose fertilizer at the root area and water in well. Adding organic matter to the soil by topdressing with compost or sheep manure will provide extra nutrients and will help retain moisture. Mulching with 1 inch of shredded wood mulch will keep the soil cool, cut down on watering and suppress weed growth.
For more information, please see the link below to the Toronto Master Gardeners Garden Guide: