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March 2014

Question  I pruned my roses last week and now I see that we have the chance for more snow.  Are the plants going to die? Did I prune too soon?

Answer It has been a miserable winter and spring is definitely later than normal. Pruning of roses is recommended for late February, so you did right.  March can bring more cold weather, and the chance of winter weather is always there. Let’s hope that the temperatures don’t get below the mid 20’s and we should be ok.  The biggest challenge I see is how dry things are. If you have the chance and you haven’t had ample rain, water before a cold snap to ensure that there is a buffer in your plants. A little extra mulch piled at the base can also help protect the plant.

 October 2012

Question I rooted a cutting from a knockout rose this year and planted it in a pot on my patio. It has bloomed all summer, can I safely move it now to a flower

AnswerYes, plant it in the ground, mulch it and water if dry and it should do well. Wait to prune it back in late February. Even though we don’t prune Knock out roses as severely as hybrid tea roses, they do need to be pruned by at least 1/3 – ½ every year before growth kicks back in.

September 2012

QuestionWould I be safe in moving Knock Out Roses now? If I can, should I prune them before the move? I live in east central Arkansas, and I don’t want to lose my bushes.


AnswerEven though it is cooling off, plants are not dormant yet. The dormant season is the best time to move plants—between November and February. My preference with roses is to wait until February when you can prune and move at the same time. Pruning roses heavily in the fall can make the plants more susceptible to winter damage. If you are doing construction or have an immediate need to move your plants, it is doable, but prune as little as possible to make the move feasible and keep the plant healthy. Usually, the smaller the thorny bush, the easier it is to move, thus I prefer to wait until February with roses.

August 2012

QuestionOur knock-out roses have had the wind knocked out of their beauty by this year's drought. We have a dozen plants along the fence line that receive full sun from 8am to 6:00pm! They were planted May, 2011 and we babied them through the hot summer last year and won that war. We use a soaker hose rather than above ground watering. Where do I go from here to try and save them from further drought damage? You can see the yellowed/scorched leaves, the bare canes!! Can they be pruned now? Can they be revived at all?


AnswerThis question and answer are similar to the butterfly question above. Knock out roses should be pruned by at least 1/3 every year in late February. Right now, a light corrective pruning can give them the chance to produce foliage instead of flowers and get a bit more attractive. Once the cooler weather kicks in with some rain, they should begin to bloom again. For now it is a temporary fix, but by next Feb, you can do more severe pruning. Fertilize them lightly now as well and they should begin to bounce back. All the watering we have done this season has also leached out the nutrition of our soil and roses can take one last application of fertilizer now.

August 2012

QuestionMy knockout roses are staying alive, with a little watering, despite the punishing summer. They would probably look better if I deadheaded them aggressively, as well as maybe blooming more later. Or should I leave them in place to produce hips for wild animal/bird food. Should I deadhead my other roses, the climbers and the shrubs and teas? I usually leave them pretty much alone, but they are pretty neglected concerning feeding and pruning.


AnswerMany rosarians do a little corrective pruning, both deadheading and thinning a bit of the rose plants in the heat of summer. This lets the plant conserve some of its resources, gives it a fuller foliaged plant and allows for better blooming when the temperature eventually breaks in the fall. Keep in mind that when a plant is blooming, its main resources go to the flowers. Some of our roses can get a little leggy by late summer, and could use a little more fullness of foliage. Don’t get carried away and do extensive pruning, but a little corrective pruning may be just what the doctor ordered. Continue to water and if it isn’t too awfully hot, give them a light dose of fertilizer as well. Knockout roses usually don’t form rose hips, since they are “self-cleaning” which means they don’t set seeds, but try to continually bloom. The only roses I would not prune are the climbers, especially those that only bloom in the spring, as you could interfere with flower set.

June 2012

QuestionAbout a month ago my rose ground cover bushes (which are about 3 feet tall) had a beautiful bloom. The bushes were covered with miniature roses. When they all bloomed, I deadheaded the bushes and now nothing---I can't see any new roses even coming out. I don't know the name of the rose bushes but the flowers are an apricot color that fades to light pink. Do you think this is the type of rose that only blooms once in the spring? If so, is it safe to cut them shorter at this time?


AnswerMost miniatures and the flower carpet groundcover types are re-blooming roses. That being said, if you didn’t get around to pruning them as needed this past February and they are large, you can go ahead and prune them back even more now. This will get them in the shape needed and while it will delay new blooms, they will eventually rebound and begin to bloom. Because of the early start of our spring, many people failed to prune roses, butterfly bushes, and other summer flowering plants. If you have blooming plants, and don’t want to lose flowers, I am suggesting cutting every other stem as they finish flowering to get them pruned, and then when those cut stems rebound, cut the other half. If not pruned at all this season, these plants will be large, unattractive plants by late summer.

December 2011

QuestionMy Knock out roses are in their third year and have never been pruned. When is the best time to do so, and how do I prune them?


AnswerKnockout roses are considered shrub roses, so do not require the severe pruning of hybrid tea roses, but they still should be pruned every year in late February. I would imagine yours got a bit gangly going three years without being pruned. Take them back by 1/3 – ½, making selective cuts in the bush—don’t shear them into a ball with a hedge trimmer. You want them looking natural after being cut back. Knockout roses bloom on the new growth, so you want to encourage a full plant, with plenty of growth, so you get more blooms.

February 2011

QuestionI would like to know when I should cut my knockout roses back. I waited until May last year and I realized I should have cut them sooner.


AnswerKnock out roses are considered a shrub rose, so pruning of about 1/3 should be done in late February when we prune hybrid tea roses. With the winter we are having, everything seems to be behind schedule, so if you don't get around to it until mid March you should be fine. Late February is typically chosen because we like to get the pruning done before new growth has really kicked in. Knock outs bloom on the new growth, so late pruning simply delays the first flowers.

March 2010

QuestionWe have one double pink Knock-out rose growing in a container. It grew rather large and is somewhat misshapen, and new leaves are starting to bud. Is it time to trim it? Do standard rose-pruning techniques apply?


AnswerMany of the Knock-out Roses grew quite dramatically this past growing season with all the rain. You do want to do some pruning annually on these shrub roses, but not as severely as we do on hybrid teas. Selectively prune back by one third, pruning to buds or small sprouts that are growing in the direction you want the plant to grow. Don’t cut all the branches at the same height, do so with staggered cuts to get a fuller plant and more flowers. Prune annually like with other shrub roses in late February through early March. Most roses are sprouted and growing by now every year when we have mild winter weather—they are actually slower this season due to the colder temperatures.

March 2010

QuestionMy husband & I bought a couple of rose bushes to plant this spring. When would be the best time to plant them without fear of frost damage?


AnswerPlant them now. Many roses come in those small plastic sleeves and are called ‘bare root’ plants. The plastic sleeve has some fill in it to keep the roots moist, but there is nothing to sustain active growth. Bare root plants are shipped dormant and meant to be planted dormant. So don’t delay. If you bought a containerized rose bush it has also been outside at the nursery and should be totally hardened off. Get it in the ground, mulch it and water. Tip: For those who have established roses, the roses have begun growing statewide, so if you haven’t pruned yet, do so immediately or it can delay the onset of the first blooms.

November 2009

QuestionI recently moved to northwest Arkansas from Minnesota. In Minnesota, we grew roses but had to lay them down during the winter for protection. I am currently growing roses in Arkansas but not sure what type of winter care they need. By now they would be underground in Minnesota, but here I still have green leaves and even a few flowers. When do I prune them and how far? Any pointers would be greatly appreciated.


AnswerRoses are quite hardy in all parts of Arkansas, and it is not unusual for them to be semi-evergreen most winters. While they do shed a preponderance of their leaves, they retain some most years. It depends on what type of roses you are growing as to how much and when to prune. In general, most rose bushes should be pruned in late February. Hybrid teas require a more rigorous pruning—cutting them back 8 – 18 inches from the ground each year. Shrub roses—whether they are antiques or new “earth kind” roses should be pruned more selectively—like a shrub. Again, do this before growth begins in the spring—usually late February. You do need to prune all roses every year since they bloom on the new growth. If you are growing climbing roses, we usually allow them to have their first flush of flowers in the spring before blooming.

February 2008

QuestionHow far back should I prune my climbing rose bush and when is the appropriate time? I am pretty proficient with my bush roses, but am uncertain what to do with the climbers.


AnswerMany climbing roses bloom their best in the spring. Even those that are ever blooming climbers, have their best display of flowers the first bloom. Allow your climbing roses to bloom in the spring, and then prune. Prune out one or two of the older and woodier canes close to the main crown. This should encourage younger branches which should keep the plant in bounds and give you more flowers. Tip cut any thin twiggy growth.

July 2006

QuestionWe have a brick mailbox with a rounded top. I have 3 climbing rose bushes that I want to climb over the top of the mailbox. I got busy last fall and did not prune them. We had a lot of roses this year, but there weren’t a lot of leaves. The roses have finished blooming and they are scarce as far as the leaves go. The leaves that are there look green with no spots. After they started blooming this year, I fed the bushes and also applied the Bayer liquid for roses. At this time, I have several limbs with little or no leaves that are going all over the place. There are a lot of thorns. Any suggestions of how to train these climbing roses to climb over the mailbox? Should I go ahead and prune them now? I was just not sure, because if I keep pruning them, they will never be long enough to climb the mailbox.


AnswerClimbing roses can bloom all summer or only once in the spring--it depends on the variety. Many people are uncertain as to when to prune so they just don't and the plants get gangly and less thrifty. Allow climbers to bloom in the spring and then do your pruning. Normally we like to take out one to three older canes and take out the thin, weak wood. Taking out an old cane now is not going to hurt but recovery will be slower since it is hot and dry. The goal is to have a variety of aged canes with foliage from the ground up. Mailmen are often not fond of a lot of landscaping around the mailbox, as bees can compete with mail delivery. Have some type of trellis for them to grow on, prune annually after the first flush of blooms in the spring, fertilize monthly, water as needed and control black spot when it is needed and your roses should do well.

May 2010

QuestionI moved from an apartment to a house about 2 years ago and decided to plant some rose bushes. They bloomed twice that season but the leaves had black spots on them, so I treated them with sulfur. It helps with the spots for about two weeks and the leaves look very healthy, however the bush has not bloomed yet. All my neighbors roses around us have bloomed. And we only have one shoot growing out of three. It'll start out with new shoots growing at the bottom but they die off after about a month. We fertilize with miracle grow. Is there anything we can do to encourage it to grow? Is there something different we can do to cure the black spots?


AnswerFirst, how much sunlight do you get? Most roses need a minimum of 6 hours per day. It sounds like you have a hybrid tea rose which is highly susceptible to blackspot of roses, and does need full sun. It also should bloom all summer long and be quite vigorous. Hybrid tea rose bushes should be pruned back hard in late February—normally to a height of anywhere between 8 and 18 inches. The new shoots should not be dying back. Check the sunlight and the drainage. You may want to invest in some new roses. If you don’t have full sun, the Knock out roses will bloom in as little as 4 hours of sunlight per day. They bloom almost non-stop until frost and do not get blackspot. If you want to keep what you have, weekly sprays of fungicides will be needed. Although sulfur can be effective early in the season, when temperatures heat up, it can cause some burn to the foliage. One or two sprays are not going to cut it with highly disease prone plants—you have to be diligent all season. That is why I opt for disease free plants that don’t require sprays. There are many good options. Fertilize with a slow release fertilizer every month. The water soluble fertilizers are fine, but they don’t last as long. If you do decide to replant, add some organic matter into the soil prior to planting.

February 2010

QuestionWe have one double pink Knock-out rose growing in a container. It grew rather large and is somewhat misshapen, and new leaves are starting to bud. Is it time to trim it? Do standard rose-pruning techniques apply?


AnswerMany of the Knock-out Roses grew quite dramatically this past growing season with all the rain. You do want to do some pruning annually on these shrub roses, but not as severely as we do on hybrid teas. Selectively prune back by one third, pruning to buds or small sprouts that are growing in the direction you want the plant to grow. Don’t cut all the branches at the same height, do so with staggered cuts to get a fuller plant and more flowers. Prune annually like with other shrub roses in late February through early March. Most roses are sprouted and growing by now every year when we have mild winter weather—they are actually slower this season due to the colder temperatures.

August 2007

QuestionWe need to move rose bushes from one location in our yard to another. Could we do that this fall? If so, would it be O.K. to cut them back, plant, and then mulch in well? Or should we wait until early spring? Also, I have rooted a gardenia which is growing new leaves in a pot outside. Should we leave that in the pot and bring it in this winter, or could I plant it outside, mulching it down well for the winter


AnswerThe best time to move roses would be February, the same time we prune them. If you must move them this fall, it can be done, but I would avoid pruning if possible. Pruned roses heading into fall and winter would make them more susceptible to winter damage. Mulch them; limit how much is taken off, water as needed, and then prune as normal in February. Better yet, wait to do it all in late February. As to the gardenia, this one is tricky. It is always better to have a plant in the ground establishing its root system. As miserable as it is outside right now, it would be hard to keep a new plant watered. The later we plant a gardenia, the less chance of root establishment. Then we don't know what type of winter we will have. Many well established gardenias took a hit last winter, and newly planted ones won't be as hardy. You have two options. Plant now, water well, and mulch. Monitor the plant this winter, and if temperatures are predicted below 15-20, cover the plant with a cardboard box, or similar protection. The other option is to grow it indoors as a houseplant this winter and plant outdoors next spring.

March 2005

QuestionWe have three climbing roses planted a little over a year and six months ago. They are about half way to the top of each trellis. Should I prune them back now or just let them continue to grow. I want to do what is correct for the best health of the bushes.


AnswerClimbing roses do need to be pruned every year, but not until after they bloom. While some species of climbers do bloom all summer, others only bloom once in the spring. Allow all climbers to bloom before pruning. Then remove one or two of the older, larger woodier canes back to within a foot of the ground. You can also prune some of the other long sprouts back to a reasonable length.

March 2005

QuestionWe have a beautiful antique climbing rose in our yard. It is a Cecile Brunner. It has grown to epic proportions. It is now up high into an oak tree nearby. Naturally, it is quite lovely when it blooms. However, we were ignorant to the fact that we should prune out the dead canes right away and have consequently let it become overgrown. How do we prune it now? Do we cut it down to a manageable height and start over? Please advise.


AnswerMost Cecile Brunner roses only bloom once in the spring, so enjoy your spring floral display before you begin to reshape. Then you can take it back as far as you want to. They can be prolific growers, and if space is not an issue, you can let them grow. Thinning out older, woodier canes annually after flowering, will keep them more manageable.

February 2005

QuestionHow do you prune a shrub Knock Out rose? Mine are three feet tall and seem awfully spindly. They are only one year old.


AnswerKnock Out™ Rose is one of the “environmentally friendly” roses that have hit the market in recent years. It is a compact shrub rose, resistant to black spot disease. It does not need the yearly rigorous pruning of hybrid teas, but can be shaped and pruned as needed. Since yours is spindly, you can cut it back to within 8-18 inches of the ground. Prune it to individual buds that go in directions you want the plant to grow. Even though many roses are already leafing out, and some have said they even had a rose bud, wait until late February to prune. This will protect the plants if we should have any real winter weather.

February 2005

QuestionWith the crazy swing in weather we have been having here in Conway is it too early to prune Crepe' Myrtles and roses?


AnswerOur recommendation stays the same -- wait until late February to prune both roses and Crape myrtles. Hopefully, by then, the bulk of cold weather has passed, and our plants should have suffered what winter damage they were going to. Crape myrtles tend to be one of the last plants to begin leafing out in the spring, so pruning even into March is not bad. We like to get pruning done before new growth begins, since they bloom on the new wood. Roses many times have begun active new growth before we prune--especially in mild winters, but we still recommend waiting until the end of the month. It is better to err on the side of safety.


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