UACES Facebook Pruning
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November/December 2015

QuestionI just moved to NW Arkansas and am starting to plan my garden.  Are roses that winter hardy in NW Arkansas?  Do I still do all the trimming in February, I believe on Washington ’s Birthday?   Should roses be protected against winter weather in NW Arkansas with screened-in leaves or other  "bundling"?

AnswerRoses are quite hardy in NW Arkansas.  I would say your best selection will probably be in mid to late February when the rose shipments begin coming in, but we do well with a wide range of roses.  Hybrid tea roses require a rigorous spray program to keep black spot at bay, but there are a whole range of other types of roses with great disease resistance to choose from.  We do recommend pruning in late February—weather allowing.  Last year in late February we were still having snow and ice, so late March was our pruning period.  The key is to prune hard before new growth is well under way.  Heading bush roses back to a height of 4-5 feet in the fall aids in winter stability, and heavy pruning is still done in late February or early March.  Mulching the base of the plants year-round helps maintain soil moisture and temperature and looks more attractive.  


March 2014

QuestionI 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? 

AnswerIt 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.


(November 2012)

QuestionI 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 bed on the west side of my house, and expect it to live through the winter. I live in Little Rock.

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.

(Aug. 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.

(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/December 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.

(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.


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.


QuestionLast week you talked about pruning Knock Out Roses. I don't know what they are. I have two bushes I planted last year. They have come through the winter just fine but are pretty rank....tall & skinny. They are climbers -- one is called Golden Showers and the other is a C.L. Pearly Gates pat # 10,640. I was thinking I needed to prune these. Are they "Knock Out" roses and should I go ahead and prune them?

AnswerKnock OutTM Roses are a variety of roses, and considered one of the new "environmentally friendly" roses that are easier to grow, requiring less sunlight, spray programs and fertilization. There are now red, pink and yellow Knock Out™ Roses. They would be labeled as such. They are not given other names. Yours are not Knock OutTM Roses. Climbers should be pruned every year, but not until after the first flush of flowers. Some climbers only bloom once a year, while others bloom all summer. Let them flower, then remove one or two of the older, longer canes. Prune to a new bud within a foot from the ground.

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