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Pruning roses: The hardest cut is the kindest

Don’t know how to prune your roses. Here is Ludwig Taschner’s step by step guide

Anyone who owns a rose bush knows that in July, it is time to prune. Then the anxiety sets in. ‘What if I prune it wrong and kill the bush? ‘

That’s the question that rose grower Ludwig Taschner is asked every year.  His answer is a comforting one. ‘You can’t prune wrong,’ says Ludwig, adding with a twinkle in his eye, ‘and anyway, the rose will always sort itself out.’

Every July, Ludwig holds pruning demonstrations around the country and for people who can’t make it he has a step by step pruning video on his website; www.ludwigsroses.co.za

Why prune the roses? Quite simply to neaten them up after a long growing season and to rejuvenate them by cutting out old woody stems, removing crossing stems and making space for new stems to grow.

The roses that benefit from pruning are the bushy hybrid tea roses and floribundas, standard roses, miniature roses and climbing roses.

How to prune

This is Ludwig’s quick and easy pruning method:

  • To make it easy to cut the rose down to the correct height, use a stick pushed in next to the rose, marked off at 50cm and 70cm. All you need is a 1m long stick. From the bottom, mark off the first 10cm. That is the depth that the stick is pushed into the ground. From the 10cm mark, measure off 50cm, and 70cm.
  • Cut tall rose bushes uniformly down to 70cm above the ground, medium high rose bushes to 50 cm. Miniature roses can be cut down to 20 cm.
  • Remove dead branches and older main stems. Cut forked branches back to a single “tine”. Thin side stems are left, or they can be cut back to about 20 cm. 
  • If your roses are planted very close together it may be advisable to take the pruning a step further. Cut the basal shoots down to about 40 cm to 50 cm above the ground and remove all remaining side stems and forks.

Equipment

It helps to have the right equipment; a thick, strong pair of garden gloves, a long handled lopper and a pair of secateurs.

When cutting, make sure that the thick blade of the secateurs or long handled lopper is facing up and is pointed away from you. If the thicker blade faces downwards it will bruise the stem severely.

When to prune

In most areas the roses can be pruned from early July until early August, except for very cold areas where pruning should be delayed until mid to end August. This includes gardens alongside low lying streams and rivers that tend to be much colder than areas slightly higher up.

Pruning after-care

After the roses have been pruned, pull off all leaves because they can harbour pests and diseases. Dig in compost, and fertiliser, either Ludwig’s Vigolonger (a controlled release fertiliser over 8 months) or Ludwig’s Vigorosa 5-1-5 (25) around each pruned bush. Water well afterwards.

Water weekly until end of August, then increase to twice a week.

Visit  www.ludwigsroses.co.za for info on pruning, fertilising and planting roses.

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