Prune roses damaged from winter

KENNEWICK -- In the warmer parts of our region, forsythia is starting to bloom.

It's a sign that it's time to prune your roses.

An army of Master Gardeners and Sharefest volunteers worked in the rain last week getting the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden ready for the growing season. This included pruning the more than 600 roses in the rose gardens.

This was a bigger task than usual because they found a lot of winter injury. This is likely because of the extremely cold temperatures this winter.

If you have roses, you'll probably find some damage too. When you prune back your roses, keep cutting to where the bark is green and the pith or center of the cane is white.

On the more tender roses this year, you may find yourself pruning back to the base of the plant. If there is a lot of winter damage on your roses, this will pretty much dictate how far back to prune and what you leave for growth this year.

If your shrubs came through with flying colors, standard pruning is in order, but pruning roses is a tangled puzzle that needs to be approached logically.

First, remove any dead canes, cutting them off at their base.

Next, look for smaller, weak canes (anything smaller than a pencil in thickness) and remove all of them.

Following this, look for the older canes (they are woody and gray, especially at the base) and take them back to the base of the plant. This is easier said than done, especially given the thorny nature of these beasts. Heavy-duty loppers or even a little pruning saw may be needed.

Your end goal is a shrub with three to five evenly spaced strong, healthy, thick young green canes. The center of the pruned shrub should be open. The canes that are left should be pruned to an outward facing bud. The length of the canes depends on the size of the shrub you want. I like to leave mine at 12 to 18 inches in length.

Finish up by sealing the end of each cane with a drop of white craft glue, such as Elmer's glue. This deters cane boring insects.

Some gardeners with limited space in their landscapes have decided on growing miniature roses because of their more diminutive size and easier care. They are indeed smaller than traditional rose shrubs, but can grow larger than their name might infer. Most grow to a height and width of 12 to 24 inches, but some can grow larger especially in local gardens.

When purchasing, check the anticipated height and width for the variety.

Pruning mini-roses is not difficult. Just prune out the dead, diseased, and old canes along with the very twiggy growth.

Open up the center a bit and remove any suckers growing from the base of the plant.

Then prune the shrub to the size and shape you want. If it has outgrown the space you have given it, just prune it more heavily.

Roses aren't the only plants that have suffered from winter's cold temperatures. Next week, we'll talk about the winter injury being seen on other shrubs in the landscape and what to do about it.

* Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for the Washington State University Extension Office in Benton County. Read more of Ophardt's Garden Tips columns at