Modern roses bloom all summer, although it’s usually in what are called ‘flushes’- they bloom strongly for a few weeks, then pretty much quit for a few weeks while they make more buds, then bloom again. In a good summer, we can get several flushes out of most modern roses. But did you know that you can get more roses by a simple pruning trick?
Most gardeners know that you need to deadhead roses- to remove the remains of the flowers once they are done and fall apart. This is because the old flower will start turning into a rose hip- a group of seeds. Once a plant sets seed, it feels it has reproduced, its job is done, and it can put all its energy into those seeds. That’s less energy for flowers. So we remove them to make the plant bloom again. In most plants, that’s enough know. But in roses, the spot that you make the cut at can make quite a difference.
If you look at a Hybrid Tea, Grandiflora, Floribunda or most Modern Shrub roses, you’ll see that the leaves directly below the flowers are not the same as the ones on the rest of the bush. Most of the bush will have five leaflets per leaf (some may have seven, especially climbers and older shrubs), while the leaves directly below the flowers will only have three leaflets and sometimes just a single leaflet. This will be true whether the flower is a single, as in a Hybrid Tea, or a multiple flower, candelabra type structure like a Floribunda has- in this case, the candelabra structure will have odd leaves, with the first ‘real’ leaf below the whole structure.
If you cut directly below a flower, leaving those odd leaves, you won’t get as many flowers (or new flowers as fast) as if you cut away the odd leaves, cutting to directly above the first ‘normal’ leaf. New flowering stems rarely arise from the buds where there odd leaves join the stem, and for some reason leaving them on drastically slows down the growth of new flowering stems from the normal spot- the spot where the first ‘normal’ leaf joins the stem. Make your cut about ¼” above the first normal leaf, using clean, sharp pruners and you should have new flowers in about three weeks.
On a Hybrid Tea, this won’t be difficult, but on some Floribundas and Modern Shrubs the flower bearing structure that needs to be cut away can be quite large and you will feel like you’re butchering the rose! Be strong, though, and cut away. Not only will you get more rose blooms, but you’ll end up with a stronger plant.
One warning: stop deadheading your roses around the end of August and let them wind down their efforts. You don’t want to encourage young, tender growth as the weather is cooling down and freezing temperatures approach. Let the hips form- the birds will like them in winter, anyway.