Overgrown rose bushes

Asked March 4, 2017, 2:42 PM EST

Hello, We have some seriously overgrown and old rose bushes as well as a vine bush I don't know the name of. The vine bush has flowers that hummingbirds like when they bloom. How should I trim these plants to not be so wild looking? When should I trim them? Have I missed the best time? Thank you for any help! I've attached photos. The roses are on the right and they slightly cover up the other bush on the left. THANK YOU!

Multnomah County Oregon pruning roses horticulture

1 Response

Early spring is the best time for a hard prune of roses. This clip from last Saturday's Garden time with the International Rose Test Garden's curator, Harry Landers helps make the process simple. Roses grow from a "crown" of roots just under the soil surface. Most roses bloom on new wood, so you want to remove the oldest growth and encourage new growth. You also want to remove diseased or dead wood, and any weak stems (pencil size or smaller). Usually getting down to 6-8 healthy well-spaced canes is a good idea. Think open and good air flow. All should be finally cut down to 12-20 inches. It's good to prune down to only the very best canes. The plant will respond by coming back with vigor and many and larger flowers.

Climbing roses need a little different treatment. I can't really tell if yours is a climbing one or a standard. If it is a climber, you still want to remove the older canes to get new vigorous canes, but you will leave the climbing structure of canes intact. Climbing roses bloom on one year old canes, so you don't want to cut back all the way back to the crown. You can also prune and tie up canes to provide the most flowers and the shape you prefer.

This article, How to Prune Roses from Heirloom Roses is the best one I've found. The initial video will give you confidence as the owner takes a rose bush like yours and ends up with a clean, open 6-8 canes ready to grow into spring and bloom. Be brave. There are 2 videos at the end of the article on pruning climbing roses and on tools and equipment.

This article, How to Prune your Vines and other Climbing Plants gives you information on pruning specific vines. The process is very similar to pruning roses. Growth is from the crown. If your vine bloomed in summer you can prune heavily now. Your vine blooms on new growth, so if you prune hard now you will get lots of new growth that will flower this summer. If vine bloomed last spring, you will want to wait to prune until the spring flowers have finished blooming. These vines bloom on year-old growth. Done after the blooming period pruning will encourage strong growth over the summer which will reward you with many flowers next spring. You want to prune back to healthy wood, eliminate any crossing branches as that injure the branches by rubbing and can allow disease. You want to get down to a pleasing shape and tie them in place. If you prune now, don't worry, you won't get many flowers this year, but the vine should bloom well next year.