Pruning a leaning rose

Asked November 2, 2017, 5:24 PM EDT

This rose was transplanted to this location 9 years ago. Not sure exactly what it is, it may be a Sterling, has a heavenly scent, lavender flowers, not a lot of thorns. The main cane got damaged close to the ground years ago, some bark came off, and slowly it started leaning over. Now it's practically horizontal, and about 5-6' long. Meanwhile, other canes have sprung up growing straight up from the base about 4' high and seem healthy, have green glossy leaves and lovely blooms. The main cane also seems somewhat healthy, keeps blooming and producing new buds. Question: can I take off the entire main cane? and if so - how close to the base? The whole thing is lopsided and in the way. A nearby tree (not in photo) has grown higher and is shading more of the area, so to some extent the main cane is reaching for sun, but the plant gets some direct sun every day. I'd love to cut off the main cane but really don't want to kill the plant, I love it.

San Francisco County California roses

5 Responses

Thank you for your question about pruning your older rose. It does appear that this shrub is reaching for sunlight, and that's probably not helping you get as many blooms as you'd like. The interesting thing about shaping of rose bushes is that lateral growth actually is preferred, as explained here:

"Training old roses is often more important than pruning them. Most will bloom better if the canes are more horizontal than vertical, such as when pegged down or trained along a fence. The bending stimulates the formation of lateral branches or flowering spurs all along the canes, and greatly increases the number of blooms per season. If bushes are left to grow vertically, blossoms will be located only on the tips of the canes. The lateral shoots may be pruned back 1/3 each year."

Rather than repeating what is in the article, I think I'll just highlight that any pruning needs to be done after the blooms are spent, and that pruning the ends of the original cane should be done above a node, where you see foliage coming out (I can see in the middle picture.) I wish we knew the species, since this resource has such good species-specific advice. Perhaps once your plant flowers next year, you can snap some photos and either send them here, or take them to a garden center or even your local Extension office, for identification.

I hope this information is helpful. Good luck!

Thanks for the response. I guess I should have said that I WANT to prune the long cane because it's blocking a passageway (hard to see in the photo), and there's nothing to peg it to or hang it on. It's growing perpendicular to the fence behind it. How badly will it hurt the plant if I remove it? Since I'm in San Francisco it blooms almost all year, and continuously. There are new buds right now.

Aha! I think that your plant is so well established, and has so much new, green growth that removal of the original cane isn't going to cause any shrub health issues. Long term, though, you might want to consider moving it to a sunnier home since it will become 'bushier' if it's not struggling for light. Happy gardening!

Thank you so much, really appreciated.