Waking up the roses for spring
I have several Knock Out rose bushes I just love – they’re beautiful without being finicky about their care. However, they do need some attention before they come to life in the spring.
Dennis Patton is an extension horticulture agent at Kansas State University. He says if you covered your roses with mulch or rose cones for the winter, uncover them just as the buds are breaking dormancy.
This is also the time for pruning. The first step is to remove the dead, dying, and diseased plant material. Then, he recommends pruning the plants back to one-to-two-feet tall. If they’re large, remove about a-third of the plant. Take out some of the interior stems to improve air circulation, and completely remove the old canes.
"And by old canes, these are the ones that they’re forming bark, they get real woody," says Patton. "Then I’ll look for some really nice, succulent shoots that came up last year and leave those, and maybe only let 3-5 rose canes grow, and remove the rest. That way you get nice flowering from the base of the plant."
Many of these easy-care roses don’t need a lot of extra fertilizer, but giving them something to eat early on isn’t a bad idea.
"I think for a lot of us who want to push them, what I would tell them to do is fertilize in the spring when you’re pruning them, getting them out of dormancy, just to help give them that kick start for spring, and then that may be the only fertilization you need," says Patton. "But if you want your plant to be a bit more vigorous, larger, you can maybe fertilize another once or twice throughout the growing season."
Patton says easy-care shrub roses are usually resistant to common diseases such as black spot and powdery mildew, virtually eliminating the need for chemical control. Just sit back and enjoy the colorful show as it unfolds.
Click here to watch a video on how to prune knockout rose bushes
Find more tips on caring for roses in the spring
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