Rose Articles

Decision Time - Dead or Alive?

By Brenda Viney, Vancouver Rose Society Member

The beginning of May is when you can finally make the decision on whether or not your rose plants are dead or alive.

After our worst winter in years, some plants are still struggling to revive themselves, some are totally dead and many are coming back with a vengeance!

shovelsI look at my roses every couple of days, especially after a few warm days to watch for little red “shoots” coming from the base of the canes on my rose bushes. This indicates life is still there and hopefully the bush will come back even better than last year. Having to prune the bushes so hard is actually not a bad thing – it’s nature’s way of telling us it’s time to be renewed and reinvigorated! And boy, are some of my roses responding. I have some very old plants that I was considering “shovel pruning” this year because there had not been any new canes develop in years and the existing canes were very weak and flimsy…but the new growth coming from the thicker lower canes is giving me hope that the entire plant will be renewed. I’m willing to wait it out another year to see if this happens. If the new growth is weak, I’ll replace it next year.

If, on the other hand, you’re not seeing any new shoots coming from a plant, it’s a good guess that it’s dead and needs to be replaced with one of the many new varieties on the market today. A different type of renewal for your garden…and one we actually enjoy doing so as to experience some of the newer roses!

One other job for May is to re-prune your plants. You’ll likely have some canes that you pruned earlier and now a couple of inches or more of the top of the cane are turning brown and dying back to where a new shoot appears lower down. This is quite common and can be left as is or you can tidy it up by cutting just above the new shoot. And…as you’re looking over your bushes, wherever a new shoot is growing, look to see if there are actually 2 or 3 new shoots growing out of the same spot on the cane. If so, take your fingernail and “rub out” all but 1 shoot – usually the middle shoot is the strongest one so leave it to grow into a nice sturdy cane. If you leave all the shoots to grow, you will simply end up with 2 or 3 wimpy canes rather than 1 strong cane.

Enjoy your May rose garden as this is really a time of phenomenal growth!