Pruning Tree Roses
by Paulette Mouchet
Originally published in "The Rose Garden" newsletter, February 2004. Revised November 2006.
Standards at a Grower in Wasco, California
Tree roses are also called standards. I had no idea where the term "standard" came from until Field Roebuck, a rose author, photographer, and Old Garden Rose specialist in Texas, suggested I check the dictionary. I discovered one definition of "standard" is "an upright post, especially as a support."
Tree roses are interesting additions to the garden because they can add height and visual interest at a level that may be lacking. They come in a variety of heights from 12-inch miniatures to 5-foot weeping trees made by grafting a climbing rose or one with long, arching canes at the top. And, of course, they come in all the colors of bush roses.
Tree roses can lend an air of grace to an otherwise plain garden, and are often used to line pathways and driveways to make them feel more formal.
In spite of their benefits, most of us don't have tree roses in our gardens. I suspect it's because when it comes time to actually BUY one, we stop to think about maintenance. In particular, pruning the beast. And that's enough to make most of us exit the premises at a run.
For some reason, the idea of pruning a tree rose makes us completely forget everything we've learned about pruning roses in general. I mean, what about that vase shape we're supposed to aspire to? What about the 4-7 canes we're supposed to end up with? What about…
Okay, tree roses are a bit daunting at first, but not that bad. Really. The first thing you have to do is screw up the courage to chop at the thing. So, take a deep breath and close your eyes… No, wait! Open them! Then, follow the three rules for pruning all roses
- Cut out dead, diseased, and broken wood.
- Cut out canes that cross the middle and/or rub against each other.
- Shorten the rest of the canes.
In the case of tree roses, shorten the canes to approximately 2-4 inches long (yes!). They have to be short or the head will get too big over time. Each short cane should have 1 to 3 eyes. It doesn't matter which direction they face.
That's all there is to it. I think pruning tree roses is much easier than pruning climbers. Let us know what you think!