Garden editor Johanna Silver demonstrates how to maintain the blooming beauty

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Most gardeners know that late winter is the time to prune their rose bushes, but even the most experienced gardener can be intimidated by the task. These simple tips will give you the confidence you need for a healthy pruning that will help your roses thrive come spring. This rose pruning technique works on most common types of garden roses, such as the hybrid tea, and it should be done each winter when the plant is still dormant.

Follow these basic pruning steps for best results:

  1. Gather the right rose-pruning tools. You’ll need a sharpened pruning saw, sharpened and cleaned bypass pruners for nice, clean cuts, and a thick pair of leather gloves to protect your hands.
  2. Remove bad canes. Using your pruning saw, remove any woody canes that are dead or diseased, as well as any really thick or old canes. You want to slice them off completely, making pruning cuts right from where they’re growing.
  3. Remove thin canes. One rule of thumb is that anything thinner than a pencil is too small.
  4. Remove crossed canes. Any canes that are crossing, rubbing, or growing directly into the center need to go too. This will give healthy canes the space they need to grow.
  5. Remove any suckers. These are canes that are growing below the graft union.
  6. Trim the healthy canes. The ultimate goal is to have five or six canes that radiate evenly from the center. You want to shorten each of those remaining canes by cutting last year’s growth back by one-third to one-half. For these, cut above an outward-facing bud at a 45-degree angle. This helps direct growth where you want it.

Your rose bush may look sad now, but an annual pruning is the best way to reinvigorate your rose plant, and you’ll be rewarded with tons of flowers in spring.

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