Do you have a rose garden? Or maybe just a rose bed? That makes you a true rosarian. Either way, it must be the one place where you like to spend the most time in your garden. It’s also the place that takes more of your time and care. This includes rose deadheading to keep them looking their best. The last thing you’d want is to have a fading rose sticking out like a sore thumb in your meticulous landscape.
If you’re new to the world of roses, you might find the concept of rose deadheading intimidating. However, by the time you’re done with this article, you’ll not only know how to deadhead roses but will become an expert in everything related to rose deadheading.
What is Deadheading Roses?
Roses, just like many other flowering plants, use their blooms as a means to an end. In this case, the end is the fruit. Once the rose pollinates, it fades away to be replaced by a fruit. Once that happens, the plant focuses all its nutrients on the new fruit at the cost of making any new flowers. Since you don’t grow your rose bush for its fruits, but for its bright blooms, you would want to stop those fruits in their tracks or nap them in the bud.
That’s what deadheading roses are all about. You remove the fading bloom before it gets a chance to produce a fruit. This forces the rose plant to grow more flowers to replace the lost one. And so on. The more roses you deadhead, the more new roses come out and open up. The plant thinks that it lost its chance to make a fruit so it keeps making new flowers.
But that’s not the only benefit of rose deadheading. As you remove more faded flowers, you, not only make the rosebush prettier, you also remove unneeded branches that will make nesting places for bugs and pests of all kinds. It also helps with air circulation as it clears the space around and among the branches.
Different Types of Rose Deadheading
Roses come in various shapes and species. Some are shrubs, others are bushes. And then you have the different cultivars that need special care and maintenance. As you can imagine, each species and cultivar needs a different kind of rose deadheading. Here are the main types.
Shrub Roses Deadheading
One of the easiest rose species to maintain and care for. Shrub roses, especially the popular Knock Out, tend to shed their roses regularly and grow new ones in their place. This means you won’t have to worry about deadheading shrub roses since the shrub takes care of it on its own. However, you’d still want to clean up the fallen roses and give the shrub a helping hand by removing the stubborn roses that won’t drop by themselves. In addition, since we’re talking about shrubs, you have to prune the shrub branches and leaves to encourage it to grow new shoots which in turn grow new blooms. So while deadheading is not essential, pruning is of the utmost importance for shrub roses. To deadhead the shrub rose, remove the rose and its stem with pruning scissors. No branches or leaf removal is necessary.
Floribunda and Spray Roses Deadheading
Another popular rose species that stand out because of the way the blooms grow on the plant. Rather than producing a single flower on every stem, these roses grow in clusters giving them an outstanding visual effect. Now that might become a problem when it comes to deadheading. What if only one flower in the cluster fades? The good news is, the whole cluster acts as one flower. All the flowers grow together, open up in unison, and fade away at the same time. So when you want to deadhead a cluster, just cut the stem that carries all the flowers and dispose of it. A new branch will grow and produce a new cluster in its place.
Hybrid Tea Rose Deadheading
Hybrid tea roses, much like many rose species and cultivars, all follow the same rule of deadheading. Locate the first set of five leaves and cut under them. Some rosarians recommend cutting beneath the second five-leaf set. Opinions vary about the difference this has for the rose plant as we’ll see later. What’s certain, though, is that the best time to deadhead is usually during the peak of the flower season in late summer and early fall. If you want to increase the density of the branches and leaves, then just deadhead the bloom itself leaving the stem with the leaves. In the winter, dense foliage helps the dormant plant survive the long months and come back to life the next spring. Keep in mind that if you cut just the bloom early in the season, you’ll get more flowers with short stems. Something that rosarians look down upon and try to avoid at all costs.
Rose Deadheading Tips
Fewer topics have created controversy and started online arguments than the topic of rose deadheading. Suffice it to say that there are many schools of thought out there each promoting a different deadheading methodology. We garnered some of the best tips that experts have to offer.
- Aim for the second five-leaf set on the stem and cut below it to have fewer but larger blooms.
- Always cut the stem at a 45-degree angle just above a leaf pointing outward.
- To control the height and size of the rose bush, trim vigorously leaving few leaves on the canes (stems). This however might lead to slower blooming than usual.
- For healthy blooms, make sure the leaf growth on the plant is dense. Leaves absorb sunlight and transform it into plant food.
- Snapping just the blooms not only leads to new flowers with short stems but also the flowers become smaller.
- Cut away buds at the top of the shoot to encourage the plant to grow more shoots further down the cane that result in larger blooms.
Troubleshooting Rose Deadheading
If the above tips are any indication, it’s obvious the world of rose deadheading is more complex than appears at first glance. So to make sure this guide is as comprehensive as possible, we gathered some of the top problems that rosarains face when deadheading roses and how you can deal with them.
- Tools: The tools you’ll need for rose deadheading include a pair of shears, sturdy gloves, and a bucket. Make sure the shears are clean and not contaminated. Always wash them with soap and water after you’re done with pruning.
- Types of Roses to Deadhead: Not all roses need to be deadheaded. Spent roses are the ones that have completed their life cycle and should be deadheaded. Competing roses or those entwined need to be cut to give the other roses space. You should also cut roses that grow inwards.
- Three-Leaf Set: Avoid deadheading the rose at a three-leaf set. This results in a shoot that doesn’t grow or flower. It’s often called blind wood. Instead, you should cut at a 5-leaf set.
- Bud Eye: This is the point where the leaf set joins the stem. It usually has a dark spot and is called the bud eye. This is where the new shoot will grow. Always cut above the bud eye, not below it.
How to Prune Roses
Most rose species don’t require much pruning. As far as your maintenance work is concerned, deadheading is all you have to do. However, as with most plants, you still need to check your rosebed regularly in the early spring to make sure all the branches, leaves, and stems are growing to your liking.
First, you start with the canes. Coming out of the winter, the dormant rose plant might not sprout on every cane. Some will be covered with green leaves while others remain dormant. Those dormant ones are dead and you should cut them as close to the base as you can. New canes will grow to replace the dead ones.
If you want to maintain the shape and design of your rose bush, you should do that in the spring. Trim the top of the bush to give it that well-manicured look, rose bushes are famous for. Since pruning sends a message to the bush to grow more shoots and leaves, you should never prune the roses in the fall. In the same vein, refrain from deadheading your blooms a few weeks before the first frost. This will prepare the plant to go dormant and focus on its roots rather than its foliage and blooms to survive the cold winter.
Deadheading your roses is a great way to encourage new and larger blooms while removing dead or faded flowers from your rose garden. It’s a simple process that is better done every few days rather than on a daily basis.