Blind Shoots - Up Close and personal

by Ed Bradley

One of the most important rose chores to be done now is the removal of unwanted growth on your rose bushes. Unwanted growth is weak and twiggy growth, or growth that is going to the inside of the bush, and blind shoots.

What are blind shoots?

Blind shoots are those short stems with no flower buds. They typically are no more than 3-5 inches long; some simply emerge from the main cane with 3-4 leaves and stop. They have a confused looking terminal bud, usually just a black end. It is fairly universally believed that blind shoots are caused by extreme fluctuations in weather or temperatures as the bush is beginning to grow. We've certainly had those conditions this past Spring, and the number of blind shoots tend to confirm this theory. Regardless of the cause, this is non-productive growth, and it needs to be removed!

I won't kid you - It is a tough, back-breaking job, but your efforts will be richly rewarded by more vigorous, productive growth. Also, by removing the inside, lower growth and foliage, you are increasing air circulation and denying a haven for spider mites and fungus. In removing the blind shoots, it is best to start at the bottom of the bush and work upward. That way, you can clearly see the origin of the blind shoots and remove them at their source. . From that vantage point, you will probably also discover several smaller stems that are growing to the inside. These should also be removed even though they may contain a small flower bud.

You don't have to do this job all at once. Set a goal to do one rose bed a day, or 10 bushes a day, or something realistic that you can achieve without putting yourself in the hospital.

By removing all of this unwanted growth, you are primarily forcing all of the food and energy of the plant into major, vigorous, productive canes which will produce maybe fewer, but larger and more beautiful roses. The difference will be remarkable, so get out there and clean up for the summer!