"The Art of Finger Pruning"

by Ed Bradley

What is it? Finger pruning is the removal of excess or unwanted growth, by simply rubbing it off with your thumb or fingers.

After pruning, when the new growth begins to emerge, you will want to examine its origin to determine if it is growth you want to keep. You may have some Basal Canes coming from the bud-union or lower parts of the older canes. You definitely want to keep these. However, if you get new growth coming all up and down the cane, you will want to remove much of that, especially those growing to the inside of the bush. Ideally, other than the Basal Canes, you want to keep 2 – 4 new stems coming near the top-end of an existing cane. (Some rosarians leave only one or two.) If you leave too many, the bush will be very “crowded”, and the canes will be very small, probably short, and will produce smaller blooms. So, as you inspect your new growth, rub off (or cut it off) any that would be considered excessive. You will have bigger, stronger canes with larger and more beautiful blooms.

A second part of finger pruning is the “removal of secondary buds”.

At each “bud eye” is a primary bud (in the center) and two secondary buds (one on each side of the primary bud). This is the way Nature protects its plants. If the primary bud should be damaged or destroyed, one or both of the secondary buds will grow. In many cases, all three will begin growing. You can tell that the two secondary buds will be smaller. Simply push them off with your thumb nail or a dull knife. If the primary bud does not grow (frozen, damaged or whatever), often both secondary buds will begin growing side-by-side; like twins. Push off (or cut off) the weaker of the two. Continue to observe the new growth as it develops and groom your bushes to have the strong, healthy canes with an open center.