KO rose pruning question

Chicago, IL(Zone 5b)

Ok, so I have a new KO rose just planted this spring (a Mother's Day gift from my MIL, very nice). Yesterday she came over to teach me how to prune it. She told me to cut off canes above where there is a 5-leaf grouping (does that make sense?). So she cut off a huge chunk that had maybe 3 or 4 spent blooms and 4 unopened buds. I was a little concerned at this! So I wanted to find out if I need to be pruning throughout the growing season (as she advised) or just in spring or fall. Seems like if I keep cutting off canes with unopened buds the poor thing is never going to bloom . . .

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

I'll start by saying that I don't know that much about roses, but I don't think you need to be cutting off unopened buds. I have heard the part about cutting back to a 5-leaf grouping, but that's after the blooms have faded.

(Zone 7a)

From my understanding, KO bloom on new growth. I would prune it in the spring. You can cut off individual blooms as they are done, if you like. It would promote new growth and new blooms. Cutting off unopened buds defeats the purpose of having a rose bush.

Marlin, TX

Knockout Roses are wonderful, especially if they are allowed to bloom! When you prune, cut back to a five or seven leaf node (where the leaf stem joins the main stem you will see a little reddish bump--that is the new node that will grow and bloom). Cutting off the dead or spent blooms is called "deadheading" and is entirely different from pruning. As Kwanjin said, pruning is best done in the spring, and deadheading can be done as needed.
Your mother-in-law is generous with her gift of a rose. You should be able to enjoy the blooms, so don't cut off buds!

Lenoir City, TN

As a Knock Out owner lover and researcher I will get involved in this one. I Am the proud owner of 3 double and 2 knock outs. The only thing you need to do to these is dead and that is only for appearance. I do not dead head and I do not prune at all. I researched these extensively when my wife brought three home and wanted them planted. I found several sites that used the term self cleaning, meaning that the old blooms will die and fall off as these plants are sterile they will not form rose apples. Upon clearing its self of spent blooms on a cane it will send out shoots on its own to rebloom. Acouple of sites stated that pruning was not recommended at all unless shaping in the late fall or early spring to give a particular appearance. I suggest google the name knock out roses and then do some reading. The pruning technique of 5 or 7 leaves is what I was taught in high school horticulture it does not apply to this type of rose. Please trust me on this one for one growing season. Mine in one year have doubled to trippled in size and have a bloom cycle in which the entire shrub is covered and as the old fall off the new buds are emerging and with in 2 to 3 weeks it is covered again. It is truly a sight to behold. I am currently never more than a week or so before new roses are blooming to replace the old fading roses.

Chicago, IL(Zone 5b)

Thank you so much for all the feedback. From what I had heard and read about KO roses, they are supposed to be easy and low-maintenance, and so when she told me I had to do all this pruning I was a little surprised. And not to mention the fact that in the 5 or so weeks I've had it in the ground this rose has been blooming non-stop without my having to do anything to it. It went against every instinct I have to cut off unopened buds; to be truthful I almost got teary-eyed when I saw her going in with those clippers! She probably learned that technique for pruning old-fashioned "real" roses . . . I know she was trying to be helpful. My MIL is a very experienced gardener but is largely self-taught (she has many many gorgeous plants but hardly knows the names of any of them). So I usually listen to what she has to say and then check it out with you guys later. :) Thank you again!

Lenoir City, TN

Here are a couple shots of my 2 year old DKOs. the firs picture is of the red that has not been run over by a car on 2 occasions. Just let em be and throw some granular ortho or bayer 2n1 rose food and insecticide. That's it and yes if it will quit raining for a day I need to get the weed eater and clean up under them. They are next to a 3ft. split rail fence for reference. Believe me I am as lazy a gardner as they come. and these were put in the ground last spring. Have done nothing but feed once a month from mid march till the the temps at night fall to the low 40s on a regular basis. I had blooms killed last season by the first frost and a half dozen or so killed by the last frost at the startof this season. This is one DKO not one and part of another. I promise!

Thumbnail by gcorrier
Lenoir City, TN

Ok this is a shot of 2 red and a pink. the pink is not as robust as the reds. The smaller red if you look closely you can see tire tracks :-)! That fence is a 3ft tall split rail.

Thumbnail by gcorrier
Jacksonville, NC(Zone 8b)

Chiming in a little as ya'll talk about your knockouits.I have asked the same questions about the deadheading.Its true so many say not to deadhead.But, I'm tempted to deadhead one bush and not the other and see which does the best.Mine was full of blooms last month,and now it isn't. Do they take a little rest in between ,or should they be blooming continuosly ?I'm kinda in a boat like yours, jcoakley, I'll let yall know how the test comes out.

Lenoir City, TN

I have dead headed and left em hang. Made no real difference. As for continual blooms and resting, mine rest after the first batch of blooms then they are fairly continuous after the second run starts to bloom. The third run starts to bloom just as second is drying up. I am feeding religiously by the second bloom run so that may have a lot to do with it. I will feed every three to four weeks depending on rain fall. More rain a little more food and these guys seem to love it. Again I quit feeding as the night time temps dip to 40 or below on a regular basis. Just walked out and my 3rd run of blooms is begining to open as the last of 2nd are dying off. The new growth for the 3rd run of blooms is coming out at the 2nd and 3rd leaf joint below the old blooms. As this new growth pushes out the stem of the old bud is dying. Dead heading at this point would be strictly for appearance purposes. There are also new canes pushing out of the ground and main branches deep in the heart of the plant. I will probably have to shape the largest one this spring, I hate to do it as this bush is stunning in full bloom. I have actually had notes left on the bush thanking me for planting it where everyone can see it at the head of the drive. I also hand out roses to all the little girls on the block and their mothers when they go for walks. I can't even tell when I clip em.

(Zone 5b)

I just planted 2 double pink KO's (right before all the rain, so a month ago?) and the man at the nursery said to deadhead for looks if I want but I don't have to...the plant will self clean. I've been dealing with this nursery for years and really trust them. On my way to work I see the same rose bush, it's stunning..probably 5X5 and just COVERED with blooms.... I get beeped at for dawdling there during rush hour :)

Hoagland, IN

Hi folks, I have read all the info here I can find on the knockout roses with no answer to my nagging question. I am going to deadhead, I can't stand how they look with spent blooms. I need to know should I cut the stem under the spent rose down to the next tiny leaf? Or, do I simply snap the spent bloom off? I hope I can find someone here that knows the answer! I wrote to the growers of the knockout roses and I get no response:-(

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