pruning for drought

kittymoonbeamJanuary 17, 2014

Does pruning a rose and keeping it small make a big difference in water usage or does the rose just send up young thirsty shoots? I have also heard that big roses left unpruned will shade the soil and need less water. For roses fighting for life in a drought- will cutting them back and letting them start over from scratch allow them to survive on just a scant amount of water until better years arrive?

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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Depends on if it tries to flush new growth after you cut it back, before the drought is over. One thing you definitely don't want to do is encourage new growth during hot weather and then miss a watering.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 2:50AM
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Campanula UK Z8

I would almost certainly avoid pruning at all if I was facing the drought situations some of you are contending with. I have always believed growth follows the knife and chant this little mantra about the garden whenever I feel a bit hacking happy. If I did get the secateurs out, it would only be a dead or disease renovation - certainly no cutting back to rejuvenate plants.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 5:33AM
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    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 7:11AM
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ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

Yes it is, Daisy. As I mentioned in another thread, this year's snow pack is 11% of what it should be, at a record low in 125 years of documentation. Unless we have abundant rain fall in the next few months, which seems very questionable, it's anyone's guess how we'll fare in the coming years.


    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 11:38AM
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I do not prune unless I immediately water, as was the policy at the plant nursery where I worked years ago. Damaging a plant causes the release of hormones that promote growth at lower buds, which of course, requires water. It has been my understanding, and this may be incorrect in some cases, that plants that are capable of surviving drought will become dormant on their own and drop their leaves. Plants that cannot do this will not survive drought without watering.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 12:36PM
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That's good to be clear then, pruning will not help plants survive.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 12:54PM
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I would prune less enthusiastically, limiting myself to removing dead or damaged growth and shaping lightly, but leaving as much material as possible. The root system and the top keep in balance with each other. You want to maintain a robust root system that can reach out to water in the soil.

Absolutely make sure to mulch so that you protect the water that is present in the soil. (Water deeply before mulching, of course!)


    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 1:24PM
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Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)

I think a problem we have here in SoCal is not just the lack of rain but the summer like temps that are screaming "wake up" to the roses

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 5:47PM
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roseblush1(8a/Sunset 7)

Kippy ...

I know your situation is very different from mine, but at the end of January, we always have a winter thaw for a few weeks and the roses "wake up", but then winter returns. The roses seem to just stall. I don't have any die back in this garden, but I think that if conditions are not right for the rose to continue putting out new growth, the plant kind of waits.

This is just my observation in a more northerly latitude with colder winter temps. My last frost date is some time in April for a normal year.

We are experiencing the same drought up here, and I have actually been out in snow boots and layers of clothing watering roses last month. The snow from the first Friday before Thanksgiving has finally melted and afternoon temps are getting up to the 50s, but night temps are still below freezing.

I have no idea what's going to happen this year as far as spring rains are concerned.


    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 9:32PM
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nikthegreek(9b/10a E of Athens, Greece)

I just read that the governor of California has declared a state-wide drought, urging residents to conserve water in what could be the state's driest year on record.

We have had a wet winter up to now over here but we did have one of the coldest Decembers and we are having one of the warmest Januaries as far as I remember. Despite the considerable rainfall there's very little snow on the mountains and this is what really matters in terms of the reservoirs making it through our long rainless summer season. Things are not looking great world-wide I'm afraid.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 3:35AM
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paparoseman(z8 WA. PO.)

I think from what I have seen and experienced with my roses is that if you do not prune/cut back your roses that they will do just fine with getting just enough water to not end up dead. Our summers up here are fairly to mostly dry. An inch or two a month in July and August and most of the rain that falls in June tends to come before mid month.

For my once blooming roses I rarely if ever water the more than twice between July and early September.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 7:33AM
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Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)

Papa rose. The issue for many of us is that 1.5" for July you mention is our entire rainfall total for the season this year. Many are looking at how to best manage with just that tiny bit because we are asked to reduce by any other 20% if you did not use metered water in the past, you really can't start using it now

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 11:07AM
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roseblush1(8a/Sunset 7)

Kippy ....

When I had to live through a drought while living in the SF bay area, we used to keep a 5 gal bucket in the shower to collect water. Then Mom would pour the water into a gallon jug with holes punched in the bottom and sit the jug next to her roses a couple of times a week. It gave them a slow deep watering and kept them alive. (Of course there were eight of us taking showers ... lol.)

I know you need to save water for your fruit trees, etc., but this is one way to collect water for the garden ornamentals.

I think I'd start now because it helps the plants handle the heat of the summer better.


    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 1:53PM
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Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)

For anyone that is interested, our city has a good webpage on gray water use and systems.

It is not just the shower water while heating up, but the used shower water, bathroom sink, kitchen sink and laundry water that can be used (this of course depends on the county and system used to collect and store)

I am actually thinking of finding a used water tank to put at the top of the hill and seeing if a friends commercial garden service that runs big water trucks can fill with gray water for our fruit tree orchard.

We have a sump pump and with just a couple of glue joints, I could actually water the lawn and all the roses with gray water from a tank.

Maybe that is the next SB drought business plan, offer weekly landscape watering using gray water (last drought it was companies painting dead lawns green)

Here is a link that might be useful: Gray Water

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 2:15PM
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Thanks one more time, Kippy! I will go to that link.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 6:56PM
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roseblush1(8a/Sunset 7)

Kippy ...

The drought I mentioned in my post was about 50 years ago. My mom grew up on a ranch and she knew more about how to keep things alive and use gray water than anyone else in our neighborhood.

We are lucky to live in a time where we can find the information we need. That is a great link. Thank you.


    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 8:08PM
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Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)


Did you see the PDF on how to set up a laundry gray water system using old 5g pots? I think the city did a good job in making the plans sort of easy to read and not super expensive to install.

Anyway, it is one way to maybe save a rose bed that other wise might not make it in hot year.....or if you have a lot of laundry, grow Austins :)

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 8:43PM
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A small solar home featured an extra outdoor shower. It was a lovely wood shower with planter boxes above so that foliage fell down the sides. There was a teak wood bench and leafy cut outs in the upper portions to let in light. I like the natural soaking tubs made out of a large hollowed out stone. It would be easy to get the water to the plants! Why didn't our house come with one?

When Mars was very close, we would set the alarm and get up early before dawn and sit in the spa and look at it in the sky. Venus is so beautiful and bright. I like to see it in the morning sky. It reminds me of camping.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 11:42PM
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roseblush1(8a/Sunset 7)

Kippy ....

I live alone and my gray water won't make much of a difference, but, yes, every little bit helps.

Every year is a hot year up here ... lol. In fact, it can be brutal ... that's one of my concerns. I'd say 90% of my roses are deep rooted because I've made it a practice to do deep watering. I do think I am going to change my gardening plans for this season because of the drought. I know I am changing back to the mulch material that has worked the best in this garden. Last year's mulch material was not as effective.

I know I'll be adding my spring mulch earlier this year and there will be other changes in how I do things. I am glad I decided against adding any new plants this year.

Hopefully, I'll have a few months to get the garden prepared for super high summer temps.

Also, I am hoping the underground streams that are said to flow under my property don't dry up.

I am more concerned about the impact of demands for our water for down south because we are a county-of-origin for water. Our snow pack is 20% of normal for this time of year and this is a natural wildfire area. Friends are worried about their wells drying up, so sending water down south is becoming a very hot topic up here.


    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 11:55PM
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