Rose shrubs can easily be pruned and trained into a topiary tree form when young. You often see rose trees such as this lining walkways, in patio pots and flanking porches and doorways. Rose trees also provide height and eye-level visual interest in garden beds and borders surrounded by a carpet of lush underplantings making a dramatic effect. Training into the form should be done when the plant is young and staking is needed to support the top-heavy form until the trees are well-established and occasionally thereafter.
Prune away all of the canes and branches that emerge from the central leader on the bottom 2/3 of the plant. This establishes the basic tree form. Leave all of the foliage, canes, branches and buds on the top 1/3 of the rose untouched. Place each cut parallel to the leader cane and just outside of the slightly swollen branch collar. Discard the cuttings.
Cover each cut wound with a coat of wound dressing paint or a layer of white school glue to prevent rose borers and other insects or diseases from entering the plant at this weak point.
Stake the sole, central leader cane to a piece of narrow-gauge lumber and stabilize it in the soil at the base of the rose running parallel and snug to the rose trunk. Ensure that the stake is as long as the now naked rose trunk and ends just below where the rose tree canopy leafs out.
Attach the trunk to the stake snugly but not tightly, with soft, flexible garden ties or strips of soft, old bed sheet. Make at least three and preferably five tie connections to support the trunk well and keep it straight against the stake. Do not use twine, wire or any material that can abrade or dig into the rose cane skin or woody tissue.
Cut or pinch back all new growth on the lower 2/3 of the rose as it grows. After roughly three or four years, the trunk of the rose will stop trying to produce new canes or sprouts from the lower trunk, eliminating the need for this task.
Water the rose well after such a severe pruning and keep the soil evenly moist. Assume a regular rose care regimen of deep watering, fertilizing, deadheading, pruning and mulching to keep the rose tree healthy.
Things You Will Need
- Old bed sheet
- Tree wound paint product or white school glue
- Long wooden stake
- Soft, flexible garden ties
- Start with a rose plant that is 1 to 3 years old and has a fairly straight and upright central leader cane.