Knock Out roses may be the most popular roses in our area. They thrive on neglect, blooming over and over for most of the year and making gardeners of all skill levels look good. Knock Outs are available at most garden centers and come in a variety of colors these days. They bloom for months and don’t require the level of care that most other roses need. To kick it up a notch, pruning Knock Outs helps to keep them healthy, shaped and, most of all, blooming profusely.

January is the perfect time to prune Knock Outs. The shrubs are dormant, and a healthy pruning will help them to bloom a whole lot in the spring. Most Knock Outs are advertised as having an average height of 4 feet and a width of about 4 feet. The reality is that they can grow to 6 feet tall and in diameter, usually in a sprawling manner. This can be unattractive and can crowd surrounding plants. To give a Knock Out a haircut and control the size of the shrub is relatively easy and should be done twice a year. Heavy pruning should be done in January, with a lighter, shaping prune job in late August and September.

The hard January pruning should be done with sharp, clean pruning implements. Dull tools crush the plant’s tissue rather than cutting it neatly. Sharp hand pruners are usually the best tool for the job, but for larger diameter canes, you may need loppers. Wear long sleeves to protect yourself from the thorns.

First, trim out any dead (brown) cane sections and cut them back to either healthy tissue or the base of the plant. Next, determine how tall you would like the rose to be in the summer, then prune it back to about a foot lower than that height. Remember it's not a good idea to prune away more than a half or a third of the plant at one time. Knock Outs will typically increase in height by about 1 foot after a heavy pruning.

When pruning, try to stand back a bit and visualize the shape you would like the rose to take on. Most people opt for a rounded shape, so trim out any leggy or stray material. Remove any crossed canes that are rubbing one another. Knock Outs are pretty forgiving, so don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Like a bad haircut, they will grow out.

For more information and free PDFs on roses and other garden plants, visit lsuagcenter.com. You can have all of your garden questions answered by emailing them to agcenter@theadvocate.com. To sign up for the GNO Gardening Newsletter, email gnogardening@agcenter.lsu.edu.

Is it too late to plant some winter vegetables like broccoli and kale? How about lettuce? I am new to gardening but would like to try! — Rachel S.

It’s not too late for select cool season crops, but for some of them, you’ll want to plant transplants as soon as possible. Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage may still produce for you if you plant transplants now. Choose strong, healthy transplants. Other vegetables can still be grown from seed, including kale, collards, mustards, radishes, turnips, peas, lettuce, arugula and Swiss chard. There’s still plenty of time to plant these and enjoy them as we head into spring! — Anna Timmerman

Anna Timmerman and Joe Willis are LSU AgCenter extension agents. Questions? Email agcenter@theadvocate.com