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How to Prune Roses

Pruning increases flower production and keeps your roses tidy. It is easy, although we recommend a nice pair of goatskin gloves!

For best results, different roses are treated in slightly different ways, but it is far better to prune your roses badly than not at all: roses are tough as rocks and will grow back!  

pruning a rose plant

Sharp cutting implements (secateurs, pruning shears or saws) make clean cuts, which heal faster and provide less opportunity for fungal infections to enter. The A-grade gardener will disinfect their implements between each rose bush.

Rose prunings & leaves are usually burnt or thrown in the green waste for convenience: the woody old stems are slow to decompose, and they can pass on fungal diseases if your compost doesn't get hot enough.

As always, you can prune the following at any time:

  • Dead, dying, damaged and diseased stems back to a healthy point. Cuts on upright stems should be diagonal so that rainwater flows off the wound.
  • Crossing stems that rub against each other. Cut one of the crossing stems as far back as is necessary to prevent this.
  • Spindly growth, which never turns into strong sturdy stems. Cut it out to favour more promising stems.

Deadheading is relevant for all repeat flowering (remontant) roses, but is not relevant for roses that flower once (see below) and/or for roses that bear attractive hips in the autumn (such as rosa rugosa and rosa moyesii 'Geranium').

Deadheading encourages more flowers by stopping the plants producing hips and seeds. To deadhead, snap the rose head off just behind where the stalk meets the bulge of the flower calyx. Where you have a whole cluster of flowers at the end of a stem - such as with floribunda roses - cut the whole cluster off.

When you are pruning, check the roots of your roses to see they are firm in the ground. If one is not, firm the soil around the base of the plant and prune that rose back a bit harder so the wind has less plant to blow about (thereby dislodging the roots).

 

trimming and deadheading flowering rose bushes

Pruning Repeat Flowering Roses

This section covers the basics of pruning for all Repeating (remontant roses) including all Bourbon, China, Portland and English shrub roses (as bred by David Austin), as well when you should prune rose bushes.

 

The First Year

In its first year, your rose needs to develop its root system. Therefore, pruning will be less fierce than in later years. Pruning should happen in the late February after its first flowering when you can best see the structure of the plant. In the North, wait until March. But, if you forget, you can still prune, even in April.

Concentrate on removing dead, diseased, damaged or dying shoots. Then cut all the shoots back by about 10 cms. Next step back and look at the shape of the rose and draw an imaginary semi-circle around it. Any shoots that are sticking out should be taken back to the arc of the semi-circle. Prune out any shoots that cross or rub against one another. Any remaining foliage that is still on the rose post winter should be taken off and disposed of. The following summer, you need to deadhead as above.

 

The Second Year

More mature but still with room for root development, your rose needs the amount of top growth to be kept to that which can be supported by the root system. Unlike the first year, cut healthy shoots back by a third instead of 10cms. Then, as before, adjust any longer shoots so that they fit into the basic shape of the bush.

Don't forget to remove all the dead and dying leaves that have remained over winter, and deadhead throughout the following summer.

 

The Third Year

Now your rose is mature and you can adjust its size and shape to a greater degree than before. If it is larger than you wanted, cut back the stems half - or even more if you want! They will regrow and still produce wonderful flowers. If it is not large enough, then cut all the stems back by about a quarter. And, if the size is just right, cut the stems back by a third. Otherwise, the pruning regime remains as for year 2. Deadhead throughout the summer.

 

And Ever Onwards...

Continue pruning as for year 3 but bear in mind that if you get a build up of old wood, especially in the centre of the plant, you may need to cut this out to encourage a new shoot from the base of the plant.

 

The above are the general principles for all repeat flowering roses. However there a a few “variations” for three specific groups:

 

Hybrid Tea Roses

While the basics remain the same, hybrid tea roses should be cut back hard down to 15cm from the ground. You should be able to see where last year's growth began and that is where your cuts should be. Stems that have flowered for three years or more should be cut out entirely at the base. New shoots will then appear that bear even better blooms.

 

Floribundas

Recognisable by the clusters of flowers that they produce at the end of their stem, floribunda roses are not as tough as hybrid teas. So be more gentle and only cut them back to 30-45cm from the ground. Again, stems that are over 3-4 years old should be cut back to the base.

 

Climbing Roses

Climbing roses are treated somewhat differently - although they are generally repeat flowerers as well. 

You need to concentrate on building up a framework to cover the wall, trellis or arch it is growing on, tying the stems onto supports as you go. On mature plants, be diligent about cutting back side shoots by about 65% after they flower. 

cutting back single flowering roses

Pruning Single-Flowering Roses

If your rose only flowers once a season, it is probably either an older variety of rose or a descendant of one. Repeat flowering has been bred into modern roses to extend their interest over the summer. This means that the pruning advice differs.

Here the emphasis is less on cutting back the stems. This is because their habit is to arch beautifully, giving these roses their elegant shape. More importantly, many of them actually flower better on older wood. Instead, you should try to encourage new growth from the base of the plant. This advice applies to Species, Alba, Centifolia, Damask, Gallica, Hybrid Musk (e.g. Penelope and Buff Beauty), Musk, Rugosa, Scots and Sweet Briar varieties that only flower once in summer. In reality, most rarely need pruning at all, except to cut out old wood and to keep them to their allocated place and size.

 

The First Year

As with the repeat flowerers, your rose will be developing its root system and it should not be pruned in the winter after planting. Instead after it has finished flowering remove diseased, damaged, dying or dead wood and crossing or rubbing stems.

 

The Second Year

Because these roses are not usually grafted some may have sent out suckers and new shoots that will also flower and should be kept. Proceed as for the first year.

 

The Third Year

The centre of the plant may become crowded with old and new wood. If so, take out some of the older stems at the base. This may not be necessary depending on how well the rose is doing.

 

From then on, do an annual check after flowering to remove congested or old wood in addition to any unhealthy or dead stems. If the plant becomes leggy - the lower parts of the rose are bare and unproductive - cut several of the stems out at the base and you will see new bushy growth is regenerated next season. If your roses then become too tall, just cut them back to size after flowering in late summer.

 

Rambling Roses

Most rambling roses also only flower once, and they need to be contained in the space allocated to them. If they are running wild and wonderful up a tree or shed then leave well alone. If, however, you have trained your rambler to cover a wall, then best practice would see you deal with them in late summer by cutting any flowered stems back to two to three inches from the main framework branches. After five years or so, it is worth removing some of the oldest wood back to the base to allow new shoots to be tied in. These new shoots will produce better flowers. They do not need pruning as consistently as climbing roses.

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1949

Lorem ipsum

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut et massa mi. Aliquam in hendrerit urna.

Pellentesque sit amet sapien fringilla, mattis ligula consectetur, ultrices mauris. Maecenas vitae mattis tellus.

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1949

Lorem ipsum

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut et massa mi. Aliquam in hendrerit urna.

Pellentesque sit amet sapien fringilla, mattis ligula consectetur, ultrices mauris. Maecenas vitae mattis tellus.

1949

Lorem ipsum

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut et massa mi. Aliquam in hendrerit urna.

Pellentesque sit amet sapien fringilla, mattis ligula consectetur, ultrices mauris. Maecenas vitae mattis tellus.

img
img
1949

Lorem ipsum

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut et massa mi. Aliquam in hendrerit urna.

Pellentesque sit amet sapien fringilla, mattis ligula consectetur, ultrices mauris. Maecenas vitae mattis tellus.

Subtitle

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut et massa mi. Aliquam in hendrerit urna. Pellentesque sit amet sapien fringilla, mattis ligula consectetur, ultrices mauris.

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