How to Prune Roses

Pruning roses can seem a daunting task to gardeners, but with practice it’s a skill easily learned. A properly pruned rosebush will thank you with hearty blossoms and healthy branches that will last all season. Learn how to set your roses up for success with our tips on how to prune.

These techniques are for most common rose varieties, including Floribunda, Grandiflora, Hybrid Teas and Modern Ever-Blooming.

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Why Prune Roses?

Pruning is necessary to maintain health and improve aesthetics. Annual pruning will:

·       Remove dead wood to reduce disease and pest opportunities

·       Reduce sucker growth and crossing branches to increase air circulation

·       Maintain a pleasant shape and size by removing thin, tall or unbalanced branches

·       Cut back last year’s growth to invigorate new growth and blooms

When to Prune Roses

Most pruning takes place in late winter to early spring, but there are some exceptions. When is “late winter/early spring”? The first blooms on a forsythia are a great indicator that warmer temperatures are on the way.

For taller growing rose varieties, such as Grandiflora, Hybrid Tea and Floribunda, remove a few inches in the fall to reduce wind damage. Once the forsythia bloom, continue with more vigorous pruning.


Blooming Forsythia - An Indicator to Start Pruning Roses


Pruning Tools

Having the right equipment is essential:

·       Use Bypass Pruners to cut rose canes (branches) up to three quarters inch thick.

·       To prune canes that are too large for your Bypass Pruners, switch over to a lopper.

·       Pruning Saws come in handy when removing especially large rose canes.

·       Wear thick gloves, a long sleeve shirt and pants to avoid injury from thorns.

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How to Prune Roses: Making the Right Cut

Good cutting technique prevents rot and promotes healthy air circulation. All cuts (besides deadwood or suckers) should be a clean 45° angle, roughly a quarter inch above an outward facing bud eye (the area on a rose stem where branching occurs).

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Six Steps to Pruning:

  1. Remove all remaining leaves and blooms.

  2. Remove any suckers - growth that has sprouted out of the ground away from the main root stock.

  3. Cut dead wood down to the base. If you’re unsure, make smaller cuts until you see the living green/white pith inside.

  4. Cut away about half of last year’s growth. This includes live wood.

  5. Cut away any cross branches that are rubbing against one another or growing inward. Your goal is to declutter the center and encourage branches to grow up and slightly outward.

  6. Remove any branches thinner than a pencil.

At the end of your pruning, the rosebush should have between 3-6 strong, healthy canes growing up and slightly outward from the ground. These canes can be anywhere from 12-24 inches long, depending on the age of your rosebush, and some may have a few branches coming off the main canes.


Fall Pruning

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Spring Pruning

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Pruned Rose Bush

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How to Care for Pruned Roses

Early spring is also a great time to fertilize your roses. Clean Water Grow Rose & Flower Food is a perfect choice; the slow-release blend feeds your plants up to six months, meaning one application will last the entire growing season.

For pre-established roses, use a digging fork or similar tool to make several small holes around the base of the canes. Sprinkle a tablespoon of Clean Water Grow Rose & Flower Food over all the holes, allowing the fertilizer to reach the root system, then recover with soil.


Don’t Be Afraid of a “Bad Haircut”

There is no exact science to prune roses; the amount you choose to prune will vary by the rose’s age, variety and your own visual preference. A “bad haircut” is bound to happen to any first time pruner; just remember branches grow back!

Arbor Fessler