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How to Prune Roses

Updated on March 18, 2017
How to Prune Roses
How to Prune Roses | Source

Learning How to Prune Roses the Proper Way

How do you prune roses? That's an excellent question, and a very important one if you are not sure. Knowing how and when to prune roses can mean the difference between having healthy, lush roses, and a blooming disaster!

Some gardeners and rose beginners believe that pruning roses is a simple as cutting the ends off. They couldn't be more wrong. Yes, pruning roses is simple, however, there are a few things you should know about pruning roses bushes the correct way if you want to produce large, beautiful roses bushes.

We will go over how to prune roses, when to prune them, and how to cut them the proper way to avoid damage and diseases.

Image Source: Stephanie Manning- Young Angel Face Floribunda

When to Prune Roses

Timing is Everything

The most important step to pruning roses is to know when to prune roses. Prune your roses to early and you risk seriously damaging the plant. Pruning them to late rarely causes damage unless you are in zone with sub-zero temperatures. Pruning roses to late will also cause it to break dormancy or 'wake up' later in the spring and delay blooming.

Deciding on when to prune roses depends on the region your are in. The most important factor is when your roses bushes go dormant. You want to make sure your roses are completely dormant before making any cuts. Since pruning creates tender new growth, pruning them before they go dormant will cause them to put on new growth, usually pretty rapidly, which will then be injured by hard freezes, snow and frosts. Too much damage can seriously injure if not kill your rose bushes.

Pruning roses in the winter, after they have gone fully dormant, is completely acceptable. Waiting to late in the Spring will cause you to get a late start on new growth and delay blooms. Wait until the temperatures begin to warm and freezing temperatures are no longer a threat. Prune immediately at the first signs of any new growth such as leaves, red tips or new stems starting to bud from the canes.

Tools You Will Need for Cutting Roses

Supplies Needed for Cutting Rose Bushes

When pruning roses there are 3 things you will need; Gloves, loppers and pruning shears. Make sure your tools are clean and free of any diseases that may be transferred from other roses. If you are pruning a rose with black spot then you will want to wash them before moving on to the next rose or you will spread it quickly.

Loppers are used to cut main canes. Make sure they are sharp so that they actually cut the branch instead of mashing it. Mashing it will cause nasty cuts that leave the plant damaged and susceptible to disease.

Pruning shears are used to cut the smaller stems and shape. These usually aren't needed in Spring pruning since the main canes being cut will take the smaller stems as well. Make sure these are clean and sharp as well.

Gloves seem obvious or not so obvious if you don't have extremely thorny roses. However, reaching up into a rose bush cutting of canes with out gloves will leave you looking like you have been pruned.

Joseph's Coat

Joseph's Coat Rose Bush Apricot Climbing Rose 4" Pot Organic Grown USA
Joseph's Coat Rose Bush Apricot Climbing Rose 4" Pot Organic Grown USA

Joseph's Coat is one of my favorite rose bushes. It is also one that gets the most compliments in my garden. Probably for because it is a single bush that has multiple colors. Starting out as a yellow-orange then slowly changing to bright pink and almost red. No two blooms are the same color at same time. I love it!

 

Pruning Roses Step #1

Remove Dead, Damaged and Diseased Canes

The first step in pruning roses bushes is to remove all dead, damaged or diseased canes (long, thick, main stems). Look for canes that are weak, have damage, yellowing, browning or spots. These canes need to be cut and removed immediately to avoid further damage to the rest of the plant.

*** Do note that older rose bushes will have flaky, bark like texture on older canes. These canes are just old but healthy. If you are not sure you can scratch a little away. If you see green then it's fine and can be left. ***

Diseased...

Getting rid of diseased, dead or damaged canes can be hard to swallow since it can consist of cutting of a nice large stem just because there are a few spots at the bottom. However, if you don't eventually the disease will be all over the plant. It's best to take the stem now then to have to take the whole plant later.

Dead...

Cut away an dead limbs that have not greened back up. This is another reason you should always wait until Spring. The new growth and greenness will allow you see what is healthy and what is not, which is almost impossible to do during Winter months. Removed any limbs, canes, and stems that aren't green and healthy....again, remember older growth that is a few years old may appear to have a hard bark on them. It's usually pretty obvious when you see it that it is still healthy though.

Damaged...

Canes damaged from elements such as storms, hail and high winds should be removed. Cut these canes back in the Spring while pruning but also cut them back during the rest of the year as they happen to prevent damage and disease to the rest of the plant. If it's during the growing season cut them back below the damage to the next leaf node. If the break is serious and tears the bark further down the branch then be sure to cut past that part as well. Only leave healthy, green wood.

Before and After Pruning a Rose

Before and After Pruning a Rose
Before and After Pruning a Rose

Prune Roses to Promote New Growth

How to Prune Rose Bushes Step #2

Once you have pruned all the dead, diseased and damaged rose canes, the next step is to prune to promote new growth and a thicker bush.

Using loppers on thick canes and pruning shears on thin stems,cut back all canes about 1/3 of their height leaving 2/3 of the healthy canes. Use pruning shears to remove any dead tips or stems that didn't survive the winter frosts.

Remove any suckers from the base...suckers are the stems that grow from the bottom near the soil. Suckers tend to take lots of energy that could be sent to blooms and healthy foliage on the main canes. They also have a tendency to be from the root stock below the union bud which means they won't even be the rose bush you are growing but that of which came from the roots of an old rose bush that was used to insure a healthy root system.

This type of pruning is usually referred to as light to moderate pruning and is suitable for growing areas that do not see severe Winters. Areas that receive harsh winters and heavy snow may need to do heavy pruning, also called 'dead heading' in order to promote healthy growth and insure that all damaged or weakened canes are removed.

Dead heading consists of cutting all the canes back to 4-8 inches above the soil or mulch level. If you are in a growing area that receives harsh Winters or heavy snow fall be sure to mulch your roses bushes with 3-6 inches of mulch each year to insure the roots survive the Winter.

Guide on How to Cut Roses

Guide on How to Cut Roses
Guide on How to Cut Roses

Rose Bushes on Amazon

Amazon is a great place to find rose bushes. Especially rare rose bushes. Amazon has hundreds of nurseries from all over the world that supply roses of any color, type or class that you can think of. If there is a hard to find rose you are wanting or if you are looking for a great deal check out Amazon!

Trimming Roses During the Growing Season

Maintaining Roses Throughout The Year Will Keep Them Beautiful

Aside from Spring pruning, there are times when you will need to cut your roses throughout the growing season. Trimming your roses lightly will help maintain beautiful, lush bushes, encourage new growth, prevent damage and diseases, and promote twice as many blooms. By trimming back the canes, you direct the energy to other parts of the plant that will then send off new stems, leaves and buds. Trimming not only helps produce better quality plants but it also reduces the chance of your rose getting injured or diseased.

Reasons for Trimming Roses:

~ Remove damaged wood; storms, hail, high winds, etc.

~ Remove diseased wood or leaves

~ Remove dead wood

~ Remove branches that cross each other and may rub causing damage

~ Shape the plant

~ Promote good air flow

~ Remove suckers

~ Remove spent blooms

~ Promote new growth

~ Produce more blooms

~ Promote lush bushes

~ Prevent your roses from getting too leggy

How to Cut Roses Properly

How to Cut Roses Properly
How to Cut Roses Properly

Rose Bushes on eBay!

eBay also offers rose bushes of all types. These are grown by both nurseries and everyday gardeners just like you! eBay is also a great place to find rare and antique roses.

How to Prune Climbing Roses

Pruning climbing roses

Climbing roses typically bloom on new, green growth. To encourage new growth follow steps 1 & 2 from above. Next, cut back old canes that are thick and non-productive, even if they are healthy. Older canes rarely bloom and take up space, nutrients and energy that could be sent to new growth and produce more blooms.

Climbing roses also need to be pruned to insure they are kept tidy. Since some climbing roses grow more rapidly, they need to be pruned to keep shape and insure that they are not getting too big for their supports (trellis, arbor, etc. ). Remove crossing canes keeping the youngest ones to insure blooming.

For more information on climbing roses Fine Gardening has some great information and pictorials for pruning climbing roses.

A Great Book About Growing Roses for Beginners

Prune Spent Blooms to Increase New Blooms

Again, I can not stress this part enough- and feel that it is worth mentioning again---

Trimming roses often to remove old blooms is one of the best thing you can do for your roses. If you have ever walked by a rose bush and noticed several spent blooms, chances are you didn't see many fresh blooms. This is because buds only form on the end of stems or at the 'tip'. After the blooms fade, pinch or trim them back.

Trimming roses back after blooms die off will allow the rose bush to send much needed energy and nutrients to the rest of the plant which will then produce new stems. Those stems will then produce buds. The more stems you have the more blooms you will have. Once the tip blooms it rarely ever blooms again. Cut it back to the first set of leaves and watch it grow!

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