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Essential Tools for Trimming Roses and How to Pick the Best

Updated on March 28, 2018
Titia profile image

I've been trimming roses in my garden for many years.and I've learned a lot about the best trimming tools by experience.

Abraham Darby Rose
Abraham Darby Rose | Source

How to Take Care of Roses on a Yearly Base

When you don't take care of your roses, they will grow wildly and sometimes as wild as impenetrable bushes. Roses need to be trimmed and/or pruned. The best time for trimming roses is the Spring. You have to wait though until the threat of night frost has gone. A lot has been written about trimming roses and even so many different opinions about what the best time for trimming your roses is have been voiced.

In this article I'll tell you something about what the books tell you and what I do when I trim my roses. I've learned a lot from an owner of a beautiful private rose garden and I've practiced his way of trimming roses ever since.

American Pillar Rose
American Pillar Rose | Source

Not All Rose Bushes Are Healthy Rose Bushes

How to Choose a Healthy Rose?

It's very easy and tempting to choose a rose bush out of a catalog and order it online and then get it send to your house. I never buy a rose bush that I haven't seen and picked out myself. It is so important that the rose you want to buy is a healthy plant with at least 3 to 5 equally strong stems which are divided up proportionally. A rose with only one stem or two stems will never grow out to a beautiful bush.

  1. I prefer buying a rose which has been grown in a container. It will be much healthier and much easier to plant, because its hair roots will not damaged when you plant it. You can plant container roses throughout the year. Don't forget to water it often the first week, depending on the temperature. Watch out for rule nr. 3 though.
  2. First of all you should do some research on forehand, either in books or on the internet to find out what kind of rose you want to buy.
  3. A healthy rose plant should at least contain 3 to 5 healthy looking stems which has to be spread out widely and the size of the plant should not be taller than 1,5 to 2 times the height of the container. It it's a large rose in a small container it sure has been in there too long and the chance is that its roots have bonded with the container so they will be damaged when you take it out.
  4. Don't buy a rose that has only one or two basic stem(s), it will never grow into a nice shape. Or if you're more experienced, you can cut it back to at least 15 to 20 cm so it might grow a new stem. Sometimes it will, sometimes it won't.
  5. The leaves should look healthy and green without any brown blotches, which would point to the disease black spot. Some roses are really sensitive for black spot. There also should not be black or white flies in the foliage.
  6. I always buy roses that are still in their buds and there should be plenty, healthy looking buds on a rose. Depending of course again what kind of rose you want. There are roses with one flower per stem or multiple flowers grouped together.

Mme. Le Gras de St. Germain - a David Austin Rose
Mme. Le Gras de St. Germain - a David Austin Rose | Source

Does a Rose Need to Be Pruned Each Year?

The overall meaning of pruning a rose is that you cut off all stems quite short in order to stimulate the plant to grow new stems and to direct it into a direction you want it to grow. The most common given advice is that you have to trim the whole rose plant each year. Well, you can do that to some roses, but not all of them.

I once visited a beautiful private rose garden in The Netherlands. This couple had taken over the remaining roses of a rosary that had gone out of business. They were able to purchase about 2,5 acres (1ha.) land right behind their own garden and they turned that piece of bare land into the most awesome rose garden I've ever seen, containing 400 different rose plants, bushes, hedges. You name it, it was there. I would've given you a link, but it appears not to be online anymore. It was several years ago when I visited this garden.

I talked to the owner and asked him in what time of year he pruned his roses and he looked at me and said:

"I don't prune my roses, I just cut off branches where I don't want them. The way people are told to cut off their roses short each year might be right if you have a garden the size of a postage, but such a garden is hardly the right place to grow roses like they should grow. You know, by cutting off all the branches, they cut off most of the flowers each year and the plant has to work so hard to grow back again, it will wear itself out in a few years.

However when you have to cut back a rose, because it's growing out of proportion, the best time to do that is spring, when there's no chance on frost anymore. It doesn't matter if the rose is already sprouting. Cutting a branch short in wintertime, before the frost has gone, big chance that branch will freeze to death and will not flower at all anymore."

I went back home and thought about what he had told me and I couldn't but admit that this man was right. Cutting off too many big branches will result in less beautiful roses and will weaken the rose in the end. Nevertheless it doesn't mean you don't have to do anything at all because different types of roses need different ways to trim or prune them.

You'll Need a Pruning Shear

Master Craft 8-Inch Ratcheting Pruning Shear
Master Craft 8-Inch Ratcheting Pruning Shear | Source

What Kind of Trimming Shear Can I Use Best?

I have (had) a lot of roses in my garden and it almost became a burden to trim and prune them each year, because the small shears were often too small and the normal loppers were often too big to cut that oversized twig in an easy way. Many times I had to squeeze hard which caused muscle strain in my hands.

Pruning my roses and other bushes became a really easy and joyful job when I found the Master Craft 8-inch Ratcheting Pruning Shears in one of our local warehouses. Never again would I suffer from aching hand muscles after pruning the roses and bushes in our farmhouse garden.

With these ratcheting shears, pruning has become very easy, because it cuts through the thicker twigs in no time without having to use much strength, because it's cutting it in parts, one cut at the time. You have to get used to using this tool, it's not working like the ones you might be familiar with.

When you start cutting you'll notice it will only cut a small part. Then you have to open it a bit until you hear a 'click' (you can feel it too), then squeeze again, open it till 'click' and squeeze again. These shears increase the cutting power up to 300 percent.

You don't have to open it all the way each time, just far enough till you hear (or feel) that one click and bit by bit it cuts through this thicker twig or branch without you having to put in too much power yourself.

Very easy, very enjoyable and a must have for every gardener. I really can speak from my own experience and therefore I recommend it strongly. It will make your pruning time even a more fun time.

If You Have the Space Then Let Your Roses Grow

This Rose Is Expanding Her Territory
This Rose Is Expanding Her Territory | Source

You'll Need Garden Gloves

Different Gloves for Different Garden Jobs

Most of the time I like garden gloves that let me feel what I'm doing.

However, when handling roses you really need some thicker gloves where the thorns won't hurt you the moment you touch them and the stems of some roses are just filled with thorns. Atlas Gloves are certainly suitable for working with roses. I use them all the time.

I don't trim all roses each year
I don't trim all roses each year | Source

How Do You Trim Roses and When Do You Trim Roses

Trimming a rose is like giving it a haircut once in a while. Well it depends on what kind of rose it is. I don't trim the rambler roses, unless they grow out of proportion.

I trim my roses all summer long, for instance when a branche has bloomed out, I trim it back at least one third or even half, just above a healthy leave that points outwards. Make sure you cut it the right way, because then the rose will grow a new flower carying branche.

Don't be afraid to cut off a branche of a rose, as long as you don't cut off too many at the same time and don't cut them off too short.

Deadheading Roses?

What Is the Best Way to Remove the Deadhead Roses?

Deadheading Roses means: you take out the dead flowers during the blooming time of the rose.

However...don't just take off the flower, because then it won't grow a new one.

Take off the flower a bit lower.

Look for the first or second healthy leave below the flower which is pointing outwards and cut it off just above that leave. This will stimulate the rose to grow a new flower carrying branch.

Mind you, that will only succeed with roses that will flower all summer. There are some old roses which will flower only once a year.

The Right Way to Cut a Rose
The Right Way to Cut a Rose | Source

Rosa Gallica Complicata

The Rose 'Rosa Gallica Complicata' is one of the most beautiful single petal roses I know. It's an old rose and its origin is unknown, but surely before the 19th century. This rose is a Gallica hybrid with a lot of fragrance, blooming for about 6 weeks in early Summer. It can grow into a rather big bush which you can just cut back when it's getting too large. The Complicata is a very strong rose.

Rosa GallicaComplicata
Rosa GallicaComplicata | Source

Rosa Dainty Bess

The rose Rosa Dainty Bess is a beautiful Hybrid Tea rose blooms in clusters (up to 7) of soft pink colored single petal flowers. Bred by Archer and introduced in 1925. It's a lovely rose bush that feels at her place in the front of the border.

Rose Dainty Bess
Rose Dainty Bess | Source

Rosa Souvenir de Saint Anne

The rose Rosa Souvenir de Saint Anne is a repeat-flowering rose with a strong fragance and lovely blush pink flowers. It's a recurrent and vigorous David Austin rose. She doesn't need much trimming.

Rose Souvenir de St. Anne
Rose Souvenir de St. Anne | Source

Rosa Albertine

The Rose Rosa Albertine is a vigorous growing rambler rose with the most beautiful half open copper-pink flowers of which the buds start in a rather reddish salmon color. Make sure this rose gets the room to grow because she can climb as high as 15 feet. Very suitable for covering walls, fences or other structures. She's a joy to look at but needs trimming each year or she will grow very wild.

Rose Albertine
Rose Albertine | Source

Rosa F.J. Grootendorst

The Rosa Rugose Hybrid F.J. Grootendorst is a beautiful park rose. Introduced in 1918. Blooming from June to October. Growing in beautiful shrubs, height about 1,5 - 2 meters. They don't need much trimming.

Rose F.J. Grootendorst
Rose F.J. Grootendorst | Source
Roses in my garden
Roses in my garden | Source

Roses Won't Last Forever

Back in 2011 we had a strange winter in the Netherlands. It stayed too warm until half of January which caused the roses to sprout too early in the season. Then in one night the temperature dropped from +7 to -18C and that was the deathblow to many of my beautiful roses.

As you've maybe read above or heard in one of the videos, that cutting off too many branches at once, could be deadly for the rose, well I didn't cut them off, but nature froze them to death, which has the same result. A lot of the roses fought to stay alive and produced new stems from their roots, but these were very weak stems which would break off easily in a bit of wind (as many did). A lot of roses had no power left to overcome this devastating pruning and also their tiny new sprouts died after a while.

What grieved me most is that my beautiful Mme Le Gras St. Germain who was living in the big Apple tree died too, leaving behind a big crown of black rose branches. It's growing again from the ground up, but it will take years and years before she will look beautiful again.

Strange enough some roses seemed to have had no stress at all, mostly the old fashioned single petal roses, but still.....if you once counted over 200 different roses in your garden and there are about a dozen left it's a sad case.

Mme. Le Gras de St. Germain - growing into an old apple tree
Mme. Le Gras de St. Germain - growing into an old apple tree | Source

© 2013 Titia Geertman

Do you like Roses too?

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    • LauraHofman profile image

      Laura Hofman 

      5 years ago from Naperville, IL

      Lovely photos and lens! I can't wait to get back into the garden after a long winter. Roses are my favorite flowers.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      beautiful flowers..

    • BobZau profile image

      Bob Zau 

      5 years ago

      Nice pictures. I love the smell of roses and with all the varieties available. There mus be a type that even I can grow.

    • GardenIdeasHub LM profile image

      GardenIdeasHub LM 

      5 years ago

      I really enjoyed your lens about trimming roses in the spring and I did pick up some good tips.

    • Muebles de host profile image

      Muebles de host 

      5 years ago

      very nice lens. thank you

    • toronto-wedding profile image


      5 years ago

      nice information about gardening.Thanks

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Beautiful photos and great info. Thank you.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      5 years ago from Canada

      It is so nice to see your roses so gloriously displayed. Your effort and hard work are beginning to pay off. I'm doing a little happy dance for you. Have a wonderful is right around the corner now.

    • Titia profile imageAUTHOR

      Titia Geertman 

      5 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

      @chezchazz: LOL Chazz, I'm sure you can come up with a different angle of pruning roses. So many gardeners, so many ways to prune roses. I do as little as I can. But I have to start all over, practically all roses you see in the photos are either dead or trying to survive by sending up a few inferior stems.

    • chezchazz profile image


      5 years ago from New York

      WOW! Can't believe I hadn't seen this lens before. Blessed and featured on Still Wing-ing it on Squidoo and will shortly be added to My Victorian Garden in Summer: Growing Heirloom Roses lens - no point in my writing a lens about rose pruning - you've got it covered!

    • stylishimo1 profile image


      5 years ago

      Beautiful roses, it's sad that some of yours died, the one growing over the apple tree looked so beautiful. I hope your rose garden flourishes again soon :)

    • LeslieMirror profile image


      5 years ago

      Roses look extremelly gorgeous. I guess that it the most perfect present ever!

    • Pmona LM profile image

      Pmona LM 

      5 years ago

      Roses are such beautiful flowers, with such an amazing fragrance. I've enjoyed looking at your photos.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Beautiful Roses! Thanks for the information it is really helpful.

    • SandraWilson LM profile image

      SandraWilson LM 

      5 years ago

      Beautiful pictures. I'm so sorry you lost so many roses. Terrible! Thank you for the helpful lens.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Thank you for an informative and beautiful lens. Worth the read.

    • choosehappy profile image


      5 years ago from US

      So lovely--it really was like strolling through the garden with you. Beautiful photos. #blessed

    • lbrummer profile image

      Loraine Brummer 

      5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      I swear I could smell the roses as I enjoyed this article. I appreciate all the great tips also. Now, for Spring to come so I can go trim my roses correctly once.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      My grandmother always had roses...and they always had her "working" so hard, I was afraid to try them. This last spring, Red planted some for me and from your pictures and descriptions I have a much better idea of how to trim them. Thank you!

    • tonybonura profile image

      Tony Bonura 

      5 years ago from Tickfaw, Louisiana

      Hi Tatia,

      I really enjoyed this very interesting and informative lens. I used to grow roses when I was in Houston and loved everything that went along with it. I keep thinking that I'll start growing them again, but so far have not gotten around to doing it.


    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I absolutely LOVE roses and I wish I could grow them.. maybe I'll try :)

    • Titia profile imageAUTHOR

      Titia Geertman 

      5 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

      @Spikey64: Hi spikey, don't trim roses you've just planted, they need their rest to settle and grow first. Just lead the branches where you want them.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I have just planted some climbing roses in my backyard and this lens has come in useful teaching me how to prune them.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      This lens is a great help

    • WindyWintersHubs profile image


      5 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      Hello. Congrats on your Purple Star! I learned a lot about trimming roses. I didn't realize there are different ways to trim the varieties of roses. Right now, we only have miniature potted roses on our patio. Sorry, you lost many of your beautiful roses. Blessed!

    • KamalaEmbroidery profile image


      5 years ago

      Thanks for this lens. I have a rose I inherited. It blooms all winter and I was wondering how to trim it. I live in Northern California, so the winters are mild and it's on my protected patio. Still it's odd, but beautiful.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      simply wow... like it, yes as I do for roses :-)

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      great lens, thanks for the tips

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Quite a lovely and well put together lens - very informative! Blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Nice roses pictures here. I not good trim roses actually.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image


      5 years ago

      Really beautiful and informative article and quite timely. I was looking for exactly this information! Thanks.

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image


      5 years ago

      I always trim my roses. They always come back so full and beautiful. Your photos are stunning! Blessed!

    • Titia profile imageAUTHOR

      Titia Geertman 

      5 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

      @Natural_Skin_Care: You don't have to be brave to plant a rose, you only have to look for the right one for the right spot.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I haven't been brave enough to try growing roses, but I'm bookmarking these tips in case I ever do.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Wow! Amazing lens and as a gardener I am very impressed and will be coming back to learn more because I can grow vegetables but know little about growing flowers. Great job.

    • graphite75 profile image


      5 years ago

      Nice tutorial on trimming roses.

    • Elaine Chen profile image

      Elaine Chen 

      5 years ago

      i like to see all the roses pictures here

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Amazing lens !!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      You know, my close neighbour tells me she is a gardener by trade. However, she plants all the veggies in our shared garden in the wrong places for them, despite me 'advising' (because she should know better than me, being a gardener, right?)......BUT, she does have BEAUTIFUL roses, so she obviously is getting something right. Maybe she read this guide, hehehe!

    • Titia profile imageAUTHOR

      Titia Geertman 

      5 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

      @BeyondRoses: I never prune or trim the rambler roses, only if there branches get too long or grow to places I don't want them, I cut them of after blooming or I will lead them into another way. Ramblers need their space. The only way to grow a rambler in a small garden is to lead her all the way up against the wall of the house or along a fence. There's so much one can do with roses.

    • PinkCattleya profile image


      5 years ago from Doha Qatar

      This is definitely a great guide for trimming roses. Steps, guides, video and the tools for trimming roses, everything can be found here.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Very nice informative lens, you are maintaining this very well :)

      Thanks for the information....

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Your photos, and stories on trimming roses are lovely. I know how you feel saddened in loosing some of your beloved roses. I get a bit of tears when I look at old photos of the roses I use to have. I loved them, but even with the few I had, it was an early morn routine of pruning, and the brown spot is a real issue in the climate of my area. I love the rambler rose, and my Mom had one like that in her garden, and I don't recall her spraying, pruning, or anything. Flowers just flourished for her. I've often thought of how roses can require so much tending, and yet I've seen ramblers that flourish when even abandoned. You've reminded me of how sweet that rose, and that time was. One of my childhood pets was laid to rest beneath the rambler rose.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Informative lens! Thanks for sharing it with us.

    • Kumar P S profile image

      Kumar P S 

      5 years ago

      Great lens ! Useful and informative. Thanks for sharing.

    • rattie lm profile image

      rattie lm 

      5 years ago

      Lovely lens. Roses don't seem to like me much. Despite that they do survive in my garden.

    • Titia profile imageAUTHOR

      Titia Geertman 

      5 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

      @flycatcherrr: Yes, I like the Grootendorst too. Good luck and don't prune too much at the same time.

    • Titia profile imageAUTHOR

      Titia Geertman 

      5 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

      @Ramkitten2000: Some roses do and some don't or will grow into real forests, depending on what kind of rose it is. Ramblers tend to grow wild ands some, like the one in the apple tree could cover a whole house if you let it go its own way.

    • Titia profile imageAUTHOR

      Titia Geertman 

      5 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

      @bossypants: Somehow those red ones touched my heart too, both roses are not completely dead yet, so I hope they will bloom again in due time.

    • Titia profile imageAUTHOR

      Titia Geertman 

      5 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

      @PromptWriter: I'm a very lazy gardener myself and at one point the roses had grown so wild, that I even couldn't get all the way to the back of the garden due to a forest of thorned branches halfway. I like to see roses being beautiful on their own too, even if it means they die because they're not fit for the heavy clay we have here. I never spray them either for bugs or anything.

    • TheCandle LM profile image

      TheCandle LM 

      5 years ago

      Beautiful. Thanks for the rose pruning tips. I'll be putting them to use this Spring. Hope your rose garden comes back to it's former glory, even if you have to plant new roses. Quite lovely.

    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 

      5 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      I have terrible luck with roses. Mostly because I am a lazy gardener and want roses to be beautiful all on their own. ;)

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I am sorry to see Mme. Le Gras St. Germain die. It looks so beautiful on the old apple tree. Congrats on the Imminent inclusion.

    • Dressage Husband profile image

      Stephen J Parkin 

      5 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      Roses are beautiful plants to grow and well looked after can give many lifetimes of flowering beauty. Well done on this informative lens and a well deserved Purple Star!

    • KimGiancaterino profile image


      5 years ago

      This is lovely! We have two established arches with climbing roses, and I'm babying along a new one with Cecile Brunner roses I found on eBay. The grower makes clippings from his own plant across the country in Florida. We expect it to bloom in a few months for the first time. Roses are such a rewarding hobby.

    • shellys-space profile image

      Shelly Sellers 

      5 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      I have 4 rose types and love, love them all! I think my favorite is the Tea Rose, which is so pretty! I do trim them all after they bloom and before Winter sets in!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I like reading about when it is the best time to trim roses because I have a few in my little flower and herb garden. They are so beautiful in the summer months.

    • Titia profile imageAUTHOR

      Titia Geertman 

      5 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

      @maryseena: No, the white climbing rose in the tree died above ground also. But it's forming new branches from the root. It will take years though before it will cover the whole tree again.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 

      5 years ago from USA

      It took me awhile to learn about trimming roses and when to do it. I appreciate this and the videos.

    • maryseena profile image


      5 years ago

      Hope you still have the white climbing rose. I cannot think of anything more romantic than living in a house with a garden perfumed by beautiful roses, especially the climbing varieties. I have to make do with bougainvilleas instead; they have pretty colors, but sadly, no fragrance. I just made my very first lens on them.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I always enjoy your lenses. You do such a wonderful job!

    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 

      5 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      Really well-written lens with lots of good tips. Thanks so much.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Oh! I'm so sorry to hear of the loss of your roses to the unseasonable winter! The apple tree rose was a beauty -- like nothing I've ever seen. All your photographs are so lovely. The 2 photos of the red roses, rambling, I believe, are exquisite. I'm not sure why, precisely, but they touched my heart. What an enjoyable lens!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Beautifully presented in every possible way and now I understand that pruning roses is to stimulate growth when done correctly. Congratulations on home page honors and that pretty purple star...very well deserved!

    • Expat Mamasita profile image

      Expat Mamasita 

      5 years ago from Thailand

      I love roses, they always remind me of home in England.

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 

      5 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      Wow, a lot of great information. I used to have a whole hedge of roses along the driveway at a previous home. They were so beautiful but definitely needed some knowledgeable trimming -- which I never did. But they kept blooming nonetheless ... probably just not as much as they would have had I kept up on them.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      This lens has reminded me of another plant I want for my garden. Not sure what it's called specifically but it's a rose bush that produces many small blooms and covers a large area. Going to go look it up now! My grandmother had one and it was beautiful :)

      So sorry to learn about all of your devastated plants :(

    • flycatcherrr profile image


      5 years ago

      I love the Grootendorst in your intro photo - that's one of my favourite roses. Possibly in part because it is one of the few that does well in my cold climate and windy hilltop location. :) I need all the pruning advice I can get, so thank you for this!


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