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Pruning Rose Bushes - How and When to Prune Roses

It is not going to suprise anyone if I said, "How and When to Prune Rose Bushes?" is one of the popular searched phrases on google. To me it is not complicated, just a couple of things to remember, firstly, are you looking to prune a Rose Bush, then stay here. If you are looking to know, How and When to Prune a Rambling Rose? or How and When to Prune a Climbing Rose?, then please follow, as they are pruned slightly different.

There are so many experts on the subject, and of course when you get many experts you get many opinions! We show you how to prune Roses. Pruning roses is so simple, other than the fact that most rose bushes have thorns!

Why do Roses Bushes Actually need Pruning?

Firstly, lets answer the question Why do roses actually need pruning?

Bush roses flower best on new shoots made in the early spring and summer. The flowers are larger, more prolific and actually last longer when there is a good framework of new shoots on the plant.

As well as the healthy flowers this pruning will provide, you will also get nice new healthy rose foliage clothing the plant from more or less ground level up to the top.

Another reason is, that if you do not prune your rose bush, you will end up with a tall tangle of old stems - some of which will be dead and which are devoid of foliage lower down - so you end up with a rose bush which is many feet tall with just a few weal flowers on the top. Nothing but bare prickly stems lower down. It stands to reason, that if the flowers are further away from the root system (Food supply) then they will receive less food to produce strong healthy blooms.

Once a rose bush flowers for a few years on old un-pruned bushes, the flowered stems become exhausted and eventually dies as new shoots sprout from lower down the stem. Old flowered shoots die.

Most of us will have seen rose bushes that fall into the latter category. Some rose bushes will grow many feet in a year even if pruned. Queen Elizabeth is a typical example.

When to Prune Rose Bushes?

Rose Pruning Diagram

This is the second thing to remember, Rose Bushes require pruning twice a year, once in the autumn and once again in the spring, but do not prune a young rose bush, wait a couple of seasons until they have matured and established themselves.

Image shows Autumn and Spring pruning! The rose bushes first pruning, after it is established, should be in the autumn and then again in the spring. You can do this every year or every other year from this point on.

The first pruning period is in the late autumn, just when growth has stopped and the second pruning period is in the early spring (March) - just before the new growth starts.

If you cut back your rose bush quite hard in early spring, this will force it to send out new shoots (Branches). For every old branch you prune, there will be at least two new ones to grow and take its place. More shoots = more flowers.

How to Prune Your Roses in the Autumn.

The first period is in late autumn when growth has stopped. Simply cut back your rose bush stems by about a third or half. This is simply to stop the rose from rocking about in the winter winds. In strong winds, rose bushes can be damaged at the root stock area - sometimes meaning that the bush breaks off, but usually meaning that the rose will send up suckers in the following year from the damaged root area. (Not many people know that!). In the spring, it is a good idea to check the bases of your roses, to make sure that there is no damage, and also to heel them in a little if the rootstock has carved a gap around itself with winter wind rock.

Whenever you are pruning, always ensure your secateurs are clean, sharp and always Sterilize between plants, to avoid cross contamination. Ensure you make a clean cut and try to angle away from the elements, you do not want to make a landing pad for the rain, so try and make an angled cut leaving the long to the top and short to the bottom.

Always look for crossing stems, they will rub in the wind and remove the protective bark coating, this will leave the rose exposed to disease, so always remove one of the crossing branches first. You can either completely remove a stem, cut through its base where it joins another stem or the main branch or just the crossing branch section. If you are cutting back a stem without removing it, cut just above an outward facing bud. This ensures that new growth starts from the end of the old stem.

"Die back" is another thing to look out for, the branch and shoots will turn a brown and black colour, usually from a previous pruning cut, simply trace back down to the good green growth and make your cut about 5mm away from brown and black colouration, removing all the bad stem.

Look at the shape of the bush, by removing stems and branches strategically you can shape your bush, you want to encourage as much growth as possible, without them crossing, to produce more flowers.

How to Prune Your Roses in the Spring.

Rose Pruning Diagram from Heirloom Roses The main period for pruning roses is in the early spring (March) - just before the new growth starts.

With Hybrid Tea roses - The ones that normally have the larger flowers, just one or two to a stem - prune the rose bush down to within 6 - 8in from the rose union. All stems. It would be better if you cut just above a dormant bud, as shown in the image from Heirloom Roses USA. However, if you are cutting into old neglected wood, then it will be more or less impossible to tell where the buds are, so just cut to within 6 - 8 inches. Job done. Nothing more complicated than that. It does not matter in the least if you cut just above an outward facing or inward facing bud. Below the pruning cut, several new shoots will develop - inward and outward facing. It has long since been proven that there is no need for any 'special' care when pruning roses. When I first wrote this in a television magazine, I was berated by all the rose purists. A few years later, even the Royal National Rose Society was in agreement.

Old neglected rose bushes can be rejuvenated by this hard pruning. You can cut right back into old gnarled stems and they will still sent out new growths.

With Floribunda or multiflora type rose bushes, the pruning cuts should/can be less severe - at around 8-10in from the base.

Pruning Protection

This is common sense really, when you prune any plant, bush or tree, there is a transfer of sap from your plant to your pruning shears or secateurs then you prune a different plant and the sap is transfered. What if the first plant was diseased? You would be protentially infecting all the plants you are pruning. Always, between plants, disinfect your pruning shears or secateurs to stop the transfer of any protential diseases. Roses suffer from a few diseases like Black Spot, Powdery Mildew, Stem Canker & Dieback, Rust, Botrytis Blight, Rose Rosette Disease and Rose Mosaic.

There are many methods, one of the easiest methods is a disinfectant spray and a soft cloth, just spray and wipe between plants.

Pruning protect also applys to us, roses have thornes, something we are all aware of, so please use a decent pair of gloves and long sleaves when pruning roses.

How and When to Prune a Climbing Rose?

The white mark show the pruning cuts that should be made in summer on this climbing rose.

Before you attempt to prune your climbing rose, you have to be certain that it is a climbing rose and not a rambling rose type! A quick, more or less fail-proof test, is to ensure that your climbing rose has its leaves in groups of five leaflets.

 Once you establish that you have Climbing Rose and not a Rambler, then follow the pruning advice below.

For the first two or three years after planting, your new climbing rose will not require any pruning. During this initial period, your climbing roses should send up a few long stems, which can be trained into a basic framework for your future climbing rose's shape.

How and When to Prune a Rambling Rose?

Basal growth after a hard pruning cut

Ideally, you will be reading this because you have just bought a Rambling Rose and wish to know how to prune it. In reality, you probably have a very overgrown Rambling Rose that needs to be pruned. We will deal with the subject of pruning overgrown rambling roses first!

It might seem an impossible task in hand, and if very overgrown or neglected, will need a bit of willpower (and sturdy gloves).

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