Rose pruning in general

The pruning of rose bushes sometimes can be confusing, especially when you start thinking about for example old garden roses, hybrid teas, shrub roses or even English roses. This confusion may leads to doubt and bad pruning or even no pruning at all!

The type of rose and the season of the year it blooms influence the most the type and amount of pruning. We can say that general pruning rules can apply to all roses, but there are some differences. For example,  Hybrid teas require the most drastic pruning for loom and its health.

Pruning should also be perceived as a gardener’s basic tool to accomplish several tasks – removing damaged or diseased or even dead wood; increasing air circulation (it’s a very important factor); keeping the bush from becoming a confused mass and form the plant.

Most of the pruning should be done in the spring. Some growers suggest waiting to forsythias start to bloom. It’s a good indication to start the pruning season.



Basic pruning fundamentals that apply to all roses:

  1. Remember to always use clean and sharp equipment. I can’t stress that enough!
  2. Always try to cut at a 45-degree angle about 0.25 inch above an outward-facing bud. The cut should slope away from the bud.
  3. Try to always entirely remove all dead/dying canes. Usually, these canes are shriveled, dark brown, or even black.
  4. If cane borers are a problem, I suggest sealing the ends of the cuts to prevent the entry of cane borers.
  5. Good tip – remove all weak and thin canes that are smaller than a pencil in diameter.

Climbing and rambling roses

Remember that ramblers and climbers sometimes may need a season or even two in the garden before pruning will be necessary. In many cases, pruning is narrowed to removing winter-damaged wood. Pruning is similar for both classes. The difference is only in the timing.

  • Ramblers are once-blooming, they are pruned right after flowering in early summer.
  • Climbers are repeat bloomers, they are pruned in early spring.

Reducing the side shoots or laterals to 2-6 inches encourages flower production – more blooming for us.

If we train canes to grow more horizontally, it stimulates the growth of bloom producing side shoots.

Some improvements can be made any time between late autumn and late winter. It’ much easier when the rose is not in leaf, and the rose should respond better, and grow back vigorously soon.

Remember – climbing roses always need some kind of support: a trellis or the horizontal twines to which the shoots can be tied.

Pruning young roses

  • Set the lowest wire 15-18 in. above the ground and space twines 1 ft. apart,
  • If training roses up arches try to gently twist the main shoots around, keeping them as horizontal as possible,
  • Always try to remove dead, damaged or diseased wood,

Routine pruning of climbing roses

  • If needed – remove dead, diseased or dying parts
  • If any new shoots need support use twines,
  • You should leave a few main shoots. However, side shoots should be shortened to a length of 10-15 in.

pruning older bushes

  • As always – remove all dead, diseased or dying woods 🙂
  • Cut off some old branches,
  • Shorten side shoots to stimulate branching,
  • You can use some rose fertilizer


Hybrid Tea roses (also applies to Floribunda)

Roses like Hybrid Tea or Floribunda grow the best flowers on new or current season’s wood. To ensure this type of wood, these roses are pruned very hard in early spring. This usually means removing about one-half to two-thirds of the plant’s height and reducing the number of canes. Both types are repeat-flowering. Tea roses tend to have only one flower per stem and tend to bloom all summer, even to late autumn. Floribundas have many flowers per stem and tend to repeat-flower continuously from summer to late autumn.

Suggested pruning sequence:

  • Remove all dead canes, cut them off where the discoloration begins,
  • Remove all small and weak canes. Weaker shoots you can shorten back to 2-4in from the base
  • Leave 3-6 healthy and thick canes. If possible try to space them evenly around the plant. Remaining shoots cut down to around 1ft.

When to prune Hybrid Tea roses

Roses can be pruned during late winter or spring (depending on the climate zone). Always wait until the danger of frost is gone to prune your Hybrid roses. Just about when growth is just about to start.

Ground cover roses

Repeat-flowering shrub roses bear flowers on mature stems that are not old and woody. Severe pruning of these roses would result in reduced flower production. In their first two or three seasons in the garden, shrub roses can be left unpruned. Wait to see what shape develops and then try to prune so that the shape is maintained. Many modern shrub roses are pruned by a method called the “one-third” method. Suggested pruning sequence:

Suggested pruning sequence:

  • In the spring, remove one-third of the very oldest canes. This helps keep the plant from becoming an overgrown thicket of poor-flowering canes.
  • Replace these canes by identifying about one-third of the very youngest canes that grew the previous season.
  • Remove the remaining canes.

The result of this one-third method is that you are continually renewing the rose while at the same time keeping enough mature wood to ensure a good supply of flower-producing wood.

When to prune Ground Cover roses

Roses can be pruned during late winter when growth is just resuming, usually mid-February in the south, but in northern and colder areas wait until March.


In the next post, I will talk about pruning other types of roses.