It’s not difficult to learn how to prune roses correctly, and they will really benefit from it. You may be a little scared at first, but follow our guide and you’ll soon see how easy it is, and a super display of blooms will show you just how much good it does the plant.
Why Prune Roses?
One of the main reasons to prune roses is to encourage them to flower more. By pruning the plant, you remove any old, dead wood, whilst at the same time encouraging new growth. Pruning enables you to shape the plant, ensuring you keep it looking its best. Pruning your roses will improve their health and lengthen their lifespan.
Shrub roses are usually larger than bush roses and are often thornier too. They differ from shrub roses in that they generally flower on older wood, so they need a slightly different approach to pruning.
Prune from late winter to mid spring, when growth has resumed. Because they flower on older wood, you need to maintain a balance between old growth and new. Cut away any branches that are dead or diseased, and make sure no branches are crossing or rubbing against each other. Make sure there is space in the centre of the plant for air to circulate, removing one or two older branches from the middle if necessary.
You may find your shrub rose becomes a bit leggy, in which case you might want to cut one or two of the main stems right down to near ground level. This will encourage new growth to come up from the base of the plant.
Unless you intend to keep the hips, deadhead the roses in the summer as they fade.
This group includes Floribunda and Hybrid Tea Roses. These roses should be pruned in late winter to mid spring, once growth has resumed.
Floribunda roses have clusters of smaller flowers, while hybrid tea roses have large single flowers. The only difference in pruning is that on floribundas the stems are left longer with more buds on so that they can form those masses of clustered blooms that they are known for.
You need to keep the shape of a bush rose nice and tidy when pruning. First remove any dead, damaged or diseased wood, then reduce the growth by about half. Hybrid teas can be taken down to about 10-15cm from the base, while floribundas should be pruned to about 25-30cm from the base. Sometimes you might want to take some older central stems right down to the base to reduce crowding and open up the bush a bit.
Patio roses should be treated in the same way as floribundas, but on a smaller scale.
If you’re not sure whether your rose is a climbing or rambling rose, you can usually tell by the flowering time. Climbers will normally flower repeatedly through the summer and into autumn, while ramblers will usually just flowers once, around June.
Prune climbing roses in the autumn, after the flowers have gone over. It is easier to see what you are doing if you wait until the leaves have dropped. As always, remove any dead, diseased or damaged wood first.
Tie any new shoots into place. If the plant is becoming congested, remove old branches to stimulate new growth and encourage more flowers. Prune back side branches from the main framework, taking them back by about two thirds of their length – to two or three leaf buds.
If you are renovating an old climber, cut back old growth to the ground, leaving a maximum of six vigorous, young stems that can be tied to supports and form your new framework. Encourage branching on your remaining stems by pruning back the tips by one third to one half.
Ramblers should be pruned in late summer, after their flowers and hips have finished their lovely show. You can thin out excessive growth by removing one in three of the older stems.
Prune side branches that have flowered, taking them back about two thirds, leaving two or three leaf buds.
If you are trying to grow a rambler in a small space, prune out stems that have already flowered and tie new shoots in to take their place instead.
Making the Cut
Make sure you invest in a good pair of secateurs to prune your roses with, and keep them in good, sharp condition.
When making a cut, make it so that it slopes, facing away just above an outward-facing bud. The slope stops rain from running into the bud and causing it to rot.