How To: Prune Roses

Pruning back rose bushes is essential for the overall health and appearance of your roses. Don’t be afraid to cut back further than you might think, as it will promote the strongest growth. Light pruning will only result in less vigour and ultimately less chance of flowering. In terms of tools, you will need bypass secateurs (not anvil blades) as their overlapping blades make the cleanest cut. You will also need a good pair of gardening gloves and thick long sleeves to prevent any injuries from the thorns.

How To: Prune Roses

When to Prune Roses

There’s no exact time to prune your roses – it will all depend on the climate and when they start to show new life. Those in the south of the UK may see new growth as early as January, whilst those further north may not see new buds until April. 

You can also do some light pruning throughout the summer in the form of deadheading. This is the act of cutting off wilting heads to promote more blooms and maintain an attractive and full shrub. 

After the first hard frost of the year, it is also worth cutting back long, thin stems to prevent them from snapping during winter. Try to prevent your bush from being too top-heavy as this will cause issues during strong winter winds.

Basic Pruning Steps

  • Remove all remaining leaves from the shrub. This allows you to see the structure and all the canes (stems). Removing all the leaves also removes any diseases or pests that may have been hiding over winter.
  • Start by removing dead wood. Dead canes are brown throughout, whereas living is green. Cut dead wood back to the base.
  • Open up the centre. Remove any crossing canes which are rubbing as this will cause damage and potential disease. Having an upward-facing structure is the goal here. 
  • Remove thin stems. The general rule of thumb is to cut back any stems that are thinner than a pencil.
  • Prune the remaining canes. Prune by cutting ¼” to ½” above an outward-facing bud eye. And make sure cuts are at a 45-degree angle, sloping away from the bud to allow water to run off.
  • Clear the area. After pruning, make sure to tidy up the area surrounding the shrub as pests and diseases could be present.
  • Lastly, feed your roses. Roses have quite the appetite, so will need additional nutrition from long-lasting fertilisers.
How To: Prune Roses

Climber & Rambling Roses

Rose varieties come in many forms. If your rose has long, arching stems, is very tall or needs some support to stay upright it may be a climber or a rambler. If there is only one thick old stem going all the way down to ground level, be careful, as it may not come back if cut back hard. Shorten it by a third to half at most.

For roses with multiple stems, aim to take out 1 or 2 of the oldest stems; the ones that are grey with flaky bark.

If the response next season is for the rose to grow lots of strong but non-flowering shoots, it is most likely to be a rambler rose. Roses that respond with less vigorous flowering growth is most likely a climbing variety.

Patio & Miniature Roses

Smaller rose shrubs are easier to identify, whereas larger rose varieties can be a number of species. If in doubt about what you have simply take out 1 or 2 stems close to ground level and then shorten the remaining stems by a third to half.

If, next season you see lots of strong growth that flowers well the chances are it is a floribunda or hybrid tea variety. Otherwise, it’s more likely that it is a shrub rose including a patio or miniature rose variety.

Once you have identified the type of rose you have, it becomes much easier to prune and look after your shrub. If you are unsure about how to prune and look after the roses in your garden, simply speak to our friendly staff at Holt Garden Centre. We also sell a variety of roses and will be happy to recommend the best species for your garden.

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