Don’t be afraid to prune roses! Pruning stimulates growth and results in more blooms and a healthier plant overall. The basic principles of rose pruning are the same, regardless of the rose type, but the timing of pruning, amount to remove, and objectives are slightly different, depending on the type. Here’s how to prune roses.
Hand pruners (bypass pruners are best), pruning saw, loppers, gloves, watering can, Miracle-Gro® Water Soluble Rose Plant Food.
Whether you’re pruning roses to reduce the size, deadheading spent blooms, pruning to shape the shrub, or pruning for airflow, you’ll always cut the same way. Using sharp hand pruners, loppers, or a pruning saw (for large branches), cut the branch at back to an outward-facing bud. Make the cut at a 45-degree angle about ¼ inch above the bud, slanting away from the bud. An angled cut allows water to run off, rather than collecting in the cut end of the stem, which can encourage the spread of disease.
Unless you’re cutting a branch down to the ground, cut back to a leaf with five leaflets. The entire experience will be more comfortable if you wear long sleeves and leather or rubber-coated gloves while pruning. You can also wear rose gloves, which extend to the elbow.
A good rule of thumb is to wait until the forsythias are blooming (in very early spring) to prune roses to reduce size, encourage spring growth, and rejuvenate the shrub. Prune to remove dead or diseased growth at any time, though it is best to avoid major pruning from late summer through early winter, as the shrubs will be starting to go dormant. Deadhead as the flowers fade to keep shrubs blooming longer.
Climbing roses are a special group, and are often pruned wrong. While “repeat blooming“ roses should be pruned in very early spring, old-fashioned and heirloom climbing roses usually bloom on old growth, and should be pruned after they bloom. For all climbing roses, remove crossing or rubbing branches and clean up the long branches. Cut side shoots back to 2-3 inches.
Hybrid tea roses and shrub roses respond especially well to this type of pruning. Cut each branch back to an outward-facing bud. Roses can be cut back hard, but don’t remove more than one-third to one-half of the overall growth. Hybrid tea roses should have an open vase shape after they’ve been pruned. Shrub roses will be uniform, but reduced in size.
Some shrubs benefit from “renewal pruning.“ This is the practice of removing one-third of the plant’s growth each year, starting with the oldest growth in the first year. Cut back the oldest branches to the ground, leaving two-thirds of the branches in place. New growth will emerge and bloom profusely. During the following spring, remove another one-third of the oldest growth, evenly, from throughout the shrub.