If you have them in your garden, chances are, you need to learn how to prune roses. Why prune? Here’s the thing… most roses are a lot tougher than we give them credit for. In fact, it can be pretty hard to kill a rose! But just because they can survive through a lot of neglect, doesn’t mean they will be healthy, or beautiful. Cutting back roses helps the plant in three ways…
- It shapes the plant, preventing it from becoming gangly and awkward.
- It allows the plant to concentrate on growing flowers instead of cane, producing more, and larger, blooms.
- It allows circulation of air within the plant, and removal of old and dead canes keeps disease from setting in and ruining your blooms.
How to Prune Roses, and When!
First of all, when pruning your roses, make sure you have a decent pair of sharp pruning shears or loppers. Using old or dull shears can encourage diseases in your rose canes. If it’s time for new pruners, we like the ones at ‘Gardeners Supply‘. Photo of how to prune climbing roses by ‘HGTV‘.
Want to get started cutting back roses? It’s pretty easy! Here is a quick primer on how to prune roses. Photo by ‘BHG‘.
When to Prune Roses?
Prune roses about a month before your last frost, before many new leaves emerge. In mild climates this is likely January, the colder your climate the later you prune, all the way up to March. If your rose is breaking dormancy and starting to put out lots of new leaves, you’ve waited too long, but it’s not too late to do a light pruning of dead canes, and to lightly shape the plant. (It’s always ok to prune out dead, dying or diseased wood, no matter where you are in the season.)
Tools for Pruning Roses?
Use a sharp pair of pruning shears, and make sure they are clean so they don’t pass on disease from other plants. You can always wipe your tools with a bleach solution after pruning to keep them disease free. Allow to dry thoroughly before using. Ratchet pruners are great for those who find it tough to get through those thicker canes.
How Do You Prune Roses?
So the big question is, what to prune? First, where do you make the cuts?
Always cut on a 45 degree angle about 1/4 inch above a swollen leaf node. This diagram shows us how its done…
So now you know where to cut, now what do you cut?
The best choice for most gardeners is to do a moderate pruning. This helps keep the bush healthy, and produces armloads of pretty blooms for you. A light pruning might be done if you were interested in a larger bush, with more, but smaller flowers. A hard pruning, meaning pruning more than half the plant back, is often done for roses meant for show. It puts more energy into the blooms, producing larger, and more spectacular flowers.
How to Do a Moderate Rose Pruning
- Prune out all dead or diseased rose canes back past the damage.
- Cut any interior canes that cross, or are weak growth.
- Cut any suckers off at the base. Suckers are straight shoots that come out of the plant under the graft union. The graft is the large swollen rootstock at the base of the rose plant.
- Remove about one third of last years branch growth on each remaining branch. The illustration below from ‘Sunset Magazine‘ shows you what we mean…
Some people use a sealant on the cuts after pruning, though I have never found that necessary. Remember to always dispose of diseased canes properly and not add them to a compost pile or community yard waste container to prevent spreading the disease.
Throughout the season, lightly prune back dead and dying flowers to promote further blooming, and always cut back and dispose of dead canes or canes that prevent good shape or air circulation of the plant. Photo by ‘HGTV‘.
One more tip? Gloves. Leather gloves. And when you are done, you will be rewarded with healthy, beautiful roses!
Suggested Tools for Pruning Roses
Here again are links for the tools we like for pruning roses.
- Pruning Shears We like the Felco brand for longevity and quality.
- Ratchet Pruning Shears
- Leather Gloves