Guide to Pruning Roses
Probably no aspect of gardening causes as much needless anxiety as pruning – particularly the annual cutting back of roses.
The method of pruning differs slightly for each of the main categories of roses — hybrid teas, floribundas, polyanthas, miniatures, climbers, ramblers and shrub roses — and they undoubtedly perform best when treated appropriately. But most roses flower well after only light pruning, as long as you follow the three basic steps outlined here.
Roses are pruned to maintain a healthy, well-shaped plant and to encourage flowering shoots to develop. Pruning methods vary because cultivated roses don’t all replace old and exhausted stems in quite the same way, nor do they all flower on wood of the same age.
Basic pruning principles apply to all roses whatever their classification as bush, shrub, climbing or rambling types and serve as the starting point for all surgery.
When to Prune Roses
Major pruning is done during the dormant period. Despite the increasing availability of container-grown roses, which can be planted at any time of the year, the main planting season is still from autumn to spring. This is also the time when bare-rooted roses are put in. All newly planted stock should be pruned in late winter or early spring.
Normally it doesn’t matter what time established roses are pruned during the dormant season. Very harsh winter weather may damage those that have been pruned in autumn, so they may need additional trimming in the spring. It’s advantageous to trim and tie in long stems before they are lashed about by autumn gales. In mild areas where new growth starts early, prune sooner rather than later.
Dead-heading during the flowering season is a form of pruning which, with repeat-flowering roses, encourages a second flowering. With those that flower only once, it will save the strength of the plant being put into the development of seed. Don’t deadhead roses which produce showy hips — the display will be lost.
With hybrid teas, cut off spent flowers above a strong outward-facing bud. Later in the season, cut back to the first bud below the flower; at the end of the season simply remove the flower stalk. With floribundas, remove the whole spent flower cluster, cutting back to the first bud. Burn all prunings to prevent the spread of disease.
Correct pruning cuts
Two kinds of cuts are used in pruning. When removing a complete stem, for instance the weaker of two stems that cross, cut close to the base then trim off any stumps.
To shorten a stem, cut to just above an outward-facing growth bud or eye. Choosing such an eye ensures that the centre of the bush won’t be cluttered by criss-crossing stems. Vigorous types such as hybrid teas can be hard pruned — cut almost to the ground — each year. With ramblers and climbers, cut to an eye or bud that will grow in a direction suitable for training along a support.
The three basic steps
There are three pruning steps that apply to all roses, whether established or newly planted. Treat them as routine whenever you are planting or pruning. Many roses will need very little further attention.
- Remove all dead, damaged or diseased stems. Cut back to just above a bud on healthy wood or take out the stem completely, cutting back to a junction with a healthy stem or even the rootstock itself.
- Remove weak or thin stems. These are unlikely to produce flowers, yet they will take strength that the plant could put into other, better growth. Cut back to a join with a healthy strong-growing stem, or to the rootstock
- Take out the least vigorous of stems that cross or rub. Either cut the stem right out or prune back to a growth bud below the point where the two stems cross. With ramblers and climbers, cut out some overcrowding stems and remember that training and tying will be needed to avoid rubbing.
For more on how to prune, click here!