In this handy How To: Prune A Rose guide, we cover the basics of pruning roses, including why it is important and how to prune roses of different types.
What is pruning? #
Pruning refers to cutting back a rose, removing dead wood as well as old blooms or hips, and getting it into the shape that you want. It encourages growth and prevents disease, keeping your rose beautiful and healthy. This only needs to be done twice a year, once lightly in late autumn and then more intensively in early spring.
What is the difference between pruning and deadheading? #
Deadheading a rose means just removing the flowers that have died, and is an ongoing job through the season. Pruning is a more intensive job, but only needs doing twice a year – lightly at the end of the season once all the flowers have died, and once more intensively in spring. It involves not only removing the dead flowers, but also stems and leaves. For more information on how to deadhead, see our deadheading guide.
Why do I need to prune my rose? #
Pruning your rose not only keeps it looking in great condition, it keeps it healthy too. By removing all the dead blooms, leaves, and hips in late autumn there will be little opportunity for diseases and pests to take hold – black spot in particular will lay dormant over winter in fallen leaves ready to reinfect the rose come spring. You can prune your rose to the height and shape you desire, and help it be at its optimum for growing and flowering.
How often do I need to prune my rose? #
We recommend giving your rose a light prune in the late autumn to tidy it up, once all the flowers have died. In early spring, before the new growth appears, we would recommend a heavy prune – getting the rose to the size and shape that you want, and getting it prepared for optimum growth.
If you wish to do a heavy prune in late autumn, just remember that cold temperatures and frosts can damage the newly exposed tips of stems, and can sometimes lead to die-back and ultimately the death of the rose. Leave enough length in the stem to account for this, and to be able to cut the tips off in early spring once the risk of frosts has passed.
Note: Rambling roses are an exception to this, and only need to be pruned once in late summer after flowering. Read below for more information.
Equipment needed for pruning roses #
- Sturdy and comfortable gardening gloves – to protect your hands from thorns
- Sharp pruners – to quickly and efficiently remove dead flowers
- A container or bag for discarded cuttings
See our gardening essentials range for our hand picked selection of garden tools and equipment.
How to prune a rose #
Each type of rose has the same general pruning principles, but they do differ slightly, especially rambling roses. Below we outline how to prune in general, plus any type-specific needs. For more information on types of roses, see our handy guide.
General pruning principles #
In late autumn, once the rose has finished flowering, we recommend a light prune to tidy the rose and remove all the dead flowers, hips and leaves. Leave enough length in the stems so that if the newly exposed tips are subjected to frost, you still have enough length for a healthy trim in spring to get it ready for new growth.
In early spring, before new growth has started but after the risk of frosts have passed, we recommend a more intensive prune. When pruning, you want to remove any inward facing growth and closely positioned stems, as they will compete for space and may end up in compacted growth. Also remove any stubby snags (dead lengths of stem with no growth) and any thin twiggy stems that are unlikely to produce sufficient growth or flowers. The exception to this is a rambling rose – read on below to find out more.
How to prune a hybrid tea or floribunda rose #
In late autumn, once the rose has finished flowering, you can give your rose a light prune. Remove any dead blooms, and straggly stems you might want to tidy up. Then in spring, prune down to half its height (or your desired height) and remove all the dead wood. It’s as easy as that!
How to prune a patio rose #
Patio roses are fairly compact, so a light pruning in both late autumn and early spring is all they will need, removing the dead wood.
How to prune a climbing rose #
Climbers flower on this year’s new growth. This means you can give it a light prune in late autumn once it has finished flowering, but leave the heavy prune (and training – more about that here!) until early spring. In the spring, prune down to the height you desire, and remove any dead wood. This will promote the new growth for this years flowers. After three or four years, start removing the old stems (one per year) towards the bottom of the rose, this promotes new growth lower down, so you get flowers all along the plant and not just at the top.
How to prune a rambling rose #
Ramblers flower on the previous year’s growth, so if the rose is pruned in the spring you will remove all the new stems and end up with no flowers. The correct time to prune ramblers is just after flowering, as they will then start to produce new wood for the next year’s blooms. They should not need a second prune.
How to prune a bare root rose #
When you receive your bare root rose, the stems and roots will have been pruned for the bare root season already. However, we advise that you lightly prune them again before planting to promote new growth. We also advise that you to prune away any damaged or weak roots and stems to ensure your plant has a happy and great start to growing.
Roses should also have their stems lightly pruned again in February/March, before the growing season starts and while the plant is still dormant. This will take off any tips that may have been damaged by frosts over the winter, and will help encourage new, healthy growth in the coming months when the rose begins to grow again.