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Roses are plants, too!

To What Height Should You Prune Your Roses

David Stone. The man who taught me how to prune shrub roses standing with a plant of Westerland before he prunes it.
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses
David with Westerland after he’s done.
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses
Another example of a shrub rose pruned “high”
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses
And one more.
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses
David Stone. The man who taught me how to prune shrub roses standing with a plant of Westerland before he prunes it.
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses
David with Westerland after he’s done.
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses
Another example of a shrub rose pruned “high”
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses
And one more.
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses

Since we are on pruning run here, I thought I’d address a comment on one of my last posts.  A reader posted a link to an interview with Beverly Rose Hopper who is a very talented rose person who is a co-founder of the Friends Of The San Jose Rose Garden.  Essentially it was about to what height you should prune your roses.

As with so much in rose growing this too became a hard fast rule over the years.  Twelve to eighteen inches high seemed to be the acceptable range.  Anything outside of that could result in your rose sprouting azalea blooms!

Let’s first examine why this “rule” came about.

Over the last 40 years or so pretty much the only type of rose most gardeners grew were Hybrid Teas.  They excel at producing lovely blooms on long stems – ideal for the show table or the cut-flower florist industry.  The idea behind pruning low was to produce longer stems and less blooms.  That’s right, I said less blooms.

Why?

Because the fewer the flowers the larger each individual one would be.  That was what you wanted for the show table or the cut flower industry.

But it’s the opposite of what we want from a flowering shrub in the garden, which is all really garden roses are.  We want LOTS of flowers.  A veritable bloom-o-rama festival in our front yard.

That’s why you are seeing more and more rose folks talking about pruning higher – leaving more branches to produce a lot of flowers.  I generally prune my shrub roses to no less than three to four feet.  What I get are lots of blooms on a nice sized, very bushy plant.  What I get is a Garden Rose instead of an Exhibitor’s Rose.  (By the way, I have nothing against Exhibitor’s Roses.  They are beautiful for that use)

So the answer to “what height should I prune my roses to” is simple.  If you want lots of blooms prune higher.  If you want larger flowers for cutting prune lower.  If you want a privacy hedge prune high.  If you want something low to accent a border prune lower.  End of the day you should prune your roses according to what you want them to do in your garden.  Just like any other plant, which as the title of the blog says roses are, too.

Happy Roseing
Paul

If you want to read the article or have questions here is a link to the article and a place you can ask those questions on our Roses Are Plants, Too Discussion Forum.  Click here to go there.

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Comments

  1. dirtdirtdirt 04/21/2012

    Oops.

    My big store bought knockout roses were leggy and not full at all, and they seemed to have flowered overnight with our warm winter in zone 6. THey were planted last year and only grew to about 18 -24 inches (about 6 -12 inches when I planted them).

    Two weeks ago, I pruned them to 1-2 feet, hoping that would make them fuller. I did notice that i cut out green leaves and what looked like tiny buds forming. What can I expect?

    Thanks

  2. PFZimmerman 04/26/2012

    Knockout is a rose you can cut hard and it will came back quickly. So in actuality you did the right thing in cutting them back hard to make them bushier.

    In terms of flowering they will quickly flower again so just stand back and watch them grow!

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