Roses Are Plants Too!

Trimming Blind Shoots Late In Fall

A view of the Fineschi Garden in Tuscany Italy.  One of the largest collections of roses in the world.
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses
A view of the Fineschi Garden in Tuscany Italy.  One of the largest collections of roses in the world.
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses

One of our rose family recently posted a question on our discussion forum about pruning back blind shoots this late in the season.  Their concern was promoting new growth close to a potential frost.  (They live in Ottawa, Canada)

First of all if you are not familiar with the term “blind shoot” let me explain what it means.

A blind shoot is a stem that grows and grows but a flower never appears at the end of it.  There are a few reasons why this happens.  The most common one is a late frost in spring that kills the tiny rose buds before they can fully form.  Other causes can be lack of nutrients, shortage of light and tiny midges.  But generally it’s frost.

The “cure” is to simply cut the stem back as if deadheading and it should produce a new stem that will flower.

That’s fine early in the season.

But our rose family member’s question brings up an important point about going into fall.  A great deal of trimming of your roses late in fall is not a good idea because it does stimulate new growth.  And that new growth is tender and will likely be severely damaged by a hard frost.

During late fall I would advise you not to trim your roses much if at all.  Besides risking damage to new growth you also inhibit the rose from setting hips, which is part of their going dormant.  Additionally rose hips are a valued source of winter food for birds so it’s nice to keep them on.

If you do need to do some trimming late in the season on an out of control rose wait until you have had two good frosts.  After that the rose should be shutting down and you can go ahead and do some trimming without the risk of stimulating a lot of new growth.

Happy Roseing!

View Comments


  1. phedder 09/02/2011

    Fabulous advice - thanks for addressing my post! I'm glad I held off pruning... I had a hunch that it wouldn't be a smart idea to address the empty shoots this late in the summer. Ah well, my second climber produced a few final gorgeous roses...

  2. PFZimmerman 09/05/2011

    Glad it helped.

  3. sarosea 09/19/2011

    I have Red Ribbons Tree Rose from jackson and Persons which sends up shoots from the base all summer. I love the color next to my purple clematis but am thinking of taking it out due to the constant pruning. Do the shoots from the bottom ever bloom?

  4. getavilla 09/20/2011

    Happy to have discovered many questions for you. I just watched your video on pruning climbers. I had been butchering my poor climber. There is an old rose bush on our property that I think is called a Cherokee Rose. It's a big tangled mess that blooms early spring, has a small white flower and smells heavenly. Should I continue ignoring this bush or try pruning it? It is in a remote area so not intrusive.

  5. PFZimmerman 09/24/2011

    Hi there

    Sorry for the delay in responding!

    First the tree rose. The shoots from the bottom will bloom but they won't be red ribbons. They will be the under stock. If you have lots of shoots coming up more than likely the rose is not planted deeply enough. You can take it out or this winter try to replant it a little deeper.

    Cherokee rose. It is a rambler and I would not prune it if you don't have to. Cut out dead wood and that is about it. If you have to trim it do so after it blooms in spring.

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