Fine Gardening Project Guides


Guide Home

A Simple Way to Prune Shrub Roses

The goal of this type of pruning is to reduce the size of the bush and to get some good, healthy canes

Fine Gardening


Pruning roses stimulates growth and flowering, and it removes dead, weak, or sickly canes that can drain energy from the roses and encourage disease. In this video, Peter Kukielski, curator of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Garden, demonstrates the best way to prune shrub roses on a David Austin English rose.

Pruning goals

Our goal is to reduce the size of the bush and to get some good, healthy canes. To begin, cut away all of the top growth so that all you have left is the main branching structure. To simplify it down in the most direct way, completely remove the branching structure that formed last years’ growth.

Essentially, anything that you cut back from a rose you’ll get right back in the next growing season. If you have a strong, healthy cane, you’ll get more strong, healthy canes out of it. And we need big canes to support big flowers.

Oftentimes, you’ll find little shoots that have stopped growing. Called ‘blind shoots,’ these grow because of insect damage or fluctuations in temperature, and they will never produce a bloom. It’s good to recognize these blind shoots and remove them.

Plant architecture

When trying to simplify the architecture of the plant, it’s good to cut to an outward-facing bud. When a bud is facing inward, it will grow a branch toward the center of the plant and create a confusing, messy architecture. If an inward-facing bud is below an outward-facing bud, cut to the outward-facing bud and simply remove the inward-facing bud.

Final examination

Once you’ve gotten your desired shape, do an additional examination to remove older pieces of wood that are no longer productive.

You also want to look at the wood you’ve already cut. You want to see completely white wood on the inside, which might not always be the case. Dark spots in the wood are an indication that eventually this branch will become weaker and won’t produce flowers. When this happens, simply keep on making cuts until you get nice-looking wood.

Once you’ve done this, revisit your plant in a couple of weeks. See how the rose is doing and how it is responding to the cuts you’ve made.

Related videos
How to Prune Floribunda Roses

How to Prune Hybrid Tea Roses

Feeding and Mulching Roses

Planting Garden Roses in Containers

Previous: How to Prune Hybrid Tea Roses Next: August Rose Pruning for Warmer Climates
View Comments


  1. user-7824180 04/20/2022

    Nice demo of how to prune rose bushes. Not sure why you did not mention that the dark center in those stocks is evidence that there is a rose borer in that rose. I’m in Arizona and we usually seal the end of our larger stocks with a white wood glue. Keeps the borer out.

Log in or create an account to post a comment.



Expert advice on where, when, and why to trim your plants

View Project Guide

View All Project Guides »

Become a member and get unlimited site access, including the Pruning Project Guide.

Start Free Trial