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10 Rose Pruning Tips

The time to prune roses is after last frost but before spring blooms appear


Spring is the time to begin thinking about pruning roses. Specifically, the time to prune roses is after last frost but before spring blooms begin to appear on your roses. If your roses have already got buds, then wait until after they’ve bloomed, in the fall, to prune.

While there’s a lot about pruning roses out there, it’s always good to review a few things. Let’s get started with 10 tips.

1. If you can, spend extra money for good tools. They are easier to work with and will last a lot longer, making them cheaper in the long run. See some recommended tools.

2. Let the way your rose grows determine how you prune. Some roses annually put out new canes from the base.  You can prune these harder.  Some, like the old tea roses, take time to build up a structure and reach their size. These need a lighter hand.

3. Always start by pruning out dead wood.  Why? Because it’s dead and you can’t make a mistake. This will get you warmed up!

4. Take out weak or damaged growth. Just trust your gardener’s instincts to recognize branches that aren’t full of vigor. This also better helps you see the plant’s structure.

5. Never worry about making a mistake. It will grow back.

6. With garden roses, don’t worry about outward-facing bud eyes and five-leaflet leaf sets. Just prune to strong, healthy growth at your desired height. And if you don’t know what a five-leaflet leaf set or a bud eye is, don’t worry about it. You don’t need to.

7. Don’t try to keep a tall rose short. It won’t be happy. If you want a rose in a particular spot to be short, then plant a short one! As a rule of thumb, don’t reduce the height of most garden roses by more than a third.

8. Every now and then you will take out an old cane that no longer produces growth and blooms. We label that kind of cane “bloomed out.” Take it out at the ground level and you’ll be amazed at the new growth you’ll see in spring. Fresh growth equals more blooms!

9. Pruning isn’t just for “pruning season.” Feel free to shape your roses all season long like you would any other plant in your garden. A great time to do this is while you are deadheading.

10. In the end, trust your gardener’s instincts. You know what you are doing, so do it!


Pruning Shrub Roses

Pruning Climbing Roses

Pruning Hybrid Tea Roses

Pruning Floribunda Roses

Previous: Three Ways to Prune Rhododendrons Next: How to Prune Shrub Roses
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