Pruning Roses – The Secret to Abundant Flowers

More books have been written on pruning roses than you can read in a lifetime. Keep to the essential pruning requirements of each type of rose and ensure an abundance of roses and healthy plants.

I remember the frustrations of trying to prune roses correctly when I started out. Follow my advice, and with a bit of practise you will be an expert at pruning roses in a very short time.

Pruning Roses

When we prune roses, old, damaged, dead or diseased wood is removed. We also remove the branches that crowd the centre of the bush. Small or weak branches that don’t produce good blooms also have to go.

The best time to prune roses is in mid winter. If there are heavy frosts, wait until late winter.

Basics of Pruning Roses

When you prune or cut, hold your secateurs in such a way that the best cut is left behind. Don’t use secateurs that tend to crush the stem as they cut.

The cut angle should be 45 degrees so that it slopes slightly back and away from the bud. In this way any moisture forming on the stem will run away. The bud should also face outward. Be careful not to make your cut too close to the growth bud. It is also wrong to make it too far from the bud. The cut should be 4 to 5 mm above the bud.

When you remove a complete stem, use sharp secateurs to cut them as close to the main stem as possible. Trim the stem with a sharp knife flush with the main stem. Watch out that you don’t damage the main stem when pruning roses. Larger stems may be trimmed with shears. Shoots should be cut back a little above a bud.

Each rose should be pruned according to its kind and species. The different species are different and unique and to be handled in their own unique way.

Pruning New Roses

Leave your new plants to grow the first season without cutting flowers off them. Break off the faded flowers. Prune them in winter. Only take off a few leaves. If any excessively long roots appear trim them back to 25cm. Make sure they are put into the planting hole.

Don’t forget that new rose plant that you purchased should also be pruned during the first winter. It needs this pruning rather urgently, because it will encourage the plant to be strong all round.

Pruning Roses: Climbers and Ramblers

Only climbers and ramblers flower on old wood. They get pruned lightly once they have bloomed. They are only tidied up in winter.


Ramblers must be encouraged to grow on a support. Old wood is the shoots growing one year and bearing flowers the next year. The reasons for pruning roses are to grow better flowers, to keep them growing vigorously, and to keep their “shape” looking good.


A climbing rose is pruned in early winter, and its flower twigs are trimmed back in summer. During the summer after a climber has bloomed, the flowering twigs are trimmed back to a selected new bud.

New seed pods are not allowed to form, as they deplete the climber of energy and nutrients needed for new growth. The dead or spindly wood on the climber should be removed. All the new wood that does form will be the framework for the new season’s flowers.

Pruning Roses: Modern Bush Roses

Bush roses flower continuously throughout the summer, provided you dead-head them regularly. Hybrid tea roses and floribundas must be pruned hard and right back each year. This way you develop the open framework of strong, young stems.

The centre should be as open as possible; this allows air and light to the centre of the plant. The plant should have a cup-shaped structure.

Hybrid tea rose

Cut back hybrid tea roses to one third or even one half of their original height. Leave only half of the original branches. If you prune a plant too hard you may kill it, so be careful. Hard pruning however results in larger blooms.

• Cut back strong shoots to 10 – 15 cm
• Cut out crossing, dead or diseased stems at the base of the plant
Floribunda rose

Floribundas produce many flowers and are pruned less severely.

• Cut strong shoots to 25 -30 cm
• Occasionally hard prune some older stems
• Cut back strong side shoots to 2 or 3 buds from the main stem

Pruning Roses: Standards and Miniatures

When you prune miniatures or standard roses remember the following;

Different roses require different types of pruning.

• Standard roses are pruned the same as bush roses
• Standard roses are only pruned lightly
• Miniatures are pruned the same as floribundas
• Smaller varieties need little pruning

Pruning roses is an essential part of rose care and growing roses . More essential information on proper rose care is contained on our rose care page.

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