Gardening 101: This Is How To Prune A Rose Bush

Roses are extraordinary flowers, and we use them to express so many emotions! We offer roses to show people how much we care or say “sorry”, or sweep someone off their feet! No wonder rose bears are such a trend these days! Roses also play an essential role in our gardens with their royal aspect and their seductive fragrance. They are also considered one of the best ways to upgrade a front garden with no grass. You can have a garden full of roses, and you won’t get bored! There are so many options available in terms of size, shape and colours! 

bush of pink roses in the garden, close up

You can form hedges with rose bushes or plant them in pots, grow roses from cuttings and even use them to define garden paths. The rose garden offers an extraordinary spectacle, and it’s such a feast for the eyes, especially during the growing season! The flowers start fading one by one after the summer is gone, and then it’s time for pruning. But why do we have to prune roses? Does it require special skills, or anyone can turn a rose plant into a work of art? Let’s discover together why and how to prune them!

Why prune the rose bushes?

This annual maintenance is essential for the rose plant. If you want repeat-flowering, you need to take care of your plants every year. The goal is to achieve a harmonious shape and a balanced life for your plant. 

If you do not prune your roses, the shrubs left to their own devices will grow in a disorderly manner, stretching their twigs in all directions, flowering little, and having a much shorter lifespan. So, make sure to prune them as it’s the only way to get beautiful roses next year as well. And beware: after three years without pruning, the shrub may become wild again, especially if the rootstock is vigorous.

When to prune your rose plant?

It all depends on the area where your garden is located and your roses! It also depends on the weather conditions. As a rule, pruning is done in late winter or very early spring. March is probably the best time of the year to do it, regardless of their nature (shrubs, stems, or climbers). We complete this task at this time also to avoid diseases such as yellowing leaves and leaves with black spots as, during this time, the plant heals much faster.

If the bush buds have already occurred, the risk of getting the pruning wrong is lower. Keep a maximum of 2 to 3 buds on weak twigs and 4 or 5 on the most vigorous branches. Make sure to eliminate dead parts, unnecessary twigs, and blackened branches.

Woman pruning rose bush outdoors, closeup. Gardening tool

Which roses to prune?

All types should be taken care of. But there are different types of pruning for each different type of rose

  • Miniature roses: small size, with shear, to keep them at the same height.
  • Massive roses: long or short pruning, depending on the strength of the shrub.
  • Rose stems: the same operation as for solid varieties.
  • Climbing roses: essentially maintenance size.
  • Shrub roses: very light pruning, sometimes they can do without.

What to cut when pruning roses?

On all roses, you must cut:

  • Dead parts.
  • Weak, diseased branches and twigs that are too small.
  • Misplaced twigs that can ruin the shape of the bush or the plant.
  • Branches that grow inwards.

How to prune a rose bush?

Light plays an essential role when it comes to rose growth. The centre of the plant needs it, and the wind must pass between the branches. That’s why pruning is necessary and also what you should keep in mind when you start pruning! You’ll want to eliminate the surplus and also to provide air circulation so the elements can reach your plant.

What tools do you need for rose pruning?

Like with any other job in the garden, you can get much better results and do it much faster if you use the right tools! So, what do you need to get before pruning?

  • A quality pruner with sharp blades to ensure a clean cut that will heal faster.
  • A good pair of gloves.
  • A container to collect waste.

It is essential to clean the secateur before pruning. Also, you should disinfect the pruner when you are done with one rose and before starting another. You can use alcohol or a special solution. In this manner, you can prevent diseases from spreading from one plant to the other.

 Garden gloves with a pruner for working in the garden

A step-by-step guide to pruning roses

You will be pleased to learn that roses don’t take nearly as much pruning as you might have thought! To ensure that your roses survive and thrive, all you need to do is to follow these steps:

1. Pick out all of the remaining leaves

It helps to see the bush’s structure and all of the main canes. This phase also gets rid of any bugs or diseased branches that may have been hidden in the foliage over the winter. 

2. Begin with the deadwood

How do you know it’s no longer alive? When it comes to pruning, you should know that brown means dead and green means alive. Any dead part should be cut down to the foundation, so all brown parts are no longer there.

3. Open up the centre of the plant

Remove any crossing branches that can rub together, causing damage and spreading diseases. The aim is to create a vase-like structure with upward-reaching branches.

4. Get rid of all thin, flimsy growth

Anything thinner than a pencil should be removed; this is the general rule. 

5. Trim the rest of the canes

Cut 0.5 to 1 cm above an outward-facing bud while pruning (a slight bump that appears where a leaf meets the stem). The aim is to encourage new stems to develop outwards, not inwards, as they grow in the bud’s direction. Always cut at a 45-degree angle.

Closeup of gardeners hand in protective gloves with garden pruner making spring pruning of rose bush

6. Take care of the mess

Clean up the area underneath the bush after pruning. Diseases and pests (borers) can be hiding in the leaves and cut branches, so get rid of them immediately.

7. Don’t forget to water your roses

Roses need good and plenty of nutrients. So, make sure you offer them enough water with a side dish of high-quality fertiliser. The quantity of water required depends on the size of the plant and the type of rosesclimbing rose, long stems roses, and so on. 

Always keep in mind

Following the steps mentioned above seem like an easy task, right? Everyone can do it! But there are some more things that you need to consider if you want to achieve the best results. Have a look!

Size of shrub roses

The size should allow them to go up. Select at least 3-4 of the larger branches, equal their height to about 40-50 cm, and eliminate other branches and deadwood.

Size of climbing roses and ramblers

No need for the pruner. We cut almost nothing in the first year. If there are many branches, select the 3 or 4 most beautiful and attach them as vertically as possible to their support. Make sure not to cut the tips of the stems chosen, or they will not rise.

Size of rosebush

We are referring to floribunda, hybrid tea, and modern shrub roses. You can prune them to get the shape or size you prefer. When you are pruning in spring, the size is the one that will give the shape for the year to come. Make sure not to cut the bushes too small, especially when you do the pruning in late winter.

A pink tea rose on a bush in the garden. Beautiful juicy greens with contrast rose close-up in summer or spring.

Rose pruning in autumn

It consists of a simple cleaning of the roses. Eliminate anything that can be used as a shelter for insects and diseases. What you should do:

  1. Cut dead or damaged wood and remove wilted flowers.
  2. Remove, after the first frosts, the last roses that have not been able to bloom.
  3. Pick up the dead leaves of fallen roses. Never use them in mulch or compost.

Tips and tricks for pruning roses

Rose pruning is essential, regardless of the environment, but it’s vital for roses in pots. If you prune the roses, they will be encouraged to grow and bloom. It also removes all dead parts and improves air circulation.

Pruning tips

  • A good practice is to make the centre of the bush as open and accessible as possible. It will make the air circulation much better, helping plants grow faster.
  • It is essential to remove dead parts or areas that are dying. It will help prevent further damage to the plant.
  • Be gentle with the cuts and leave a bush shape. Don’t make big cuts that can damage the form of the plant.
  • Remove the branches that are interfering with others. It will help with growth.
  • The best time to do it is just before new shoots start to grow. Take care of your roses each year to promote the production of quality flowers. 
  • Wear gloves to protect your hands from rose thorns. Do not try to prune your roses with blunt scissors.

How to care for roses after pruning 

You’ve pruned your roses, and you feel like the job is done. However, you should also make sure to take care of them after this critical step.

  • You may promote a bigger, healthier rose as well as a quick recovery after pruning by feeding and adding nutrients.
  • After the roses have been pruned, it’s best to apply some lime sulphur. Wondering why? The oleum helps in keeping pest at bay and promotes healthy new growth. 
  • Feed your roses after pruning by forking a little compost, bone meal, or superphosphate into the top 10-30 cm of the soil, being careful not to harm the roots of your roses.
  • A small amount of general fertiliser can also be applied at this time for best performance. 
  • After pruning, use a dormant spray of lime sulphur (1200ml per 10 litres of water) to protect your roses from pests (only do this when there are no leaves left on the plant).
  • It is preferable to spray with oleum at a concentration of 100 ml per 10 litres of water if there is a lot of new development. 
  • After pruning and fertilising your roses, a good mulch layer can help maintain favourable soil temperatures, minimise weeds, and reduce water use.
  • If you’re working in dry weather or have used a fertiliser after pruning your roses, make sure to water them thoroughly

Closeup view of woman watering rose bushes outdoors. Gardening tool

Roses can be wonderful for your garden, and learning to prune them is essential for their development. Pruning yours is not an overly complicated task; you can do it without needing too many tools or experience. Follow our step-by-step guide to have even more brilliant roses than last year!

Next stop: Learn how to preserve rose hips for decoration in easy ways.

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