Pruning Roses – Why, When, What, and How

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Post by Contributing Writer, Holly

Ideally, I would have had this post ready for February (the month of Valentine’s Day). But, that’s okay. It’s definitely not too late to be thinking about rose pruning. It might actually be too early to prune. It depends on where you live.

There are at least seven types of roses:

  1. Hybrid Teas
  2. Floribunda
  3. Grandiflora
  4. Shrub
  5. Old-Fashioned
  6. Climbing
  7. Miniature

Each type has some unique pruning needs. However, the pruning for hybrid teas, floribundas, and grandifloras are almost identical. I’m focusing on hybrid tea roses and floribunda roses for this post. (When pruning grandifloras more canes are left standing, and they’re pruned to a height of about 36″.)

Why Prune

There are a number of reasons why roses should be pruned:

  1. To remove dead canes and spent flowers,
  2. To encourage or improve the overall health of the plant,
  3. To stimulate growth, and
  4. To shape or sculpt.

When to Prune

After your last frost, probably late February to late April, depending on where you live, is when you prune these roses.

What to Prune

What you prune is tied into “Why Prune.”

  • Start with the dead canes. Dead canes are black or brown and shriveled. Healthy canes are green. Remove all the dead canes from the rose plant. Prune them down to the crown.
  • Remove all the suckers. Suckers are growth coming directly from the rootstock, not growing off other wood. Dig all the way down to where the suckers start, and tear them off.

Suckers “suck” nutrients from the roots, as opposed to those same nutrients going to the rest of the plant. They’ll also detract from the overall appearance of your rose plant, or any plant for that matter.

  • Remove canes from the center of the plant. The purpose of this step is to open the plant up for sunlight and allow better air circulation.
  • Remove any canes that are crossing or rubbing. Remove enough so there are no longer canes touching. These can later be problematic in the health of the plant.
  • Remove pencil size or smaller diameter canes.
  • Remove canes with inward facing growth. You want all the canes and branches to be growing OUTWARD, not towards the center of the plant.

Some pruning throughout the flowering season will be needed. Prune down from the flower to right above the first five-leaf leaflet.

How to Prune

Use by-pass pruners and loppers (for the thicker canes), and have clothing to protect your hands and arms from thorns.

Make all your cuts at a 45 degree angle, 1/4″ above an outward facing bud. (Basically, this is a bud that’s on the outside of the cane, not facing the center of the plant.) The lowest part of the 45 degree cut is facing the inside of the plant. The highest part of the cut is right above the outward facing bud.

Leave 4 – 6 healthy canes.

Cut the 4 – 6 healthy canes down to … okay, this is where you’ll get a lot of variation, depending on the gardener. I’ve heard all of the following:
– 4″
– 4-6″
– 6″
– 12″
– 12-18″
– 18-24″
– 24″

Some of these people are horticulturists or master gardeners. So who is right? Maybe this will help: the more aggressively pruned plants will develop fewer, but larger, roses; the more mildly pruned plants will produce more, but smaller, roses.

Don’t worry about killing the plant. If after your very first pruning experience, you step back and gasp at your Charlie Brown remains, don’t panic. Hybrid teas and floribundas are strong plants. :)

Holly is a wife to her loving husband, John, and a “mother” of 3 canine “children.” She loves sharing her faith, gardening, and fascination and appreciation of animals (birds, bats, butterflies, and the cute furry ones too) over at Your Gardening Friend.

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4 comments to Pruning Roses – Why, When, What, and How

  • Tess

    Thank you so much!! I have a 3 yr old Angel Face & she is so awesome!!! We still have snow here, and she has been on my mind!!! :)


    Holly Reply:

    You’re welcome, Tess. :)

    Angel Face roses are beautiful.


  • Heather

    A few years back I found a little rose bush and transplanted it to my garden. I nursed it along and this year it is trying to take over the world! Another rose is running close second! Help!!!! Can I prune now? I have some plants under there!


  • I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme.
    Did you create this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you?
    Plz answer back as I’m looking to create my own blog and would like to find out where u got this from.
    many thanks


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