Take the guesswork out of rose pruning and start trimming like a pro. We promise, no ninja or Edward Scissorhands skills are required.
Why prune roses?
Pruning roses is done for 4 reasons:
1) to keep them well-groomed,
2) to manage their size,
3) to prevent fungal disease, and
4) to encourage new growth.
To keep roses well-groomed
Keep your Floribunda rose hedges or standard roses looking sharp by pruning them regularly. Trimming off extra leaves and stems helps maintain the desired shape of your roses and ensures that they retain the coiffed look you’re going for.
To manage the size of your plants
Ramblers and climbers are famous among all rose varieties for their spreading habit. But there’s a caveat: they’re masters when it comes to world domination. If left to their own devices, these roses will take over any space they can get their hands on.
If you let your guard down with these fierce beauties, your garden will eventually end up looking like it’s under attack. The solution to this problem? Keep your roses in check and show them who’s boss by pruning off extra growth. Don’t be shy with cutting off stems that are too long or foliage that’s too thick.
Downsizing is also one reason why we prune roses for winter. Excess top growth is removed from rose bushes to prevent them from being uprooted by strong winds.
To prevent fungal disease
Are you and your rose-obsessed gardening posse pulling your hair over black spot and other rose diseases? Rose bushes are notorious for having fungal infection on their leaves, stems, and flowers. Some fungi are even life-threatening and can make your plants more susceptible to other illnesses. Talk about a double whammy situation.
Here’s where pruning comes in. When you remove some of the foliage and stems, blocked air and sunlight are able to enter into the interior area of the rose bush. This means that trapped moisture on leaves and stems dries up, which lessens the risk of fungal growth. Prune off dead and diseased plant parts as well to stop infection from spreading to healthier areas of the rose bush.
To encourage new growth
Pruning is also helpful for growing healthy roses. Prune off withered plant parts to help your rose bushes focus their energy on producing new growth and blossoms.
Steps to pruning roses
1. Wear protective clothing
Make sure that you’re properly protected from rose thorns and sharp stems before you start pruning. Wear a long-sleeved shirt and rose pruning gloves to shield your arms from scratches.
2. Use the right tools
Use a pair of sharp bypass shears when pruning. These pruning tools make a clean cut and don’t crush the stems of your roses.
3. Prune at the right time
Rose pruning can be done during spring, summer, or fall. June or July is the best time for major rose pruning in Australia. In colder areas, wait for late winter or early spring to prevent the frost from burning new growth. Start to prune roses when you see new rose shoots appear, or right after the last frost.
Cut back roses during summer to boost flower production. Removing dead flowers also opens up your rose bushes and makes them look more attractive.
Pruning roses in autumn is a good way to prepare your plants for winter. Trim rose bushes when they become top heavy or too long to prevent them from being uprooted during winter storms.
4. Remove all leaves before you prune
It’s hard to see what you’re cutting if the canes are covered with leaves. To make pruning easier, professional hedge trimmers recommend removing all foliage from the canes before making pruning cuts.
5. Cut off dead and diseased parts
The next step when pruning roses is to remove dead and infected canes. Prune off brown woody stems from your roses bushes. These dead canes consume your plant’s energy that can otherwise be used for producing new buds and foliage.
When pruning diseased stems, cut below the infected area to prevent the disease from spreading to healthier parts of the rose bush. Prune at a 45-degree angle, and sanitise your shears with bleach after cutting an infected plant.
6. Prune horizontal branches
Rose canes have a tendency to grow in haphazard directions. To open up your plants, prune off branches that are growing horizontally. You’ll also want to cut crisscrossing branches in the interior area of the rose bush. Removing these branches will allow your roses to breathe and take in more sunlight.
7. Remove thin stems
Thin stems can easily die or contract disease. Plus, they also consume additional energy from your plant. Pruning off weak stems (those that look thinner than a pencil, in general) helps the rose bush become healthier.
8. Trim canes at a 45-degree angle
Trim long canes by cutting them 1.2cm above an outward facing bud. Buds are small lumps on the stem where new growth can sprout. An outward-facing bud will have outward growth, while an inward-facing bud will have inward growth. Prune at a 45-degree angle, with the diagonal cut sloping away from the bud.
9. Seal the cuts
Apply a pruning sealer to protect freshly cut canes from infection.
10. Clean the area
Remember to clean up the clippings you’re done with rose pruning. It doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, but it’s particularly helpful when keeping your roses healthy and fungi-free.
11. Fertilise after pruning
Now that your roses are looking sharp, you’ll want to feed the soil with fertiliser. A slow-release plant food is the best fertiliser for roses after pruning. Feed roses after pruning to give new growth a boost of much-needed nutrients. You can do this 3 weeks after your roses are pruned, usually in spring.
12. Spray roses with fungicide
Spray fungicide on your newly-pruned rose bushes to protect them from fungal disease. A lime sulfur fungicide is effective in eradicating fungal spores and insect eggs.
What is the ideal height when pruning roses?
Prune roses according to your desired shape and size. Cut your rose bushes at a lower height if they’re positioned at the front of a yard border, and cut a little taller if the roses are positioned at the back of the border.
There’s a technique when pruning Hybrid Tea roses – they produce larger blooms and longer stems when pruned lower, and smaller blooms and shorter stems when pruned taller.
Pruning iceberg roses and other Floribunda varieties helps keep these vigorous bloomers in shape. Removing gnarly and messy stems is best done in early March when new growth appears.
How do I prune climbers?
When pruning climbing roses, prune the lateral and main canes until you reach the desired shape and size. The main cane is the stem that is attached to the base of the rose bush, while lateral canes are the stems that produce flowers. To encourage flower production, focus on pruning the lateral canes (which can be done any time of the year).
How much do I remove when pruning standard roses?
Cut off the oldest stems when pruning standard roses, but retain the long flowering stems. Make sure not to remove too much, and to trim only what is necessary. You won’t run the risk of killing your standard roses – or any rose variety – by over-pruning, though. Roses bounce back quickly with new growth after pruning. They’ll be lush and thick again before you know it.