Pruning Roses FAQs

Why must I prune my roses?

To get rid of weak, spindly, and diseased shoots; to encourage strong new shoots to grow from the base of the plant each year (these bear the best flowers); to open out the centre of the bush to increase air circulation through it (this helps to check disease); and to create a pleasingly symmetrical outline to the plant.

When should I prune?

For large-flowered and cluster-flowered bush roses the traditional months are March in the south of England and April in the north, when growth is just beginning; but pruning can safely be done at any time from November onwards in the south, provided you are prepared if necessary to remove some frost-damaged growth in spring.

The most important rule is: never prune during a frosty spell. Prune ramblers after flowering, probably late in August, to divert vigour to new flowering-shoot development for the following summer. Prune climbers in October, when flowering of the recurrent varieties is over.

How should I prune my large-flowered bush roses?

Cut away completely all diseased, weak, and spindly snoots; remove all dead stumps left from earlier prunings, using a fine-toothed saw if they are woody and thick. If there are many canes criss-crossing in the centre, remove a few to open out the bush. If two shoots are growing so that they rub together, remove one of them. Finally, cut the remaining shoots back to about 200-250 mm (8-10 in). Harder pruning than this will produce larger but probably fewer flowers, but it will not harm the rose in any way.

How exactly do I make a pruning cut?

Pruning is easiest with secateurs; keep them sharp and clean or they may pass on disease from one rose to another. (Cheap secateurs may become distorted after a time, and blunt ones will not make a clean cut; this is an important failing, because jagged ends on a shoot may attract disease.)

Make your pruning cut about 6 mm (lA in) above a bud on a shoot; the cut should slope down towards the side away from the bud. Cutting to an outward-facing bud encourages the bush to spread outwards, but do not worry if you cannot find one exactly where you want to cut; often a bud lower down will grow away more vigorously in the direction you want, and you can always trim back to it later on.

How should I prune my cluster-flowered rose?

Follow the procedure for large-flowered varieties but leave the main shoots 300-350 mm (12-14 in) long. If these pruned shoots have side shoots, the latter need not be removed provided they are substantial, but you should cut them back by about two thirds.

How should I prune my climbers?

As distinct from ramblers, these are the roses, often recurrent, that carry small clusters of comparatively large flowers on a permanent framework of strong shoots. You need to cut back their side shoots to one or two buds from the point where they branch out from the main shoots. If the plant has become bare at the base, cut one of its main shoots hard back to encourage new growth from ground level.

How should I prune my ramblers?

These are non-recurrent (once-flowering) roses that bear large clusters of small flowers, the best carried on long flexible shoots that grow mainly from the base of the plant each year. Pruning consists of cutting out completely the shoots that have finished flowering and tying in the new shoots in their place. If in some years there are only a few of these, some of the old shoots (which can still produce a number of flowers) may be left in place, but you should shorten their side shoots by about two thirds.

How should I prune my miniature roses?

With those kinds that produce a thick tangle of tiny, wiry shoots, thin some of these out. Remove dead or diseased shoots, and trim back the rest by about two thirds. It may be difficult if not impossible to find a bud to cut to, especially on the very small miniatures, so just clip them over so that the plants look neat and tidy.

How should I prune my shrub roses?

These vary so enormously in size and type that no general instructions can be given. Wild (species) roses should not be pruned at all, other than for removal of dead or diseased branches. Most of the old garden roses, such as the once-flowering gallicas, damasks, albas, and centifolias, together with the recurrent bourbons, will give more flowers if they have their side shoots shortened by about two thirds in winter. Those modern shrub roses that are, in fact, giant cluster-flowered types should be pruned like their smaller cluster-flowered cousins used for bedding, but reduce their height by only about two thirds. The rugosa family needs little if any pruning, although on the less-dense-growing kinds a few main canes can be cut back every two or three years to encourage them to bush out.

What is meant by the term autumn pruning?

Tall-growing large-flowered and cluster-flowered bush roses may have their roots loosened in the soil if they are blown about by winter gales, and in sticky clay their movement may form a funnel of compressed earth, exposing the budding union. Water can collect in this funnel and may cause trouble if it freezes because the budding union is the most vulnerable part of the plant. To lessen the chance of windrock, cut back these roses by about one third in late October or early November.

Should I prune my newly planted roses in the same way as the established plants?

Prune them even more drastically, so that a really strong framework of new shoots will be built up from the beginning. It takes considerable determination with new purchases, but leave the shoots only 50-75 mm (2-3 in) long. Prune autumn-planted new roses when you do your established ones; prune spring-planted ones at planting time. Do not prune climbers at all in their first year, as they take longer to establish.

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