Rose Pruning Techniques

One of the most difficult things to do is to explain pruning. You cannot, for instance, cover all types of roses in one paragraph. Generally speaking, however, rose pruning may be divided into two main operations. (1) The cutting back of shoots in order to produce strong growth the following season, and (2) The complete removal for obvious reasons, of dead wood, diseased wood, weak wood, misplaced and crossing or rubbing branches. When pruning to promote growth a cut is made just above a bud pointing outwards. When pruning for removal the growths are cut right away to the base.

Always prune with a sharp knife or pair of secateurs. People with tender hands often wear a pair of gardening gloves when doing the work. Keep the knife blade sharp by using the smooth hone. With old trees it is sometimes necessary to have a small saw. The cuts must be made cleanly for when jagged cuts are made they take longer to heal.

With bush roses most people believe in hard pruning and this consists of cutting back the current year’s wood to within two or three eyes of its base the first year and to within six eyes of its base in subsequent years. Varieties that come under the heading H.P. Are usually not pruned any harder than to within eight buds.


As the various types of roses have to be pruned differently I propose dealing with the various classes under separate headings.

H.P.’s, H.T.’s and Noisettes

Prune during March or early April, cutting out the dead wood and the diseased and weak shoots. Thin out the centre of the bush if necessary; cut back the well-ripened shoots of the previous year’s growth to within four eyes of their base. The dead wood may be cut away in late autumn.

Climbing Roses of the H.T. And H.P. Class Prune in March, removing a sufficient number of growths over two years of age to prevent them from being too crowded. (Some prefer to do this after flowering in the summer and they then tie the new shoots in their place.) Prevent the base becoming bare by shortening back one or two of the older shoots every four years. Another method of dealing with this problem is to bend down one of the younger shoots to cover the bare parts. If it is necessary to cut back any side growths or laterals this should be done within three or four buds of their base.

Moss Roses

Remove the old wood and thin the bush out. Shorten the laterals from the two-year-old wood to within four eyes of their base. Cut back the vigorous young growth to within four buds early in March.


These are very liable to frost damage because they are pithy. Always prune to make the cut below the frosted part which can easily be seen because the wood is dead. If the winter is mild prune as for H.T.’s.


Thin in the autumn, retaining the best first and second year old wood. Shorten one or two of the less strong stems to induce buds to break at the base. This shortening must not be done till the early spring. The main pruning can be done directly after flowering ceases.

RAMBLERS (Wichurianas). Thin these out in the autumn and finish the pruning early in March. Each year they should send up from their base a number of strong shoots 3 to 4.5 m (10 to 15 ft) long. Every year one or more of the oldest growths should be cut out in the autumn and any laterals on two-year-old stems should be cut back hard in the spring. The growths should then be spread out like a fan.

Where there is plenty of young wood, cut back all the old wood to its base and retain the new. Under this method you never get quite such a big plant. When a very large plant is required for festooning over a pergola, the younger growths should be used to furnish the lower parts of the pergola, and the older growths to beautify the more distant parts.

Standard Roses

Prune these in a similar manner as for H.T.’s or H.P.’s. In the case of special varieties like W. H. Richardson and Gloire de Dijon only remove the superfluous shoots and worn out growths, and shorten slightly. Never cut these back hard.

Weeping Standards

Shorten the growths that actually trail on the ground; remove the older shoots as near to the head as possible. If

there are not many new shoots, leave some of the older growths in, but these seldom flower well. If there should be a super-abundance of young strong growths thin these out to prevent overcrowding.

Roses Pegged Down

Strong roses of the ‘climber’ type can be used for carpeting the soil. J. B. Clark, Karl Druschki and Zephyrine Drouhin are typical varieties that can be used for this purpose. The longest and ripest shoots, about four per plant, are retained, cut to the length required and pegged down horizontally. The other growths are cut out completely. Do this work in March.

During the summer young shoots grow out from the base of the plants and the following March these shoots, which by then have flowered, will be cut away and fresh growths will be trained in their place.


FEBRUARY. The Rugosas.

EARLY MARCH. Wichurianas, Ramblers, H.T.’s, H.P.’s, Poly-anthas, Pernetianas, Climbing H.T.’s, Climbing H.P.’s, Climbing T.’s and Noisettes.

LATE MARCH. The Scotch and Sweet Briars. APRIL. The Banksians.

TONE AND JULY. Prune back roses that have flowered with a view to autumn flowering.

VUGUST AND SEPTEMBER. Prune ramblers immediately after flowering. Thin Wichuriana ramblers.


Those who want to cut roses for the house day by day should plant bushes 450 by 450 mm (18 by 18 in) and prune hard each early April. Disbudding should be done, and the bushes should be fed during the summer with Marinum once every fourteen days during flowering. About 1 litre (£ gallon) of diluted food should be given each time.

The following varieties are particularly useful for cut flower purposes: Lady Sylvia, a rose pink, scented; Baccara, a brilliant vermilion; Whisky Mac, a golden amber; Madame Butterfly, a salmon; McGredy’s Yellow; Picture, a rose pink; Pink Parfait, rose pink, strong stems; Betty Uprichard, a coppery pink; Pascali, a disease resistant white; Golden Melody, a salmon flesh shaded with rose.

Always cut roses early in the morning and early in the \ bud stage. Cut with as long a stem as possible.

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