Pruning is an important part of rose care and can sometimes seem daunting to new gardeners. It is not hard to learn, and the results are well worth the effort!
Pruning is about more than just looks. It also improves the health of the rose bush, prevents disease, and encourages better and more flowering. There are different pruning strategies for different times of the year, but the goal is always to open up the plant to provide better circulation and to prevent fungal growth.
At Heirloom Roses, we use the acronym PRUNE to remember the basic pruning process. This method applies to the most popular garden roses such as Hybrid Teas, Shrubs, and Floribundas, but Climbers and Ramblers require more specialized techniques.
To prune Hybrid Teas, Shrubs, and Floribundas, follow these steps:
P - PREPARE THE PLANT
- Cut the plant back to about waist height so you can work safely
R - REMOVE ALL BROKEN, DEAD, DYING, OR DISEASED WOOD
- Branches that look dry, shriveled or black should be removed as they will no longer produce new growth. The healthy canes will be brown or green and firm.
- Remove canes that are crossing or rubbing, as they will create weak spots.
U - UNDERSTAND THE PLANT
- Know what type of rose bush you are pruning, and how you want the bush to look as it grows out.
- Shape the plant with this future growth in mind.
- Make final cuts at a 45-degree angle and about ¼ inch above outward-facing bud eyes.
N - NOTHING LEFT BEHIND
- Clean up all cuttings, dead leaves, and other debris from around the plant. Do not compost as it could spread pathogens.
- Leaving the area as clean as possible will minimize the growth of diseases.
E - ENJOY YOUR ROSES
- That’s it! Enjoy your hard work!
- If you want to enjoy some cut roses, cut the stem right above the first five-leaflet leaf under the flower and immediately place the cut stem into a clean bucket of lukewarm water.
Whether you are deadheading blooms during the summer or performing your annual spring cutback, it is important to consider how a rose grows. How you prune a particular rose will always be the same. Even a beginner gardener can prune well! Roses, unlike other plants, can send new shoots out of old wood. An older own-root rose can be rejuvenated by cutting it right to the ground, and it will still produce new shoots. This means that even a novice pruner would have a hard time killing a rose bush by pruning.
We know you can do this. Each time you practice pruning, you will get better!
Let’s take a deep dive into proper pruning methods.
WHERE TO MAKE A PRUNING CUT
- Pruning cuts should always be made just above a bud eye. A "bud eye" is the area on the stem where branching occurs. In the summer, it's easy to figure out where to prune, just cut right above a set of mature leaves.
- On roses, there is always a dormant bud where leaves attach to the stem. You'll have to look a little harder to find the bud eye on dormant or older canes; they are located just above the crescent-shaped leaf scars along the stem.
New growth will be forced even if pruning cut is severe (3" diameter)