Trim dead roses

Do You Cut Off Dead Roses? | Home Guides

By Susan Lundman Updated December 15, 2018

As a general rule, it makes sense to cut off a dead rose (Rosa) after it finishes blooming, a process called deadheading. But whether or not you should deadhead depends on the type of rose you're growing and the time of year. This genus, which is made up of a variety of different species and hybrids, offers a rose to grow in every area of the U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones, from 1 through 13.

Reasons to Deadhead

Deadheading increases the number of flowers your rose produces each season. What you're doing by deadheading is delaying the plant from producing fruit, the rose hips, and seeds that develop on from flowers left on stems. When you deadhead, the rose directs its energy into producing another flower. Cutting spent flowers may also help improve the air circulation around a plant's stem, reducing the chances of fungal growth, and the process also takes away hiding places for destructive insects.

Which Roses to Deadhead

Removing spent flowers only works with roses that are repeat bloomers, also called remontant roses. Most modern roses, such as hybrid tea roses, floribundas and grandifloras, are good candidates for deadheading because they are genetically programmed to bloom multiple times during the growing season. On the other hand, many climbing, rambling and old-fashioned roses bloom only once during the season, and you will not get any more flowers by cutting off the dead blossoms.

How to Deadhead

The location and type of cut that you make when removing spent flowers make a difference to the health of the plant and to your success in getting more blooms. Follow these tips for best results:

Use very sharp pruning shears or garden scissors so you don't tear the plant's stem and sterilize your clippers with rubbing alcohol between cuts to reduce the chances of spreading disease around the plant.
Make the cut at a 45-degree angle so water will run off instead of settling on the open cut. Cut about 1/4 inch above the first leaflet that has three full leaves on it for the first deadheading of the season when the stems are typically shortish. After the first deadheading, cut further down, to just above a leaflet with five leaves, for each subsequent cut. Cut further down on the stem if you want to bring cut flowers into the house. This process will give you fewer but larger new flowers. Seal the new cut with nail polish or white all-purpose glue to help ensure that insects or disease don't infest the plant.

When Not to Deadhead

Once the weather turns cool and days shorten, your rose will instinctively want to turn its flowers into rose hips that produce seeds for reproduction. The plant also needs to retain energy in its roots for the next season, and deadheading thwarts that natural process. Stop deadheading in the fall, around September or October depending on your climate, and let the rose rest for the rest of the year.


Writer Bio

Susan Lundman began writing about her love of gardening and landscape design after working for 20 years at a nonprofit agency. She has written about plants, garden design and gardening tips online professionally for ten years on numerous websites. Lundman belongs to numerous gardening groups, tends her home garden on 2/3 acre and volunteers with professional horticulturists at a 180 acre public garden where she lives on Bainbridge Island in Washington State.

4 Simple Steps To Trim Like A Pro

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Pruning roses is the best way to keep your shrubs and climbers healthy, and blooming their best. In this post, you’ll learn when to do it, and the best tools to use. Then I will show you step-by-step exactly how to prune roses.

Roses are one of the easiest plants to learn how to prune, and you really can’t overdo it. Plus it’s very beneficial to the plant.

Trimming roses triggers healthy new growth, prevents disease, and creates tons of gorgeous blooms. If you’ve never done it before, or your roses are looking sad and overgrown, then this is for you.


Don’t worry. When pruning, roses are very forgiving, and will recover even if you make mistakes when you’re cutting them back.

Below I’m going to help you break through the fear, and show you exactly when and how to trim a rose bush, step-by-step.

Gorgeous climbing rose in full bloom

Table of Contents

Do Roses Need To Be Pruned?

It’s easy to neglect roses, because they don’t need to be pruned regularly in order to grow and bloom year after year.

But, if you want to keep them healthy and full of flowers, trimming helps a ton! If you never cut them back, over time they will bloom less, and look more scraggly.

It may sound scary, but it’s actually really easy. And the good news is that you really can’t kill a rose by over pruning it.

Why You Should Prune Roses

As I already mentioned, if you never trim them, rose bushes and climbers won’t bloom as prolifically. But there are other benefits too. Pruning roses on a regular basis…

My climbing rose before being pruned

When To Prune Roses

Late winter or early spring is the best time to trim roses. Pruning triggers fresh, healthy new growth, which is exactly what you want to do in the spring.

But don’t do it too early, or a hard freeze could kill the tender new growth. On the flip side, pruning too late could end up cutting off most of the flowers for the year.

So how can you figure out when to do it? The easiest way to make sure you’re getting the timing right is to wait until you see new buds on the plant.

You can prune rose bushes as soon as you see the buds starting to pop, or you can wait until the leaves are just beginning to grow.

New buds forming on rose bush in spring

Tools For Pruning Rose Bushes

Quality tools really do make a huge difference when pruning and cutting back roses. The canes are woody, and can become very thick. Plus they are thorny, which makes it a bit more difficult (and painful, LOL).

So you’ll need a few sizes of pruners to get the job done safely and efficiently. Here’s what you’ll need for pruning…

Supplies Needed:

My rose pruning tools

Proper Rose Pruning Techniques

When pruning roses, make each cut about 1/4″ above a healthy bud. Anything between the cut and the bud will die back. And you don’t want a bunch of ugly dead canes sticking out everywhere.

To figure out where to cut each branch, find the first bud on the healthy part of a stem. Then make your cut right above that.

If you still feel uncertain when pruning, another way to do it is to start close to the top, and keep cutting back until you see green inside the stem. Then you can find the next bud down from there to make your final cut.

Healthy canes are green around the inside edge, and lighter green or even white in the middle. Unhealthy or dead canes are brown or gray in the middle, so keep cutting until that dead stuff is gone.

Also, try to make each of the cuts at a downward angle to keep water from entering the wound, and causing rot.

Cutting rose cane just above a new bud

How To Trim Rose Bushes Step-By-Step

Pruning roses is easy, I promise. Really, the hardest part in this whole process is keeping yourself from getting pricked by the thorns.

If you’re trimming more than one bush, it’s a good idea to disinfect your tools between each to prevent the spread of disease. Wipe the blades with rubbing alcohol, or wash them with soapy water to clean them.

Here’s a quick overview of the steps, with more detailed instructions below…

  1. Remove all the dead branches
  2. Prune out the damaged stems
  3. Remove any crossing canes
  4. Clean up all debris around the base of the plant
Cutting back my rose bush

Step 1: Remove all the dead canes – Pruning out the dead rose canes and winter damaged branches first will make the rest of the steps much easier, because you’re basically clearing the clutter.

It’s usually pretty simple to spot the dead branches, because most of the time they’re brown or gray in color.

But healthy stems can be brown too, so sometimes you need to make a cut before you can tell if the cane is dead. Dead canes are brown on the inside, so if you don’t see any green, keep on cutting.

Pruning dead rose branches

Step 2: Prune out any damaged canes – Branches that are cracked, broken or otherwise damaged should be removed, even if they’re still alive.

Damaged canes are an invitation for pests and disease, and we don’t want to deal with any of that. So, find the next bud below the damaged portion of the stem, and make your cut just above that.

Damaged cane on my rose bush needs trimming

Step 3: Remove any crossing canes – What I mean by crossing canes are any stems that are overlapping and touching each other.

The reason we want to remove crossing canes is because they can rub together in the wind, and damage each other over time. Keep the stem that’s in the best shape, and remove the other one.

In the photo below, I removed the smaller stem in front because it already had quite a bit of damage on it, and the other cane looked much healthier.

Two crossing canes on climbing rose

Step 4: Clean up all debris around the base – This sounds like a silly step that you could just skip after trimming rose bushes, but it’s actually really important.

It’s essential to clean up all debris around the bottom of the plant after you’re done pruning, in order to remove any diseased material.

It’s also good to remove any mulch or leaves that are covering, or right up against the base of the stem to help prevent rotting.

I use a hand rake for this job rather than my hands because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten stuck by a thorn doing this.

Be careful though, you don’t want to damage the stem or any new buds that are down there.

Cleaning up debris after pruning & trimming roses

This spring my climber got quite the haircut. I chose to do a heavy pruning because it’s been a few years since the last time I’ve done it.

If this is your first time trimming roses, then you might feel more comfortable stopping much sooner than I did. I don’t want you to panic if you end up cutting off more than you meant to.

So start small, and work your way into it if that makes you feel more comfortable. But remember, you’re not going to kill a healthy rose plant by over-pruning it.

My climbing rose after pruning

FAQs About Pruning & Trimming Roses

In this section, I’ll answer some of the most commonly asked questions about trimming roses. If you can’t find your answer, then ask it in the comments below.

What is the best time of year to prune roses?

The best time of year to prune roses is late winter or early spring, just as the buds are starting to develop, but before the leaves begin to open.

Is it OK to prune roses in autumn?

Yes, you can trim roses in autumn, but it’s very important to wait until after the first hard frost. If you do it too early, it can trigger new growth that will only be killed during the winter, which can damage the plant.

The purpose of pruning roses in fall is to remove any tender new growth, and tall, or overgrown branches. This will help to prevent wind and winter damage to the main canes.

Can I cut my rose bush to the ground?

Yes, but it’s not usually necessary. The only reason for cutting rose bushes to the ground is if all of the canes are either severely damaged or dead.

It’s better to follow the steps above to give them a heavy pruning, rather than just cutting them down to the ground.

How much should I prune roses?

You should trim back roses as much as they need it in order to remove all of the dead and damaged canes. They are very hardy, and can handle a heavy pruning.

Do you trim a rose after it blooms?

You don’t need to trim a rose bush after it blooms, but deadheading can help to encourage more flowers to open. To deadhead roses, simply snip or pull off the faded flowers.

Pruning roses is an important part of their maintenance, and early spring is the perfect time to do it. Not only will you be rewarded with tons of flowers, but your shrubs and climbers will be much healthier.

More Posts About Pruning

Give us your best tips for pruning roses in the comments below.

How to prune roses | Encyclopedia of Roses

Pruning roses is about more than just appearance. Proper pruning improves the health of the bush, prevents diseases and promotes better flowering.

There are different pruning strategies at different times of the year, but in general the goal is always the same: keep the bush open, allowing better air circulation through the center of the plant.

Air movement dries the leaves, which helps prevent leaf diseases. Fungal diseases such as black spot and powdery mildew are more common in plants with old stems in the middle of the plant.

General pruning rules

Whether roses are pruned in summer or annual spring pruning, it is important to consider how the rose grows.

Roses respond well to pruning

What's interesting about roses is that they survive on old wood. Not all shrubs have this ability. Roses are able to produce new shoots on old branches. This is good news, because with this ability, it is almost impossible to kill a rose by pruning.

This also means that old bushes can be rejuvenated by cutting them almost to the very base.

Make an oblique cut just above the protruding stem. Slanted pruning helps water drain from the wound, which prevents water from accumulating at the ends of the branch and also makes it more aesthetically pleasing.

After such a cut, the rose will direct its growth to the nearest germ, releasing a new terminal shoot. Given this, it is necessary to choose the right outer shoot so that the new stem is directed away from the center of the plant.

It is generally not necessary to apply anything to a cut wound. The plant will heal itself.

Rose bush health pruning

Basic rose pruning includes: removing dead, damaged or diseased branches. It is common for roses to die off part of the stem, and most often it occurs when the pruning was done in the middle of the branch, and not in the area of ​​​​the shoots.

As the rose seeks to direct growth into a new bud, any part of the branch left between the cut and the next shoot dies off. Sometimes the nearest shoot is not viable, in which case dieback may occur further down the stem to the next healthy shoot.

Dead wood is usually brown, but can also be black if damaged by cold or frost.

As part of the natural defense system, the rose will attempt to isolate dying and create a clear break point between healthy and dead tissue. However, depending on the cause of the injury, the leading edge of the dying tissue may move down the stem.

For this reason, it is always a good idea to trim dry wood, regardless of the season. Look at the color of the stem to see if it has been pruned enough, dead tissue often extends further down the center of the stem.

Healthy branches will be pure white or light green in cross section. Any discoloration indicates tissue death and should be cut out.
Damaged or diseased wood is also easy to spot, as damaged areas create opportunities for disease to enter.

In roses, lesions often occur on crossing branches, where wind movement causes the thorns to rub against adjacent branches. Wind damage can also occur during the main growing season, when high-density, densely blooming branches split in half during stormy weather.

Diseased branches tend to look diseased, affected by fungal diseases such as black spot or downy mildew. They must be removed immediately to prevent the spread of the pathogen (causative agent.

Seasonal rose pruning

There are different opinions about when to prune roses. Some gardeners like to prune bushes in the fall, others in the spring. You can prune a rose in spring and autumn, with the exception of some flowering roses, which should be pruned immediately after flowering. In addition, taking care of the plants during the summer will give the bushes a more attractive look.

Observe roses on a windy day to assess potential problem areas. As a rule, on hybrid and climbing spray roses, it is necessary to cut off all branches that are thinner than a pencil in diameter. These thin branches tend to blow in the wind and leave scars on neighboring branches. It is also necessary to remove any erroneously intersecting branches for the same reason.

Pruning long branches will prevent the roots from weakening due to strong winds. The wind also draws moisture out of the plants, so reducing the overall amount of pruning is helpful. Trim all branches to chest height as a frost protection measure. Remove all large branches from climbing roses where they can be securely connected to their support structure.

The general recommendation is to reduce the overall height of the plant by 1/3 and thicken the center slightly to accommodate the bushes in stronger wind gusts.

Pruning roses in spring

Spring is the time to correct general shape problems or reduce the height of roses that outgrow their space. It is important to prune roses to shape and clean out dead wood and worn, weak, worn out branches.

Most roses bloom on new branches, and tend to have reduced bloom on old stems. If the branch is larger than conventional loppers can handle (3.8 cm or more), it should be removed.

For most rose bushes, 6 to 8 strong, healthy branches should be left, ideal for a full, slender plant without overcrowding. Floribunda or spray roses tend to have more branches in nature, so more branches can be left on them.

For most roses, spring pruning should reduce the overall height of the bush to 45-60 cm. The shorter the roses are pruned, the fewer flowers there will be, but the flowers will be larger. Leaving taller branches, a smaller flower will grow.

Remove all dead, damaged or diseased branches, crossed branches and thin branches to keep the bush open and ready for new growth.

Spring pruning strongly depends on the weather. Most people prune roses in late February or early March. Monitor plants and temperature: pruning should be done as soon as new growth begins.

Pruning roses in summer

Removing spent flower stalks stimulates the emergence of new flowers and maintains the attractiveness of the bush. Trim a branch just above the row of mature leaves facing outward. If roses are cut to only 3 leaves, then there will be no new growth or re-blooming.

Remember to prune with a well-sharpened blade and periodically disinfect your pruners between cuts if you are removing diseased branches.

Remember that large-flowered roses need a stronger branch to support the weight of the flower. If the stem is not trimmed too much, the new shoot will be too weak to support flowering, and end up with a curved branch - the roses will look at the ground.

How to prune roses in the garden

Regular pruning of roses is the key to their lush flowering and good growth of new shoots. However, it is very important to do it correctly. Otherwise, you can destroy the plant. We will tell you how to prevent this.

There are several types (degrees) of pruning. They depend on the season, the group to which the rose belongs, and the height of the shoots of the plant.

Short (low) or high pruning roses

Applied in spring (after removal of winter shelter) for hybrid tea, polyanthus and floribunda roses. And such pruning is carried out during the planting of new seedlings.

With heavy pruning, 1/3 of the shoots are left, while the stems are shortened at the level of 3-4 buds from the base of the bush.

Medium or moderate pruning roses

Suitable for various medium sized roses and mainly used after flowering. Shoots are shortened at the level of 5-7 buds from the base and thus form a bush.

Long (high) or low pruning roses

Recommended for vigorous climbing and tall hybrid tea roses. At the same time, the shoots are shortened slightly: at the level of 8-15 buds from the base of the bush. Long pruning is carried out during the spring planting of seedlings.

In addition, there is a combined pruning - when the shoots of one plant are shortened to varying degrees. With the help of such pruning, bushes of some varieties of floribunda roses are formed. This allows you to give the plants an elegant shape.

As well as sanitary pruning, which is carried out throughout the growing season in order to prevent diseases. At the same time, affected, dry, frozen and weak shoots are removed, the stems are shortened to a healthy (green) tissue.

Don't feel sorry for the roses! Nothing will grow from a damaged (brown) and dry branch anyway

Spring pruning of roses

Before spring pruning, winter shelter is removed from plants, debris is removed, all old leaves are removed and mulch is raked. Then the roses are pruned when the weather is warm, the buds swell, but the shoots have not yet started to grow. At this time, sanitary pruning is carried out.

If the bush is too dense, thin it out and leave 4-5 strong, healthy stems. At the same time, it is important that all cuts are made with a sharp pruner, which minimally injures the plant. In addition, all shoots are cut at an angle of 45 degrees, retreating upwards from the bud by about 5 mm.

In spring, it is recommended to prune roses of any kind, since at this time it is important to remove all old and dry shoots so that the plant does not waste its strength on them, but seeks to grow new ones.

In addition, during spring pruning, the bush is given the desired shape and shoots are cut to stimulate flowering.

In the spring the shoots are pruned to healthy tissue

Summer pruning of roses

In the summer, sanitary and formative pruning of bushes is continued: wild shoots, dried branches and wilted flowers are removed, cutting the stem to the first cinquefoil and a healthy bud. Roses older than 3 years often grow too many young shoots in August, which thicken the bush and create a shadow inside it. This can lead to the development of fungal diseases, so during the summer you need to get rid of excess shoots.

Pruning roses after flowering

This is a very important summer pruning and should be mentioned separately. Removing wilted buds allows roses to bloom longer and not waste energy on fruiting.

On roses that have several buds on one stem (floribunda, climbing climbers, scrubs), cut off the entire cluster above the upper cinquefoil.

In hybrid tea roses, which produce only one flower per stem, wilted buds are pruned differently. In the first half of summer, the shoot is cut so that only 3-4 leaves remain on it above the soil level. This will contribute to the rapid growth of new shoots coming from the roots.

In the first half of summer, you can also prune floribunda roses.

And in the second half of summer, only faded flowers should be removed.

Climbing ramblers (which flower on second-year shoots) have their tufts removed after flowering to the first leaf. This will contribute to the branching of the shoots, on which flowers will bloom next year.

Pruning roses in autumn

Roses grown in mild climates without winter shelter do not need pruning for the winter. And from covering roses in late autumn (approximately in October, before frost), all unripened shoots are removed and the stems are shortened to the height of the covering material.

General rules for pruning roses

At any time of the year, it is important to trim rose stems correctly. The oblique cut should be approximately 5 mm above the kidney.

Schematic of how to properly cut rose shoots

If you want a spreading rose bush, cut off the branches above the bud that is on the outside. Then the new shoot will not grow in the center of the bush, but outward. And if you need to grow an upright bush with vertical shoots, pruning is done on a bud, which is located on the inside of the stem.

In addition, the age of the bushes must be taken into account. So, in annual plants, the shoot is cut about half.

In the second year, 2-3 regeneration shoots are formed on each branch, which grow from the root collar. In no case can they be cut to the ground, since it is they who provide the plants with lush flowering and longevity. So, two-year-old shoots are shortened by 2-3 eyes from the base, and one-year shoots are shortened above the upper well-formed bud, located below the faded buds.

Adult roses (from three years of age) completely remove all dead and weakened branches and short shoots that have grown after pruning the previous year. In addition, for the formation of good flowers, all side shoots of any thickness growing towards the center of the bush should be cut.

Pruning of hybrid tea roses

Pruning of hybrid tea roses in the shape of a ball. In these plants, buds form on the shoots of the current year, so they are greatly shortened. On young bushes, 2-4 buds are left at a distance of 15 cm from the ground level, and on adults - 4-6 buds at a distance of about 20 cm. On lateral shoots, 2-4 buds are also left.

Pruning chart for hybrid tea roses

In addition, the inner stems are removed from the center of the bush, which contribute to thickening.

Pruning of hybrid tea roses is carried out every year

Pruning of floribunda roses

Floribunda roses also need a strong (short) pruning, otherwise they will grow a voluminous bush with weak stems and small flowers. But so that the plant does not quickly deplete with strong pruning, a special method is used: some stems are made short to get early flowering, and annual basal shoots are cut only 1/3 of the length.

Floribunda rose pruning plan

Leave 2-3 buds on young lateral branches and 3-5 buds on old ones. At the same time, the old stems growing in the middle of the bush are completely cut out.

In floribunda roses throughout the growing season, up to shelter for the winter, shoots are cut every 10-12 days. Their stems are tied with a rope, bent to the ground and then covered. And the main pruning is carried out in the spring.

After removing the shelter, the stems are shortened so as to give the bush a beautiful shape, 2-4 buds are left on the side shoots. And in the summer of such roses, wilted flowers are cut to the first leaf.

Pruning scheme for climbing roses

Pruning polyanthus roses

Polyanthus roses are also mainly pruned in spring (usually in April), and only damaged and weak branches are removed in autumn. In early spring, strong shoots are shortened by 1/3 of the length, dead, weak and diseased branches are cut out completely. Thickening shoots are removed from the center of the bush.

Pruning scheme for polyanthus roses

Pruning ground cover roses

For ground cover roses, flowering shoots, weak branches and diseased growths are cut off in autumn, strong young basal branches that have grown this year are left, but they are slightly shortened.

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