When is a good time to trim rose bushes

How to Prune Roses


Marie Iannotti

Marie Iannotti

Marie Iannotti is a life-long gardener and a veteran Master Gardener with nearly three decades of experience. She's also an author of three gardening books, a plant photographer, public speaker, and a former Cornell Cooperative Extension Horticulture Educator. Marie's garden writing has been featured in newspapers and magazines nationwide and she has been interviewed for Martha Stewart Radio, National Public Radio, and numerous articles.

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Updated on 09/13/22

Reviewed by

Julie Thompson-Adolf

Reviewed by Julie Thompson-Adolf

Julie Thompson-Adolf is a master gardener and author. She has 13+ years of experience with year-round organic gardening; seed starting and saving; growing heirloom plants, perennials, and annuals; and sustainable and urban farming.

Learn more about The Spruce's Review Board

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault  

In This Article

Project Overview

Pruning roses can be intimidating to gardeners since cutting back beautiful growth seems counterintuitive and can be downright painful if the plant is unruly. But, the practice actually creates a vital plant, as pruning encourages new growth, removes old, dead wood, helps shape the plant, and reduces the chances of fungal disease by opening the rose plant up to airflow.

While becoming an accomplished rose pruner takes time and practice, don't let that deter you; skilled gardeners agree that it's very hard to kill a rose bush and most mistakes will grow out quickly. Plus, it is better to make mistakes in the learning process than to let your roses grow rampant, creating a big mess in your garden down the road.

Watch Now: Tips and Tricks for Pruning Roses

When to Prune Roses

In most regions, roses should be pruned between late winter and early spring before blooms start to show. Timing your pruning is determined by the class of the rose plant and the hardiness zone in which it grows. Watch the leaf buds on your rose plant. When they begin to swell and take on a pink or reddish hue, it's time to prune. Timing it right is critical, as it's best to prune the plant before the buds break open and right after hard frosts have ended in your region. However, certain roses are finicky about pruning time and prefer to be cut back before breaking dormancy.


Make sure before completing this project that you have thick gardening gloves that cover your arms, canvas pants or jeans, and a long-sleeved shirt or canvas jacket. Thorn pricks from rose stems can cause a variety of bacterial and fungal infections, one of which (sporotrichosis) carries the common name "rose-picker's disease. " These infections can be surprisingly serious, so it is best to avoid thorn injury by wearing protective clothing.

Where to Prune Roses

The most obvious areas to prune on rose bushes are the dead, woody remains of flowering stalks. These dead canes may have snapped under the weight of snow or simply succumbed to a harsh winter. The less obvious canes to prune include those that are spindly or have shoots that extend well beyond your desired growing region. The ultimate goal is to maintain a "V" formation, or vase shape, between several, evenly spaced major canes that sprout from the ground.

The Spruce / Catherine Song

Before Getting Started

The proper pruning specifications vary depending on the type and classification of your rose bush. Make sure you understand the particularities of your rose's variety before you prune.

Roses that Bloom Once on New Wood

Modern roses like hybrid tea, grandiflora, and floribundas bloom best on the current season's growth. Prune hard in the spring (1/2 to 2/3 of the plant's height) and remove all old woody stems. Create an open vase shape with the remaining canes by removing the center stems and any crossing branches. Leave three to five healthy canes evenly spaced around the plant, cut at various lengths, to encourage continuous blooming.

Roses that Bloom Once on Old Wood

Ramblers like the "Malvern Hills" and "Snow Goose" rose must be pruned to remove winter damage and dead wood and shaped to keep their size in check. Ramblers bloom only once and can be pruned right after flowering, all the way back to 2- to 3-inch canes if you wish. They quickly regrow, so don't worry, as you won't lose any flowers the following season.

Repeat Bloomers

Shrub rose bushes, like the Knock Out varieties and 'The Fairy', are repeat bloomers, flowering on mature—but not old—woody stems. Leave them unpruned to increase vigor in the first two years, and then remove 1/3 of the oldest canes, in addition to any dead, diseased, or dying canes.

Climbers, like the 'William Baffin' rose, may repeat bloom, as well. Prune this bush early to remove winter damage and deadwood. Then, prune again after flowering to shape the bush and keep its size in check. Remove old and weakened long canes, as needed.

Equipment / Tools


The Spruce / Adrienne Legault 
  1. Begin Pruning From the Ground Up

    In the spring, take inventory of your rose bush, noting its overall health and shape. Then go low, pruning off dead canes at the base and opening up the center of the plant to allow light and air circulation.

    The Spruce / Adrienne Legault  
  2. Remove Broken, Dead, and Diseased Wood

    Follow old wood down the cane to a location that looks healthy (or green). Cut it at a 45-degree angle, taking care to expose the white flesh inside. If the flesh is not white, cut lower until you reach healthy flesh.

    The Spruce / Adrienne Legault  
  3. Remove Twiggy Canes

    Remove canes that are thinner than a pencil. These canes will grow gangly and produce very few blossoms.

    The Spruce / Adrienne Legault 
  4. Remove Sucker Growth Below the Graft

    A sucker is any new vertical growth that extends from the main canes. Suckers can also pop out of the ground. Suckers will contain no flowers at all or flowers that are inferior to those growing from grafted branches (canes that have fused together). Trim these at the ground or below the spot where the main branches fuse.

    The Spruce / Adrienne Legault  
  5. Prune New Growth

    Prune new growth to shape the plant to your desired look. Make clean cuts at a 45-degree angle, about 1/4 inch above a bud that is facing toward the outside of the plant.

    The Spruce / Adrienne Legault  
  6. Seal Cuts With White Glue (Optional)

    If cane borers are a problem in your area, seal any major cuts with white glue.

    James Solomon / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0 US

Rose Pruning Tips

How to Prepare for Rose Bloom Season

Watch Now: 7 Tips for Every Gardener

When to Prune Roses


Q: Last year, we moved into a home with some beautiful rose bushes on the property, but I know very little about how to care for roses. Should they be pruned regularly and if so, when?

Roses have a reputation for being finicky to grow, but regular pruning is necessary to keep them healthy. Pruning will help your plants produce more blooms throughout the season, lessen the chance for diseases to occur, and give you a healthier plant all around.

Although it might seem intimidating to make the first cut, the task is straightforward once you understand the process and when you should do it. Roses only need significant pruning once a year and sometimes a light pruning prior to winter. However, knowing when to prune a rose will depend on its bloom time. If you prune at the wrong time, you will get few to no blooms for the season.

RELATED: 8 Pretty Plants That Stink!

Do a major pruning in the early spring.

In general, most pruning takes place in early spring before the new growth buds swell (bud eyes). However, if you live in a warm climate, that might happen in late winter. Many gardeners time their pruning based on when forsythia shrubs begin to bloom in their area. It’s best to time your pruning based on the variety of rose plants and your hardiness zone. Some types do better if pruned before breaking dormancy.

It’s always best to follow the growing and maintenance recommendations of your specific variety of roses. There are more than 300 species in the Rosa genus and several thousand varieties available. However, roses are often classified into types or categories: old garden roses, wild (species) roses, and modern roses.

Old garden roses and wild roses typically bloom once, and you should prune them in the summer after their bloom cycle has finished. The same goes for most climbing varieties. However, modern shrub roses are bred for multiple blooms and usually do best with spring pruning. Do the research and identify your variety first before you make any cuts.



Cut off dead flowers in the summertime.

Deadheading refers to the removal of spent blossoms. This step ensures that your plant will continue to produce more flowers instead of going to seed, and keeps the overall plant looking tidy. To deadhead, cut off the spent bloom just below where the base of the flower joins the stem.

As the season progresses, you can deadhead further in larger sections. Cut the stem above a 5-leaflet or 7-leaflet branch stem once the cluster of flowers is spent. Deadhead as needed throughout the flowering season to encourage more growth. In the spring or late winter, you can prune to address the overall shape of the rose or dead branches before the next growing season.

Prune all once-blooming types in the early summer.

First of all, identify the correct variety or cultivar you have. Once-blooming types include heritage/old garden roses and wild roses that only bloom once a season. The blooms form on the previous year’s canes. If you prune these varieties in the spring, you remove most or all of the flower buds. Prune once-blooming types right after blooming in early summer.

Once-blooming roses also benefit from deadheading and can be pruned in the same manner as described in the deadheading section above. However, don’t jump the gun on the hard prune. It’s best to wait until the plant has completely bloomed out before making any cuts.

RELATED: Managing 3 Common Problems Faced by Roses


Trim longer stems right after the first frost in the fall.

Pruning roses in the fall is a hot topic for some gardeners. There’s one school of thought that says you should never do so or you will stimulate growth, only to have it die off when the cold weather arrives. Others say the fall season is the perfect time to prune any dead, broken, or diseased branches.


Again, it depends on the specific rose variety you are growing and your climate. For the most part, you can prune away dead, damaged, and diseased stems any time of the year. In the hottest climates, you can encourage a second burst of blooming with a summer prune. Check with local plant experts for timing.

Otherwise, make any cuts on healthy branches late enough in the fall season to avoid causing the plant to send out tender shoots that can’t survive in winter. After the first frost is typically a safe time to prune the stems before the plant heads into dormancy, but it depends on the climate in your area.

Prepare your rose for winter.

Keep up with deadheading as long as your plant continues to produce blooms, but stop about 8 to 10 weeks before your first frost date. This step will help any new growth harden off naturally before winter. Leaving some flowers can encourage development of rose hips, the red balls beneath the flowers that hold the seeds. Let them be; they offer added interest to your fall and winter garden and provide food for birds over the winter.


If your roses are still pretty tall at this point, cut them back to 4 or 5 feet high and then thin out any broken branches to help reduce wind damage in late fall and winter.


Pruning of spray roses in spring and autumn

Shrub roses have several inflorescences on one stem, unlike hybrid roses, in which only one flower grows on one stem. In spring and autumn, it's pruning time. Roses need to be pruned strictly before frost (and in the spring after the establishment of warm weather).

General Tips:

Pruning is the key to growing a strong and vigorous plant with good flowering. Pruning provokes the growth of new shoots, and also increases the resistance of the rose to diseases and pests. If regular pruning is not performed, then the rose will weaken, the intensity of flowering will also decrease, the growth of shoots will be reduced and the plant will be "bare".
By the way, you don't have to be a gardening guru to perform pruning, and it's almost impossible to harm a rose by pruning even if you're not skilled, despite some books that may have very complicated instructions for doing this. You can safely cut the shoots at your discretion.
It is especially important to prune more so that the plant repays with vigorous growth of new greenery, unless the rose is already old or grows in nutrient-poor soil.
If you prune very carefully and in small quantities, the rose will age faster, have fewer foliage and shoots, and become more susceptible to diseases and pests.

Please note that pruning roses (and any other plants) is only necessary with a very sharp secateurs, so as not to damage the plant, and so that the cut is the least traumatic.

So let's get started:

Before pruning, you need to remove any elements (in spring - shelter from frost, in autumn mulch or supports). How much to prune each rose depends on the growth potential of each individual plant. Roses with poor growth potential are pruned harder than strong plants. The plant becomes stronger exactly as much as it is pruned. A well-pruned rose produces only a few but strong shoots, while insufficient pruning causes many weak shoots to grow. A good pruning is when, after pruning, the height of the rose does not exceed 10 - 20 cm above ground level.

Always cut off the stem of a rose above the eyes. The eyes are the places from which shoots of new stems grow. The cut should always be made diagonally, never straight. Shoots that grow towards the stem, as well as crossing shoots, must be completely cut off. Dry and dead stems also need to be completely cut off, while the cut should fall on the "living" part of the stem. This is very important because dry wood does not sprout, but only limits the space for new ones to grow. Also, such "old" unnecessary branches include those that have already acquired a dark brown color. Wild shoots below the level of the kidneys also need to be removed.


By pruning enough, you will achieve lush flowering, as well as excellent green growth, without exposing the main stem.
Therefore, pruning is the key to beautiful and lush roses in your garden!


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When, why and how to prune roses

A rose is a flower of incredible beauty that will adorn any garden. However, not every gardener decides to plant a fragrant beauty, as he thinks that she needs special care.

In fact, the rose is an unpretentious flower that survives even in harsh climatic conditions. But this of course does not mean that it is enough to plant a bush and it will smell fragrant. It is important to carry out timely care, which consists in watering and obligatory pruning of the plant.

The beauty and health of the bush is ensured by the fact that pruning allows new shoots to germinate and make the bush brighter.

Recommended tools and techniques for pruning roses

Pruning roses requires a quality tool. You will need a pruner with sharp blades that work like scissors. This secateurs allows you to make an even cut that does not peel off the bark.

It is recommended to use a specific pruner for rose bushes. Periodically, the instrument should be disinfected; for the winter, it can be lubricated with machine oil.

It is recommended to remove thick branches with a pruner, which has powerful lever-operated handles. A garden saw is also a great tool for cutting out old shoots at the root.

Cut the shoots at a 45 degree angle, focusing on the outer bud. In this case, you should step back from its top about half a centimeter. In no case should you make a cut towards the kidney, as this will lead to water rolling towards it, and it will begin to rot. You should also rely on the outer kidney because this will allow you to give the bush the shape of a flowerpot. The branches will be located on the outside, this will prevent them from tangling. It is also not worth cutting across, as this can lead to illness.

If the cutting area is large, then it is recommended to treat it with a special paste, this will protect the plant from pests and prevent the branches from drying out.

Don't forget to protect your hands when pruning roses. It is best to use gloves made of dense materials for this.

Types of rose pruning

There are several types of rose pruning. An important classification is the division of pruning by purpose. And here they distinguish sanitary pruning, one that is aimed at rejuvenating the plant, pruning that forms a bush, stimulating pruning of the seasonal type.

Sanitary pruning is the removal of excess shoots in the spring. In this case, we are talking about those shoots that have already turned black and deteriorated, as well as those that are prone to diseases, for example, covered with brown spots.

They must be removed immediately, otherwise the rose bush may die in no time. It is necessary to cut down to a healthy part of the wood. It is important to do this gradually, because it is very easy to snip off the excess.

Pruning for the purpose of rejuvenation should be in order for rose bushes to please the eye with many years of flowering. The growth cycle of the plant is such that it needs constant renewal in order for new buds to emerge and bloom.

Only proper care, including timely pruning of shrubs, will allow you to observe the lush flowering of roses for many decades. For this reason, rose bushes should be trimmed in spring, including completely cutting off old branches older than 3 years. Shoots that are not suitable for flowering are easy to distinguish from young shoots, because they have lost their former bright color, and also began to bloom worse due to malnutrition.

If radical pruning is not carried out, the plant will gradually die. To remove old shoots is to give life to a new flowering, which by the way has its own root.

If the rose has begun to bloom weakly, then it means that it is time to renew its branches by cutting. To do this, carry out a radical pruning, leaving a few of the strongest shoots. This will ensure the rapid growth of new shoots, from which in the fall you should choose a couple of strong ones that will create a skeleton for the updated bush.

At the same time, it is necessary to feed the rose, for example, treat the roots with rotted manure, and apply microfertilizers. To stimulate growth, gardeners use a solution of "Heteroauxin" or "Kornevin". Plus two top dressings in the summer and the owner will not recognize his roses.

Anti-aging pruning is considered the most radical. Old shoots are removed to the ring, there should be no stumps, as they will prevent the emergence of new shoots. If roses have their own root, then they should be cut at ground level.

The so-called shaping pruning is carried out after the frame is formed from those branches of the plant that remained after the sanitary cleaning, as well as the rejuvenating cutting stage. This type of pruning is carried out in order to form a vase-shaped bush that will face the light.

It is important to remove the weak branches located at the bottom of the bush, because they will never grow. Also, the bush does not need shoots that compete with each other, it is recommended to leave the strongest of the two.

The same is done with three branches growing from one bud, namely, leaving only one. Only in the case of proper pruning, the bush will be harmonious and uniform. Formative pruning removes blind shoots that do not have buds. They can form if the plant does not have enough light.

Incentive pruning is designed to force the plant to produce new shoots. The weaker the shoot, the shorter it should be cut. And, on the contrary, it is recommended to shorten a strong shoot slightly.

Pruning time for roses

Pruning of roses is usually done in the spring, and this is the main one. But we can not exclude the pruning of roses in summer and autumn.

Spring pruning of roses

In spring, the main process of pruning roses is carried out. To begin with, roses are removed from shelters and sanitary-type pruning is carried out. After that, old shoots that are more than three years old are destroyed.

The next step in pruning rose bushes is shaping pruning. It is best to do it when the buds are swollen, but the leaves have not yet blossomed.

In this case, you will see strong shoots, on which you need to shorten the branches. After the ends are removed, the removal of shoots begins, which prevent the bush from developing. It is necessary to strive to ensure that the bush takes on a vase shape.

Summer pruning of roses

Summer pruning of roses usually consists of removing flowers that have already faded. Pruning is carried out in order to control flowering and the ability to ensure the appearance of new inflorescences in time.

It is recommended to prune to the outer bud, this will keep the shape of the bush. Otherwise, it will form inwards. Blind shoots are not cut out entirely, leaving about 2-3 cinquefoils on each. It pays to be more careful. In order not to remove the so-called basal shoots, their difference is that they grow directly from the neck.

Corrective pruning can be carried out in summer, which is aimed at removing stumps, twigs that grow towards the inside of the bush, as well as lower shoots. During this period, you can correct the mistakes made during pruning in the spring.

Summer pruning is carried out until the end of August, after which the withering petals are removed, giving the rose time to form seeds. This will be a signal for the plant to prepare for the winter period and end the growing season.

Autumn pruning of roses

Autumn pruning is carried out before the roses are sent to the wintering shelter. In this case, it is necessary to take into account the variety of roses, since some of them can simply be shortened by half, but many can get sick from this, as there is an imbalance between the nutrition systems and the roots.

Many also recommend removing the leaves, but be aware that this weakens the plant. It either takes a long time to recover or dies. For this reason, it is better to carry out gentle pruning in the autumn, which will ensure a successful wintering, because the vegetative mass feeds the roots of the plant during this period. But in the spring, shoots that are weakened and require removal will already be visible.

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