Rose Pruning - The Basics


Some people look upon pruning roses as a daunting task when in fact it should not be if you follow a few basic rules and these are;

To reduce wind-rock during the winter months, prune back established bushes by half to one-third in autumn (circa Week 45>).

Newly planted bushes can be pruned back to about 75-150mm (3”-6”) high at planting time.

*The following spring, prune once the risk of severe frosts has passed,° plus check the plants over for signs of die back, and cut this out as necessary.

*Timing this in mild winters can sometimes be rather difficult if buds break early.

°Newly-planted bushes should not require any further pruning, with established plants leave some dormant buds in reserve for any that might get damaged by late frost.

Why prune?

The aim of pruning is to create an open-centred, cup shaped bush.

Vigorous cultivars should be pruned lightly, as hard pruning can stimulate flowerless shoots.


As with all pruning, remove dead, diseased, weak wood, and remove shoots growing into the center of the bush.

In the event that this will denude the bush too much, cut to a low, outward-facing bud, this will encourage the bush to grow outwards.

Shorten remaining stems to 150-200mm (6”-8”) from the ground, cutting to an outward facing bud.

In subsequent years cut to a bud 50-75mm (2”-3”) above the previous year's cut.

On established bushes where 3-4 stems emerge from the same branch cut back the old wood to leave one outward facing stem.

This remaining stem should be cut down to 50-75mm (2”-3”) from the old wood.

Shrub roses:

This type of rose is a hybrid produced from species and old roses and as such require slightly different pruning methods!

These generally flower on older wood so one should aim to prune in a manner to maintain a balance of old and young wood!

circa Week 35-40 prune single flowering shrub roses once flowering is completed.

Only prune out dead, diseased, damaged and spindly growth, plus any crossing or rubbing branches.

If necessary clear out unproductive wood at the center of the bush.

If the base becomes leggy and or bare, remove one or two stems back to near ground level to encourage new basal growth.

Circa Week 13: reduce strong new growth of repeat flowering shrub roses by up to a third and shorten strong laterals to two or three buds.

As with single flowering varieties prune out some of the older main stems back to the base to encourage new basal growth.

Do’s and don’ts:

Always use sharp secateurs.

Use loppers or a pruning saw for large / thick stems.

Cuts should be no more than 5mm (¼”) above a bud, and should slope away from it.

Where practical cut to an outward-facing bud to encourage an open centre.

To encourage more upright growth, prune some stems to inward-facing buds.

If a dormant bud is not visible, cut the stem to the appropriate height.

Prune die-back to healthy white pith.

Cut out dead, diseased stems and weak spindly and crossing stems.

Aim for well-spaced stems that allow free airflow.

With the exception of climbing roses, prune all newly planted roses hard to encourage vigorous shoots.

Remove suckers by tracing them back to the roots from which they grow and pull them off rather than cutting them off.

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