Guide To Rose Pruning

Now that we are moving towards the beginning of Spring, it is our last chance to establish a good framework for our roses, whether they are climbers, bush or shrub. Pruning can be undertaken anytime between January and March dependent on weather, it should be left towards the end of March in colder climates. By pruning our roses correctly we encourage new vigorous growth and better repeat flowering year upon year. And it really is not as difficult as you might think…

General Tips

Although there are several rose types which require different treatment, here are some golden rules to rose pruning that apply to any variety.

1. Firstly remove any dead, diseased or damaged stems, you want to make sure there are no crossing stems where possible as these will cause damage and stunt growth. By removing any stems that are not productive or causing congestion you are creating an open, healthier structure where air can flow, this will encourage new growth and better flowering.

2. Cuts should never be made more than 5mm from the bud, this can result in the stubby brown dead bits of rose stem you see if they are left too long. The cut should be made at an angle, slanted so that rain water will not run into the new bud causing infection.

3. Cut to an outward- facing bud to encourage an open shape. Only cut to an inward facing bud if you want to encourage up right growth.

4. Cuts must be clean, not jagged or torn, so make sure secateurs are clean and sharp. For larger stems use a pruning saw or loppers. Always disinfect tools between each plant, this is as easy as having a bucket of water with dilute horticultural disinfectant in it. This will reduce the risk of transplanting diseases such as black spot between plants.

5. Trace suckers back to the root (these are long vigorous stems which do not produce flowers) and pull them away.

6. When training roses against a wall or on a structure, make sure the rose is in front of the wire or obelisk you are training it around not behind. If the stems get caught behind wire they can rub or become constricted resulting in damage and a less productive stem. Soft tie is a great way of training in roses without the risk of rubbing that string or wire can cause, it is also easy to loosen and re tie.

7. Dead head throughout the flowering season to encourage a second flush and to keep plants looking their best.

8. To give roses a head start for the summer give them a granular rose feed around the base in Spring after pruning and a thick layer of mulch or well-rotted manure – being careful not to let said manure come into contact with the stems as they can result in rotting.

Correct Rose Pruning Cut
A Birdham Rose
A rose stem behind some wire

Climbing Rose Structure


1. Roses flower better the lower and more horizontal you can keep them, this is why if climbers are left without maintenance they can become very woody at the bottom and only flower at the ends. Therefore, when training against a wall, start training stems in when they are young, with the first wire no more than 45cm from the ground. Similarly when training around an obelisk or pillar, make sure you gently train round young stems, encouraging low horizontal spirals early on before they become too old and will no longer bend.

2. Cut back in Winter to early Spring by two thirds, establishing an open structure and cutting back to outward facing buds where you want to encourage new stems that year.

3. If older stems are no longer proving to be productive take them out near the base to encourage new vigorous growth.

Climbing Rose


The main difference between floribunda and hybrid tea’s is that floribunda stems are left longer with more buds to encourage a mass of flowers, whereas hybrid tea’s are pruned back hard to encourage vigorous new growth.

1. For hybrid teas cut back older stems to the base and remaining stems to 15cm from the base.

2. For floribunda reduce congestion and reduce stems to around 30cm. Remove less vigorous stems at the base to encourage new growth.

Hybrid Tea Rose Ascot
Orange Floribunda Rose

These are a very basic set of guidelines for rose pruning, however fundamentally for all roses the answer is simple, keep an open structure without congestion, encourage new vigorous growth and make sure cuts are healthy and clean. 

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