The Whys and Hows of Rose Pruning

Getting Started 

The most commonly heard phrase regarding a rose is that “Every rose has its thorns” and despite roses being known to be a fussy bush-type plant that is difficult to grow, they are actually adequately easy to handle as long as you prune them correctly.

To address the essentials of rose pruning, we will be talking about why roses have to be pruned, how they are pruned, and a few other points to note about weather and pruning.

All About Pruning

Pruning is a process that can be understandably quite intimidating for gardeners, but they will be glad to know that the pruning of rose bushes is not as hard as it sounds. Once they understand the reasons for cutting, pruning becomes more efficient and less of a herculean task. 

Below are a few reasons why roses have to be pruned. 

  1. Pruning brings forth health benefits in the case where cutting off the roses’ dead stems is done before the plant continues to grow. By pruning the rose, it ensures that stems that are infected with diseases are removed, and air circulation is enhanced as well by removing stems that are overcrowding in the center of the plant. Overall, the health of a rose plant is important for it to continuously blossom.
  2. Pruning will help roses retain their attractive form and shape. Examples of roses that need help in maintaining their appearance would be the Bushy Modern types of roses. These roses need to remain densely packed and open while on the other hand, Heirloom roses are more low maintenance and require minimum pruning due to their entire charm relying on how relaxed and branchy they appear to be. By autumn, miniature roses would have grown taller and not to mention, cutting off dead flowers will also stimulate reblooming among the plants.
  3. Pruning will assist roses that grow passionately. By trimming rose bushes, it removes any diseases and dead stems, which will make the plant more compact and easy to care for. If roses are not pruned, the plants will grow out of bounds and colder weather may even bring forth blotchy blossoms and yellowing leaves that will start to wither and fall. If the dead flowers are not taken away, rose hips may bloom, which may potentially disrupt the next cycle of the plant blooming.

Pruning The Right Way

Next, you may be wondering: how to prune roses correctly and efficiently with minimum fuss? Well, keeping in mind the principles of pruning roses is extremely important for the gardener to understand what is right when pruning and what is unnecessary.


Some principles to keep in mind about rose pruning is to:

  • Always trim the dead wood back to the healthy part of the tissue, which is essentially the green bark and white inner core. 
  • Cover each cup with a dot of white glue to ensure that recovery is quick and smooth.
  • Keep in mind while pruning that the center of the bush has to be kept open for optimum circulation of air.
  • Growth on any of the main canes that do not seem to be able to sustain a stem on its own has to be removed.
  • Suckers, which are growths protruding from the roots that grow from underneath the bud union, have to be removed as close to the main root stem as possible.
  • Remove all sorts of woody old stems by sawing them as close to the bud as possible.
  • Remove any remaining leaves from the stems and canes after pruning is completed and meticulously clean the debris from the bush area. Do not use the foliage in the compost heap and instead, discard all of it. 

Pruning Explained Step by Step

Lastly, to prune the roses:


Firstly, make the cuts for pruning at a 45-degree angle with a dormant eye that is about a quarter-inch above the leaf axle.

Next, you have to choose an appropriate eye on the surface of the cane and slant the cut downwards and in the opposite direction on the other side. This will ensure that the extra natural sap will surge up and secure the cut without disrupting the developing eye. As mentioned earlier, cutting the rose bush in an outward fashion will enhance outward growth and expose the plant to better air circulation, which will produce a rose plant that is more attractive in shape, more capable of resisting diseases and more able to prevent the stems from tangling altogether. Cuts that are made closer than a quarter inch to the eye may end up harming the plant while cuts that are higher than the said height may leave an obvious shadow for pests and diseases to congregate. 

Subsequently, if the rose bush already has leaves and foliage present, the cut would be easy to observe. When there is nothing to guide you, the dormant eye will lead you to find where the foliage used to be connected. The eye is usually seen as a slight protrusion that is commonly found above the exterior of the cane.  

It is important to note that this pruning method can be used even when cutting the stems for display purposes, and even when removing the dead blooms. In the aspect of caring for rose bushes, pruning tools have to be sharpened occasionally, taking note that it is typically better to have someone do it professionally, rather than doing it yourself. Storage of tools has to be in a dry area and metal surfaces have to be cleaned and wiped after using; preferably with a soft rag that will prevent rust. 

Other things to note about pruning would be that older roses have to bloom before they can be pruned as their flowers will be beared on wood from last year. When pruning, it is also important to cut away the deadwood before you do anything else as it will let you view the shape of the plant clearly. It is also a good suggestion to take a trip to your nearby public rose garden to view the similar species of roses you are tending to and learn from the gardeners who pruned them.  

Additionally, pruning roses in the spring season only allows you to cut the wood that had died during winter. While in warmer temperatures, pruning can be carried out at severe, moderate and light levels, depending on the purpose of pruning and the outcome hoped for. And voila! That’s all you need to know about growing and pruning roses; before you know it, you’ll have your very own rose garden and who knows, you might even be able to sell them during Valentine’s day!

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