How To Prune Roses The Easy Way!

Have you pruned your roses yet? Nope, neither have I! It’s not too late. Here’s my simple guide on how to prune roses so you get lots of lovely blooms this Summer.

Roses and lavender
My white roses that had a decidedly peachy yellow tone!

I must point out that the best time for pruning most roses except rambling roses is between December and February, so I’m late this year. Although, the RHS recommends late Winter in February or early March. We’ve moved house and don’t have our own garden at the moment, but I do need to prune the roses in the rental garden. The main reason for doing it in the winter months is because the plant is dormant. Potentially, pruning once buds start to form can cause issues with frost and also it tends to deplete the plant of energy.

However, in my opinion it’s still better to do it now rather than not at all. For all you beginners out there, or for people scared of doing the wrong thing, please don’t worry! My mother always used to say that the best thing you can do for a rose is give a pair of secateurs to a complete novice and let them hack away! Now, I don’t entirely agree with that, but there is some truth in it. I believe in treating roses slightly mean when it comes to pruning. If you cut them back hard in the right places, then they will repay you with a highly floriferous display later in the year.

Rose care is so much easier than you think it might be. Just plant your roses in a sunny place with well-drained soil. Water them regularly in the growing season and feed them with a good fertiliser. Prune them in late Winter, unless they are a rambler. That’s about it!

So, here’s the basics:

Tools For The Job

Contains Affiliate Links, where I may earn a small commission. You will not be charged any extra for this.

  • The best pair of Bypass Secateurs you can buy.

I love my Felco Bypass Cut and Hold Secateurs as they hold the stem after you’ve cut it, which is great when you’re dealing with prickly stems! Now, they’re not cheap at all, but they are the best I have found. I also have another great pair made by Darlac, which are much less expensive.

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WISDOMLIFE Folding Pruning Saw, Premium Folding Hand Saw with Secure Lock Comfort Soft Grip for Garden or Tree Pruning. *
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FLORA GUARD 26 Inch Bypass Loppers. *
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Darlac Cut and Hold Rose Pruner. – DP736. *
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Felco Model 4 Cut and Hold Roses and Flowers Pruning Shear
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The Four Ds

The first rule of pruning is to follow the Four Ds. This means that you can safely prune anything on a plant that is deaddiseaseddying, or damaged. Branches that fall into these categories are causing more stress to the plant left attached than if they are pruned off. Removing the Four Ds helps with the overall health of the plant. Even if removing those branches will look unsightly or unappealing, it’s better to prune them and allow the plant to repair without having to spend energy on healing.

General Tips

  • Cut to an outward facing bud to encourage an open-centred cup shape to your shrub.
  • When cutting always make the cut sloping downwards on a diagonal away from the bud so that water drains away from the cut.
  • Don’t leave to much stem above the bud as this will encourage die-back and can aid disease.
  • Don’t leave too little stem above the bud as this will cause stress for the emerging bud and it may not perform well. A general rule of thumb is to cut around 5-7mm above the bud.
  • Keep your secateurs sharp. You want clean cuts. For larger stems you may need to use loppers or a pruning saw.
  • Prune any dieback to healthy white centres (pith) inside the stem.
  • Cut out dead and diseased, spindly and crossing stems.
  • You are aiming for a free flow of air around and between your stems. Remember to try and create a goblet-like shape.
  • If you don’t know what your rose is then until you find out I would follow the general tips above. However, you can get help by using the SmartPlantApp. I have it on my phone and it helps me immensely with identifying plants and diseases. First, sign up and download the app. Then, you simply take a photograph of the plant, preferably in bloom, and the SmartPlantApp experts will be back in minutes with help.

Types of Rose

CLIMBING OR RAMBLING ROSES

If your rose has very long arching stems that tend to need support to hold them up, then the chances are it’s a climbing or rambling rose. The best way to find out whether it’s either type is to let them have a flowering season and make a note. If they flower more than once then they are a climber. If they have one season then they are probably a rambler.

Climbing roses tend to flower more than once in a season if you prune the dead blooms (deadheading). They are very well adapted to training on arbors, archways and trellis. They require annual pruning and training.

  • First remove dead, diseased or dying branches.
  • Then tie in any new shoots.
  • Prune any flowered side shoots back by two thirds of their length. 
  • If the plant is heavily congested, cut out any really old branches from the base to promote new growth.
  • Tie in using gardening string or foam/plastic-coated garden wire. Always tie in stems horizontally as it encourages side shoots and you will get a lot more flowers.
Me having a good old deadheading session. Photo by Polly Eltes for Country Homes & Interiors Magazine.

Rambling roses have one glorious en masse show of blooms and are often found rambling (hence the name) through treetops and hedgerows.

If there is just one thick old stem, only cut it down by a third to a half. When you cut down to the ground there is a possibility it may not come back. If it’s multi-stemmed then try and take out one or two of the oldest looking stems down to the ground. You might have an established rambling rose and you know what it is and you like it, if so, then personally I tend to leave them as they are unless they are getting on my nerves. If you do prune it, then take it back by a third straight after flowering.

I have two roses in my rented garden and I don’t know exactly what they are, but I did see them in bloom and they flowered more than once. They do have long arching stems, but they are very well self-supported, so I have a feeling they are shrub roses that have been allowed to just keep growing with no pruning in recent years. I’m going to follow the steps for pruning a shrub rose on these. Now, I may find out that they are actually climbers. I don’t think so though. Either way, if I follow the general rules I won’t go far wrong.

ROSE BUSHES

Hybrid Tea Roses – These tend to have large flowers on straight stems. The blooms have a pointed appearance, are fragranced and are available in all colours except blue. They are repeat flowering and have an open goblet shape.

Polyantha – These are small shrub roses often used for edging borders. They are bushy and repeat flowering.

Floribunda – The result of crossing Polyantha with Hybrid Tea. They produce lots of flowers held in clusters and are generally bushier. They very often have no scent, but they are considered hardier and more resistant to disease than Hybrid Teas and they are repeat flowering.

Modern Shrub Roses – These are the ones I tend to go for as they are so much easier to look after than any of the above. They were generally cultivated from the early 20th century onwards, often bred from old-fashioned roses. They have a greater range of colour, including blue and are repeat flowering and disease resistant. As far as I’m concerned, you can’t really go wrong with one of these. Just deadhead the blooms after flowering and then tidy them up in late Winter/early Spring by using the four Ds. David Austen is probably one of the most famous breeders of the modern shrub rose and they call them English Roses. Some of my favourites are: Scepter’d Isle, Iceberg, Queen Of Sweden, William & Catherine. One of my absolute favourites though is Twice In A Blue Moon bred by Hans Jürgen Evers in Germany.

So, that’s pretty much it. I promise it’s not hard at all. Don’t be scared, just go for it. I promise your roses will reward you!

JP Clark signature

Did you find that helpful? Why not take a read of my post on Box Pruning?

I do Like A well Trimmed Bush.

10 Comments

  1. Louise
    March 7, 2021 / 7:44 am

    This came at just the right time- Thank you! I’ve noticed three roses in our new garden but as yet no idea what type. Feeling much more confident about pruning them now!

    • JP Clark
      Author
      March 7, 2021 / 11:33 am

      That’s such good news! Xx

  2. Anne
    March 7, 2021 / 11:17 am

    Another brilliant blog. So helpful for a novice.

    • JP Clark
      Author
      March 7, 2021 / 11:33 am

      Oh I’m so pleased! Thank you x

  3. Angela
    March 7, 2021 / 12:34 pm

    While still under a foot of snow, and rabbits have already ‘hard pruned’ my climbing rose, I can’t wait to do a now more educated prune on the bushes in a few weeks. Thank you.

  4. Chriss
    March 7, 2021 / 1:09 pm

    Just started growing climbing roses last season and we have snow until May up the mountain, so this tutorial came in handy. I’ll get out there today and do some light pruning and tie them up horizontally ~ since the climbers are just getting established. Always educational and interesting reading your blog JP, and of course always entertaining 😉🥰🌹🥀

    • JP Clark
      Author
      March 9, 2021 / 9:41 am

      Thanks Chriss, promise you’ll get loads more blooms tying up horizontally. Xx

  5. Emma (party_at_the_gaze)
    March 11, 2021 / 6:56 am

    So you’re saying treat them mean to keep them keen! Great tips!

    • JP Clark
      Author
      March 18, 2021 / 12:45 pm

      Definitely darling!

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