Pruning Roses: General Rules

Blossom Lady
May 08, 2021 06:58 AM
Pruning Roses: General Rules

Pruning is about more than just looks. Proper pruning improves the health of your rose bush, prevents disease, and encourages better flowering. There are different pruning strategies for different times of the year, but overall the goal is always the same: to keep the bush vigorous and open, allowing better air circulation through the center of the plant. 

Most of the work that goes into growing roses is in the pruning. Individual roses are pruned according to their type, and while they’re usually not killed by faulty pruning or even from non-pruning, the quality of the blooms might suffer. An old proverb says that the pruning time is right when the birch leaves are big as mice ears. That size happens to be around 40”, and depending on where you live it’s roughly around May. Pruning can be done a bit earlier or later, but this is the general guideline.

Do not prune roses in the fall or winter—if you cut the branches and then go through a cold snap, the chill can penetrate through the cut. The roses will freeze, so you’ll have to prune them again to get rid of the frozen parts. Special considerations for different types of roses are covered in different parts of this book, but all roses are pruned around the same time of the year. Let the size of the mouse’s ear be your guide for all roses.

The root and the rose

Roses seldom grow from their own-root—at least not when purchased or when planted. This is why the root of another variety of rose can send up suckers that need to be quickly removed lest they overpower the grafted rose.

Shoots from the root grow from the root ball down under the surface of the soil, not from the branches above the grafting spot (the grafting spot doesn’t show if the rose is planted correctly).

Shoots growing from the root are usually light green, long, thin, and grow much faster than the grafted rose. If you’re unsure, wait until the plant starts to green out, then check the leaves. Root shoots have smaller leaves, and often many more sections per leaf. The canes are typically thornier, and they grow like long antennas. It’s best to cut them off all the way down by the root—pull at the sucker, move it back and forth, remove some soil from around it. Try to cut it about an inch below the surface to make it more difficult for it to re-grow; if it does reappear, the only thing is to remove it, again and again. In the fall, try digging up as much of the root as possible, so you can cut off the root shoot altogether.

General Rules

  • Prune off frozen, dead, broken, and damaged canes.
  • Snip off faded leaves and flower debris.
  • Even out taller canes or shoots with the rest of the plants.
  • Make the right cut. Make a slanted cut just above an outward-facing bud eye. Cutting at a slant helps water run off of the wound, which prevents water from collecting on the end of canes, as well as being more aesthetically appealing. After making this cut, the rose will direct its growth to the closest bud, sending out a new terminal shoot. Choose an outward-facing bud eye to ensure that the new growth is directed away from the center of the plant. It is generally not necessary to put anything on the pruning wound. Basic pruning – angled cut 1/4" above outside facing bud eye.
  • Pruning isn’t just for “pruning season”. Feel free to shape your roses all season long like you would any other plant in your garden. While you are deadheading is a great time.
  • If you can, spend them extra money for good tools. They are easier to work with and will last a lot longer; making them cheaper in the long run.
  • Never worry about making a mistake. It’ll grow back.
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    Apr 04, 2022 05:34 AM

    What is a bud eye on a rose bush

    Loretta Mundus
    Jul 05, 2022 06:42 AM

    In Texas be aware of little snakes on the rose branches. I got bit twice and ended up with an infection, my arm swelled up really bad. It wasn’t a poisonous snake either just a little brown one that looked like the branch.