How To Prune Roses: Easy 5-Step Guide

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While roses (Rosa) may be one of the most romantic garden plants, it sometimes gets a bad reputation for being high maintenance. Don’t let that intimidate you! Roses are adaptable to various environmental conditions, which is why gardeners from across the globe enjoy them in sun-soaked landscapes. As breeders develop new varieties, they only get easier to grow. However, there is one secret to success with roses: routine pruning. If you’re looking for an easy guide to pruning and deadheading your roses (no matter the variety), we’re here to help.

Here we’ll discuss 5 easy steps you can follow today to prune your roses and keep them looking fresh tomorrow.

how to prune rose shrubs white and red roses

When should I prune roses?

This exact time can depend on your growing zone, but generally speaking, roses should be pruned when they are dormant during late winter or early spring after the final frost. Pruning roses too early may invite disease or cause your shrubs to bloom later in the season than expected.

What happens if I don't prune my roses?

We don’t prune our roses just for fun (even though some of us enjoy it). Pruning your roses prevents disease, improves airflow, and promotes new growth and maximum flower production. Leaving any damaged, diseased, or crowded stems on your roses only weakens your plant over time – and who wants that? Follow these quick and easy steps to help increase the longevity of your roses!

Let's get started...

Step #1: Grab the right tools

Pruning roses are even easier (and faster) with the right tools. Begin gathering your bypass sheers, which are ideal for pruning roses with their precise blades that form a clean, damage-free cut. Loopers are larger sheers that are more effective at trimming thicker canes and require two hands to operate. Electric hedge trimmers can also do the trick. Grab a biodegradable or recyclable bag for any trimmings. Don’t forget to wear long sleeves and grab your gloves; rose bushes have thorns and can get a bit prickly! 

Pictured below: Corona Tools Loopers and Bypass Pruners.

Pruning tools for roses

Step #2: Remove dead & diseased growth

After you’ve gathered your tools, start at the base of the rose bush. Start by removing any remaining leaves, access twigs, or foliage that have fallen off the plant. Then examine all areas: the center, around the outside, and where buds are forming. Remove visibly dead and diseased growth upward along the shrub. This growth will often look brown, discolored, thin, spotty, and brittle. Diseased growth is also easy to spot after flowering and features buds that have failed to open or fully blossomed flowers that are droopy and cracked. Prune these branches back to where the wood begins to look healthy and cut at a 45-degree angle.

Great Garden tip: When removing diseased branches, sterilize your pruners after each cut to reduce the spread to other sections of your plant. Newly cut growth is especially susceptible to disease.

crossed rose branches

Step #3: Trim crossed branches

Crossed branches that are rubbing up against each other can cause friction and cut off air circulation to the root of your roses. It may not look like it now, but these areas cause damage over time and are essential to address early on in the pruning process. Crossed branches are especially prevalent in the climbing rose varieties. Easily find them by gently opening up the center of the plant. Trim these crossed branches to increase sun exposure and decrease disease risk.

Step #4: Prune remaining flower canes

Don’t just prune to remove dead and dying foliage; promote healthy new growth by trimming the remainder of your flower canes and branches. Your goal here should be to reduce the height and width by one-third. When deciding exactly where to trim, look for large and healthy buds. Cut at a 45-degree angle just above the bud, facing the angle outward to prevent new growth from facing inside the shrub. 

Deadheading roses

Step #5: Water and fertilize your roses

After cleaning up trimmed foliage, give your roses a little tender love and care after pruning by adding some fresh granular fertilizer and a hefty helping of water. Then sterilize any used tools with a disinfectant and wipe clean, especially if you plan on pruning other plants; this prevents diseases from spreading in your garden. Now it’s time to sit back, relax, and watch your rose garden come alive.

promoting new rose blooms after pruning

Learn more about pruning roses by watching the video below:

How to deadhead roses

Deadheading and pruning are two entirely different things: pruning removes any unhealthy, diseased, or unproductive areas of the plant, while deadheading specifically removes spent, faded, or drooping flowers to promote the growth of new ones. After pruning your roses during late winter or early spring, deadhead them throughout the growing season (typically summer through early fall) to encourage fresh blooms.

To deadhead, simply cut beneath the base of the spent flower where it joins the stem. It’s that easy! Then wait for new, vibrant blossoms to enter your garden. Learn more about when to prune, or when to deadhead, your roses in the video below.

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Written by: Lindsey Griffith, click here to read bio.

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