Pruning Roses

Certain pruning principles must be learned before proper rose pruning can be done. Sharp pruning shears is a must. They should be dipped in clorox to kill any bacteria that can be spread to the plants you are pruning. Always dip and rinse your pruning shears before moving on to a new plant.

pruningcutsA ragged cut will cause the cane to die back and is a prime entry point for disease. Always cut back to healthy and live wood. If the inside of the stem is dead, brown, or discolored cut the cane back until healthy white/ green wood is evident.



Always make your cut so that the eye is pointing away from the center of the plant. Growth towards the center of the plant is discouraged because it retards good air circulation. A crowded center will also keel light from reaching the inside of the plant. If light and air cannot reach the inside of the plant, black spot, rust, and rose mildew will thrive.

Crossing branches must always be removed. Select the branch that you wish to keep by its vigor and direction of growth and remove the other.

Since most roses are grafted onto selected rootstocks, suckers will form below the budding point. If allowed to remain, these suckers will eventually weaken and then replace the variety of rose that you wish with the variety of the rootstock. This sucker growth should be removed from the point of origin. If it is removed at the ground level, the new basal shoots will appear and this will encourage suckering.

Time of Pruning

Winter is the time for the heavier pruning necessary to growing beautiful roses. The roses are dormant during the colder months and provides a perfect opportunity to prune. In this area December and January are the best months. Summer pruning should be limited to removal of the spent flower heads so that the plant will not waste energy producing seed heads. The dead and decaying flowers are also a source of disease. When removing the flower stalks, look for an eye above a five-leafed cluster. Remove the flower stalk above this eye. Removing the flower stalk above a three-leafed cluster will prevent flower growth on this cane.

Let’s get back to our winter pruning is now that we have learned some basic pruning techniques.

Since roses flower on new wood, our aim is remove the old canes and encourage new healthy growth. Fertilizer will play a big part in this process, and we will discuss this aspect of rose culture later. For now, begin your pruning by removing the old canes.

They are recognized by the bark that is dark and gnarled. The new growth will be reddish in color. Remove all crossing branches and all inward growing canes. Remove any damaged canes, suckers, and all of the weak canes.

Dormant Spraying

An ideal time to use dormant sprays is after you have pruned. What are they and what do they do? They are sulfur-based oil sprays designed to control insects and diseases that may be overwintering in the cracks and crevices of your roses. They are not to be used on the new growth that will appear after you prune. It is highly recommended that they be applied after your have done your winter pruning. Follow the directions on the label very carefully. Don’t fall into the trap of, “If a little spray is good, then more is better.” Mix exactly as the manufacturer says because more will damage your roses. Begin spraying at the base of the plant pointing the nozzle of the sprayer up and work your way towards the top. Make sure that you spray underneath the canes. Finish spraying by moving from the top to the base of the plant with your nozzle pointed down. Spray the soil around the base of the plants to kill any fungus or disease spores that may have been jostled from the plant while you were pruning. Be thorough and don’t skip any part of the plant. If you miss any part of the rose, it is the same as not spraying at all. Disease will grow and emanate from this area and quickly infect your plant.

Tips on Spraying

  1. Always keep your chemical in its original container and keep it locked away. Leave the label on the container.
  2. Wear rubber gloves and goggles when mixing any kind of chemical.
  3. Always mix chemical in the open so that fumes will dissipate.
  4. Spray on calm days so that the wind will not carry the spray to other plants.
  5. Wash your hands and arms after spraying.
  6. Above all else be safe. Use common sense and focus on the job at hand.