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How To Prune Roses

Roses are one of the most iconic and instantly recognisable plants in the UK. They are easy to grow, long-lasting and versatile with excellent flowering potential making them a popular addition to gardens around the country.

But all that beauty doesn't come without a little TLC. Other than watering, pruning roses is one of the main ways to keep your rose plants happy and healthy.

It isn't essential to prune roses, but you'll notice your plants begin to appear unkempt and don't flower so well if you skip it. If you're a little nervous when the time comes to prune roses, don't be. Roses are very forgiving. Even if you make a bit of a mess of the job, they will recover and grow back. It's practically impossible to kill rose bushes by over-pruning.

Why Do Roses Need Pruned?

Pruning roses keeps them happy, healthy and blooming with colour. If you want your rose bush to look its best, it's important to cut it back now and again. Doing this will maintain its beautiful appearance. You'll also promote fresh new growth and encourage more blooms.

Climbing roses and rambling roses require pruning to prevent the stems from becoming a tangled mess, which has a detrimental effect on flowering as well as making the plant look untidy.

Pruning roses regularly also encourages healthy new growth and helps maintain good garden hygiene, preventing disease from setting in.

While roses can usually survive when left to their own devices, they will thrive and live longer with a helping hand in the form of pruning.

Do I Need to Hire a Gardener to Prune My Roses?

You can if you want, but we'd recommend giving it a bash yourself. You don't need a green thumb or even much skill for rose pruning. All you do need are the right tools (see below) and a little enthusiasm.

Roses are easily pruned, even by gardening novices and you'll feel a sense of achievement watching as new growth begins to show on a plant you've tended yourself.

Don't be afraid of pruning roses as they are extremely tolerant and quickly bounce back over the growing season. Even if you've never pruned a plant before, follow our guide and you can't go wrong.

Pruning encourages flowering and isn't as tricky as you might expect

When to Prune Roses

As a general rule, late winter to early spring is the best time to prune roses. This coincides with the plant's dormant period. Roses best pruned in the late winter months include shrub roses, patio roses, miniature roses, floribunda roses and hybrid tea roses. Climbing roses are best pruned in winter while rambling roses respond best to spring pruning.

Keep an eye open for the new leaf buds beginning to swell. When you see them you'll know it's the right time to think about cutting the plant back. Pruning roses is one of the few gardening jobs that needs to be done in winter, so it can be a great excuse to get out into the garden.

Most roses only require annual pruning, but light pruning after the blooms start to fade will encourage repeat flowering.

Most roses are suitable for pruning during late winter or early spring

What Tools Do I Need for Rose Pruning?

Using the correct pruning tools is key to maintaining the health and shape of your garden plant.

The main tool you'll need for pruning roses is a clean pair of secateurs. Make sure they're sharp for optimum results and choose ones with a bypass, rather than an anvil, cutting action. This will produce a nice clean cut.

For mature roses with thick stems, you may need to grab a pair of loppers to provide a little more strength when needed.

Ensure pruning shears and other tools are thoroughly disinfected before moving between plants. Doing this will prevent germs from diseased material from being transferred as you prune. A good wash with hot soapy water should do the job just fine.

Roses are covered in thorns so, presuming you wish pruning to be a painless task, a pair of high-quality thick gardening gloves is essential. These will help protect your hands and wrists from accidental pricks and scratches. Wearing long sleeves and tough trousers such as jeans will provide additional protection.

For comfort, you may wish to use a kneeler pad, especially if you'll be on hard or uneven ground.

Using the right tools will make the job of pruning roses much easier

How to Prune Roses

Deadheading

The term 'deadheading' refers to removing spent blooms to encourage further flowering. This helps keep the plant looking tidy and attractive and allows the plant's energy to be directed to producing more blooms, rather than rose hips.

Rose hip growth takes place when the bloom isn't deadheaded

Rose hips are the orange-red fruit of rose plants that develop after flowering. They can provide interest in autumn and are eaten by birds and other garden wildlife. All roses produce these, but as most gardeners wish to encourage flowering, they aren't often seen adorning rose bushes. If you'd prefer to let the rose hips appear for decoration then simply refrain from pruning spent blooms and you'll notice them grow towards the beginning of autumn.

However, if you'd rather promote more flowers, you don't need to set aside a huge chunk of time for removing faded blooms. Deadheading should be done as and when it's required. You can remove a single faded flower or whole clusters, depending on the needs of the plant.

Removing dead flowers from rose bushes is incredibly easy. Simply use secateurs to snip the bloom off, cutting just above the highest healthy leaf. You can also just pinch or pull away the dead flower, so if you notice a spent bloom as you pass, it can be almost effortlessly removed.

Our guide on how to prune roses is appropriate for any type of rose

Cutting Back

Your annual prune should cut back further than deadheading, removing dead branches and diseased stems. Cutting back is easier than it sounds and is beneficial to the plant.

Cut stems around 1/4 inch above the first healthy bud on a stem. If you find the cane is grey or brown in the middle then cut lower until you reach a bud where the stem is a healthy shade of green inside.

Using a sloping cut angled away from the plant will allow water to run off and help prevent rot from taking hold.

Where to Start

Firstly, cut away dead or diseased branches and any canes that are touching each other or overlapping. This will clear the way for you to easily see what else needs pruning.

Damaged stems should always be pruned, even if they still appear to be alive. Cracks and breaks can invite pests and diseases, so it is best to cut them back at least until the first healthy bud. If you can't see a bud to use as a guide, just cut back as much as you need to for a healthy stem and attractive appearance.

Once you're finished, clear away all the debris and waste from your pruning session. This will remove any diseased material and give a tidier and cleaner look. Just be careful of those pesky thorns!

Even if you're unsure how to prune roses, give it a go and you'll find it easier than you may think

Shaping

If you'd like your roses to grow in a more spread-out manner, cut above an outward-facing bud eye. The new flower will bloom towards the outside of the shrub, encouraging the plant to grow outward and giving it the appearance of being wider.

Alternatively, if you have a spreading plant and want a more upright appearance, prune above an inward-facing bud eye. This will encourage a straighter growth and sleeker look.

How Much of the Rose Bushes Should I Cut Back?

Basically, cut back as much as you need to for healthy roses. This may be a little or a lot, depending on how long ago they were last pruned, how much they've grown since and how damaged the stems are.

The best advice, especially if you're unsure, is to start small. You can always cut back further if required, but you can't put it back on once it's been lopped off!

Roses grow relatively fast from spring through late summer so don't be afraid of removing too much. Your roses will re-establish quickly and the new growth will encourage a flourish of blooms.

Prune roses back as much as you need to remove dead or diseased stems and promote new growth

Pruning is essential for healthy rose bushes, but it doesn't have to be a demanding job. Keeping on top of deadheading throughout the flowering season will keep your rose plant looking tidy and attractive. When pruned properly, rose plants will thrive in the garden and appear vibrant and healthy for years to come.

Check out our range of rose plants here.

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