Pruning Rose Bushes

Pruning Rose Bushes

Short Answer:Pruning roses is essential for promoting healthy growth, maximizing blooming, and enhancing the plant’s overall color and vigor. The general rule for pruning all types of roses is to do it in late winter or early spring, just as the plants are coming out of dormancy and before they start the new season’s growth. For hybrid tea roses, grandifloras, and floribundas, prune back about one-third to one-half of the previous year’s growth, cutting just above an outward-facing bud to encourage open, vase-shaped growth. Light pruning to shape the plant and remove dead or damaged wood is usually sufficient for shrubs and landscape roses like Knock Outs.

Climbing roses requires a different approach. In the first two years, avoid significant pruning to allow the plant to develop a robust framework of canes. After that, annually remove older canes that have stopped producing and trim the lateral shoots that did flower back to two or three buds. For rambling roses, which bloom on the previous year’s growth, prune right after flowering, removing some of the old wood and shortening the side shoots. Remember, pruning aims not just to shape the plant but also to improve air circulation and expose the leaves to sunlight, which is vital for the plant’s overall health and bloom production. Regular pruning and appropriate care will ensure your roses remain vibrant, colorful, and prolific bloomers.

Project Overview

  • Working Time: 2 hours
  • Total Time: 2 hours
  • Skill Level: Beginner

What You’ll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Gardening gloves
  • Pruners
  • Rake
  • Cardboard box or dustpan


  • White glue (optional)


pruned rose bush cane angled cut

How to Prune Roses, Step by Step

Once you’ve made the decision about how much you want to prune your roses, it can be confusing to figure out where to start. The following steps will help you prioritize what to remove. Always make your final cuts at a 45-degree angle above an outward-facing bud eye, as shown in the picture above. In most cases, you don’t need to seal the cuts because the plant will take care of that on its own, but some gardeners prefer to use a small amount of white glue on the cut surfaces to help prevent the spread of disease or discourage pests like cane borers.

As you work through these cuts, remember that roses are vigorous plants that are hard to hurt. In most cases, new growth will quickly repair any mistakes you make. When you’re all done, it’s time for what may be the most challenging part: clean up. The easiest way is to recycle clippings into a large makeshift dustpan, such as a cardboard box. Then, you can step back and watch your roses thrive and bloom for another year.

How to Pick the Best Roses to Achieve Your Garden Goals

  1. Remove Dead Parts. Remove dead branches and canes. Cut back to live wood; it usually looks green on the outside.

  2. Prune Branches. Prune diseased or damaged branches back to healthy wood.

  3. Remove Crossed Branches. Clip away branches that cross through the center of the plant.

  4. Clear Weak Growth. Remove any growth that is much thinner or weaker than the rest.

  5. Remove Suckers. Remove suckers from the base of grafted roses.

  6. Eliminate Old Growth. Take out older woody growth unless it would thin out the plant too much.

  7. Prevent Rubbing. If any remaining branches rub against each other, cut away the smaller ones.

  8. Shape Plants. Shape plants to taste, adjusting the overall height and width. Shaping the plant’s top into a rounded dome rather than a flat top encourages flowering from top to bottom.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What tools do I need to prune roses?

    The exact tools you need to prune your roses will depend on the size and rose bush you have. Some smaller or more delicate rose bushes can be trimmed using only pruners, while others need more hefty gear like electric hedge trimmers. In addition, you’ll want to wear gloves to protect yourself against painful thorns.

  • What happens if I don’t prune my roses?

    Leaving your rose bush to fend for itself instead of regularly pruning it can ultimately lead to its demise. Rose bushes thrive on care and will be more productive and healthy with regular pruning. A lack of pruning can lead to more disease incidence, pests, and fungus.

  • Can I cut back an overgrown rose bush to the ground?

    As a general rule, you should not prune your rose bush back more than 1/3 to 1/2 of its overall size. Doing so can cause the plant to shock, often leading to an untimely death.

Most Popular Flowers & Plants in the USA

RegionPopular FlowersPopular Plants
Northeast (e.g., New York, Massachusetts)Rose, Purple Lilac, Mountain LaurelSugar Maple, American Elm, White Pine
Southeast (e.g., Florida, Georgia)Orange Blossom, Cherokee Rose, Southern MagnoliaLive Oak, Spanish Moss, Saw Palmetto
Midwest (e.g., Ohio, Illinois)Carnation, Violet, Purple ConeflowerBur Oak, Prairie Grasses, Wild Bergamot
Southwest (e.g., Texas, Arizona)Bluebonnet, Saguaro Cactus Flower, Indian PaintbrushJoshua Tree, Agave, Mesquite
West (e.g., California, Washington)California Poppy, Coast Rhododendron, BitterrootGiant Sequoia, Redwood, Manzanita
Rocky Mountain (e.g., Colorado, Montana)Rocky Mountain Columbine, Bitterroot, Indian PaintbrushBlue Spruce, Aspen, Sagebrush
Great Plains (e.g., Kansas, Nebraska)Sunflower, Goldenrod, Purple ConeflowerCottonwood, Bluestem Grasses, Buffalo Grass
Pacific Northwest (e.g., Oregon, Alaska)Oregon Grape, Forget-me-not, Pacific RhododendronDouglas Fir, Western Hemlock, Ferns

This table includes the most popular flowers and plants in the USA by region, which considers a range of botanical species, including native and widely cultivated varieties.

Most Popular Flowers & Plants in Australia

RegionPopular FlowersPopular Plants
New South WalesWaratah, Bottlebrush, Flannel FlowerEucalyptus, Acacia, Banksia
VictoriaCommon Heath, Waxflower, Pink HeathMountain Ash, Silver Wattle, Victorian Blue Gum
QueenslandCooktown Orchid, Golden Penda, Umbrella Tree FlowerMoreton Bay Fig, Macadamia Nut, Queensland Bottle Tree
South AustraliaSturt's Desert Pea, Kangaroo Paw, Eucalyptus BlossomAdelaide Blue Gum, South Australian Blue Gum, Saltbush
Western AustraliaRed and Green Kangaroo Paw, Mangles Kangaroo Paw, Swan River DaisyJarrah, Marri, Karri
TasmaniaTasmanian Blue Gum, Leatherwood Flower, Tasmanian WaratahHuon Pine, Tasmanian Oak, Myrtle Beech
Northern TerritorySturt's Desert Rose, Frangipani, Desert RoseBoab, Gidgee, Spinifex
Australian Capital TerritoryRoyal Bluebell, Australian Daisy, CorreaSnow Gum, River Red Gum, Black Mountain

This table offers a basic overview of popular flowers and plants in each Australian region, focusing on a combination of state flowers, native species, and other characteristic plants. It's important to note that specific species' popularity and prevalence can vary. This table is a simplified representation. Consulting local botanical gardens or regional horticultural societies in Australia would be ideal for more detailed and accurate information.

Charlotte Gammon

By Charlotte Gammon

Meet Charlotte Gammon, our expert and author. She's our true treasure, as she has got 20+ years of experience in gardening, winery and house design. In early 2000s, she worked for magazine and was in charge of the gaardening section. Later on, Charlotte opened her own designer agency and worked as a designer and decorator. We are happy to have Charlotte with us, as she is our good friend. We value her experience and we're sure you will love the articles she created for our blog.