When and How to Prune Your Roses


Pruning roses can be an intimidating task to many gardeners, but it’s actually very good for the plants. While becoming an accomplished rose pruner takes time and practice, keep in mind that it is very hard to kill a rose with bad pruning. There is a great deal of disagreement among rose experts regarding how and when to prune roses, but it is typically agreed that most mistakes will grow out very quickly and its better to make a good effort at pruning roses than to let them grow rampant.

Why Prune Roses

By Fall, miniature roses have grown tall and leggy. Cooler evenings produce ill-formed, mottled blossoms and yellowing foliage that often starts to fall off. Rose hips can interrupt the next blooming cycle, which may result if spent blossoms are not removed. The overall size of the plant can be reduced by pruning removed diseases and dead stems and canes. The first spring bloom demonstrates how pruning results in an annual process of renewal.

When to Prune Roses

The timing of pruning your roses is important because pruning too soon may stimulate tender new growth during a warm spell that could be killed later by a freeze. Conversely, pruning too late can cause you to not get that great spring bloom.

When to prune your roses will be largely based upon your geographical location. In some parts of the United States, pruning can be done in the winter. However, in the Midwest, winter pruning may result in substantial loss of water due to evaporation.

How to Prune Roses

Here are some general pruning guidelines by rose classification.

Blooms Once, On New Growth

Modern Ever-Blooming Roses and Floribunda

These bloom best on the current seasons growth. When pruning, prune hard (½ to 2/3 the plant’s height) in the spring and remove old woody stems. Make sure to leave 3-5 healthy canes evenly spaced around the plant. Cut each in various lengths from 18-24 inches, to encourage continuous blooming.

Hybrid Teas and Grandiflora

These also bloom best on new wood and should be pruned in early spring. Make sure to remove dead and weak wood. Then create an open vase shape with the remaining canes by removing the center stems and any branches crossing inwards. Reduce the length of the remaining stems by about ½ or down to 18-24 inches. The older, stronger stems can be a bit longer than the new growth.

Blooms Once, On Old Wood

Modern Shrub Roses

This group is repeat blooms. They bloom on mature, but not old, woody stems. It is important to leave them unpruned to increase vigor for the first 2 years and then used the “one-third” method. Each year, remove one-third of the oldest canes (in addition to any dead, diseased or dying canes).


Climbers may also repeat bloom. Make sure to prune climbers early to remove winter damage and dead wood. Prune this rose plant after flowering to shape and keep their size in check.

Bourbons and Portlands

These rose plants will repeat bloom, blooming on both new and old wood. Make sure to prune these rose plants to remove dead wood before flowering. A harder pruning and shaping can also be done after the first flowering.

Minimal Pruning Needed

Alba, Centifolia, Damasks, Gallica and Moses

This group blooms only once. They produce flowers on old wood and don’t require much pruning at all. Make sure to prune these rose plants to remove dead or thin wood and to shape the plants and prune after flowering.

Miniature Roses

Miniature roses should be pruned only to shape. Make sure to cut back to an outward facing bud after blooming.


This is just the basics of pruning roses. Before pruning your roses be sure to do your research so you can make the best decision for the quality of life in your plants. Don’t hesitate to contact us here at Agscapes Landscaping with the link below for more information!

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