Tips on pruning roses and a chance to practice

  • Posted: Friday, March 8, 2013 12:55 a.m.
This Saturday is pruning day at the Triangle Rose Garden on West Innes Street.
This Saturday is pruning day at the Triangle Rose Garden on West Innes Street.

SALISBURY — Roses are usually pruned in mid-March in this area. They are pruned to stimulate stronger growth and bloom production and to keep the bushes to a manageable size and to remove dead and diseased or damaged canes from the bush.

You will need a good pair of sharpened bypass- or scissors-type pruners Anvil-type pruners will crush the cane and damage the bark, leaving it susceptible to disease. Loppers are useful for cutting large canes and getting into the bushes without getting scratched. A small pruning saw is useful for removing large canes and getting into places that cannot be reached with pruners.


Be sure and wear thorn resistant leather or goatskin gloves. Some rosarians use welder’s gloves. Gauntlet gloves that cover the forearms almost to the elbows are available.

Remove any soil or mulch from the bud union or base of the plant. Cut out any dead or sick looking canes. Remove them all the way to the bud union or base of the bush. Do not leave stubs, as these will not be productive. Check to be sure all the growth is coming from above the graft or bud union on grafted roses. Canes coming from below the graft are from the rootstock and will take over the bush if allowed to grow. Pull the suckers off or dig them out. The will re-grow if cut off.

Remove canes that are crossing and rubbing against others. Prune out twiggy growth and very small canes less than the size of a pencil. Although on miniature roses the largest canes may be no more than the size of a pencil, so you will need to leave those. Always cut back to healthy tissue that can be recognized by the smooth green bark on the outside of the cane and white pith in the center of the cane. Make cuts about a quarter-inch above an outside or outward-facing bud-eye. This will be where the new growth comes from and you can control the direction of new growth by the place you make the cut. Cut at about a 45-degree angle away from the bud eye.

Different varieties of roses call for different pruning methods.

Hybrid teas, Grandiflora, Floribundas, English roses — Remove all but five or six healthy canes. Cut out interior canes to promote good air circulation. Shorten the remaining canes to about one-third of their present height.

Shrubs — Prune lightly to keep the plant in shape. Remove dead canes and some from the center of the plant if the growth is thick. You want to open up the center of the plant to promote good air circulation and make it less susceptible to disease.

Miniatures — Remove all dead and twiggy growth and open up the center of the plant. Prune 8 to 15 inches above ground level.

Climbers — Repeat blooming climbers should be pruned while the plant is dormant. Shape the bush or reduce the size if it is too large. Prune the lateral stems coming from the main canes and leave three to five bud eyes on each. Climbers and ramblers that bloom only once should be pruned right after flowering is finished.

Old Garden roses — Roses that bloom only once should be pruned immediately after flowering. They do not like heavy pruning. Remove old, dead or unproductive canes and reduce the size by about one-third. It is often helpful to remove several of the oldest canes each year to stimulate new growth.

After pruning, remove any leaves remaining on the plant and rake up fallen leaves and dispose of them to get rid of any lingering disease. Fertilize the roses and start your spray program to prevent diseases. Prevention is the key word. Once the rose has black spot or mildew, it cannot be reversed. The spread can be stopped by a consistent spray program but the diseased leaves will not revert back to their original condition.

Sometimes people are hesitant to cut their roses back because they are afraid they will damage them beyond repair. Roses are very forgiving. In the long run, it will not make a lot of difference if you cut too high or too low or to an inward facing bud instead of an outward facing one. You can always cut it again later to correct it.

Rose pruning Saturday

The Rowan Rose Society members will be pruning the rose bushes of the Triangle Rose Garden on West Innes Street on Saturday starting at 8 a.m.; rain date March 16. There will be consulting rosarians on hand to answer any rose questions you may have and to give insturctions on pruning.

Carolyn Alexander is Cooperative Extension Volunteer Master Gardener and Master Consulting Rosarian for the American Rose Society.

Commenting is not allowed on this article.