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Rose Pruning: Here’s How to Proceed Properly

Rose pruning is essential for the care and abundant flowering of this beloved garden plant. Here's a guide on how to proceed to avoid making mistakes.

by BioGrow

Today we talk about rose pruning, one of the most common and beloved garden plants of all. The goal of pruning in general is to regulate plant growth and achieve abundant, healthy, and lush flowering. To do it correctly, you need to follow certain rules, from choosing the appropriate period based on the type of roses you have to the type of cuts to make. Some general rules apply to all rose types, while others are specific to certain families. Let’s see how to proceed.

First of all, despite their delicate appearance, rose plants are among the most resilient in nature. So don’t worry about causing damage during pruning; roses have a great capacity to recover, even from drastic or incorrect cuts!
Now, let’s see how to proceed with the correct pruning.

The Rose

Pruning of roses
The rose belongs to the botanical family Rosaceae. Its origin dates back to ancient Sumerian civilization of 5000 years ago. From there, it spread to Europe, where it was used in the worship of gods, both in Greek and Roman civilizations.
However, it was during the Middle Ages that the spread of this plant intensified with the introduction and crossbreeding of numerous species.
Currently, there are over 300 different cultivated rose species, comprising thousands of different varieties. Describing them all, or even a small part, would be impossible. Nevertheless, let’s understand which are the main widely spread species and the pruning work that needs to be done.

General Rules for Rose Pruning – The Ideal Period

Rose pruning is done to give the plant an harmonious shape and stimulate flowering. The main period to do it is late winter when the plants are still in a vegetative rest. It’s essential to act before new buds develop and after the risk of severe frost has passed. This means that in regions with mild climates, the ideal month for pruning is February, while in colder climates, it’s March.
In coastal regions with warmer climates, the primary pruning can also be done in autumn.

Basic Cuts for Winter Pruning of Bush Roses

Pruning of bush roses
The general cutting rules for winter pruning apply to bush roses, which are very common and belong to the species Hybrid Tea and Floribunda.
First and foremost, you need to equip yourself with a pair of high-quality pruning shears (if you don’t have them, you can get them here).
It’s important for the shears’ blades to be sharp and cut cleanly without tearing or bruising.
The branch cut should be made just above a bud or shoot and slightly slanted (about 45°). This way, rainwater will run off, and it won’t gather at the junction point with the main branch.
The cut height from the bud should not exceed 6-8 mm.

To proceed correctly, you must first remove the dead, broken, or diseased branches, and finally the older ones. The cut should always be made opposite a bud facing outwards.
Next, remove the weak or too thin branches, leaving the more vigorous ones.

Removal of Branches Directed Towards the Center

Another pruning operation for bush roses involves removing branches that grow towards the center of the bush. This allows the plant to receive more light inside its structure and achieves the ideal shrub shape, which resembles a chalice.
As you proceed with the cuts, step back from the plant and observe its shape. It’s easy to make corrections at this stage. After these initial cuts, it will be easier to move on to the second phase of rose pruning, which involves identifying excess branches that need to be completely removed.
For thicker branches, if you find that regular shears are not enough, it’s advisable to use a saw (available here), also with sharp teeth.
Remember that roses, with some exceptions, bloom on “year-old branches,” meaning those originating from the buds we are avoiding to prune.

Differences in Pruning between Hybrid Tea and Floribunda Roses

Hybrid Tea roses are very common garden roses and generally undergo more drastic pruning. After removing any dead or diseased wood, reduce the one-year-old branches by 1/3, leaving up to 3 buds from the base. This way, you’ll have fewer roses, but they’ll be larger.
On the other hand, Floribunda roses should not be treated as harshly. The shoots should be reduced by 1/4, leaving more buds, up to 5-6, from the base.

Green Pruning

Pruning faded roses

Pruning faded roses

In addition to the main type of rose pruning, there’s another one called green pruning. This should be done during the summer to remove faded flowers and stimulate a late second flowering.
Green pruning is a routine task. Leaving faded flowers on the plant can be visually unpleasant and, when the life of the flowers is over, the formation of seeds begins, which requires a lot of energy from the plant. By cutting away the flowers, the energy is directed towards a new bloom.
As a general rule, pruning faded roses should be reduced to just above the first healthy bud below the faded part. It’s essential not to cut the heads of the flowers randomly.

Removal of Suckers

Another rose pruning intervention involves removing suckers. Most roses are grafted onto rootstocks, often wild roses.
It’s normal for the rootstock to develop basal shoots, which means they originate below the ground level. The sucker is easy to identify as it looks very different from the main rose. For instance, it may have lighter leaves, more numerous and smaller, compared to the grafted rose. Suckers need to be removed as soon as they are detected to avoid hindering the plant’s vegetative growth.
To remove them properly, you must dig around the plant a bit and identify the point of origin. Then the sucker should be pulled away from the point where it branches off.
Attention: you should not cut it. Suckers cut at ground level will quickly regrow.
To perform this operation, called de-suckering, you need to equip yourself with sturdy gloves.
Gloves are necessary, but it’s also essential to be very careful with thorns.

Pruning Specific Rose Varieties

Some species make exceptions to these general rose pruning rules. These species include:

  • Non-reblooming roses. These are pruned only at the end of the flowering period in June, by cutting off the faded branches.
  • Antique rose varieties. As they bloom on the previous year’s branches, these varieties need to be pruned every 2-3 years, removing the older branches to renew the plant. This pruning is always done at the end of winter.
  • Botanical roses, grown for decorative berry production. For this type of roses, you need to prune back the dry branches and reduce the longer and untidy ones to give the plant a harmonious appearance. These operations are done at the end of winter.
  • Climbing roses. These have very rigid branches and bear roses on the previous year’s branches. After removing the older and damaged parts, you should shorten the main branches.

Here’s an article about the right pruning tools. Having the correct tools and using them properly is fundamental, so make sure you’re well-prepared.
In the next articles, we’ll talk more about roses, specifically about the biological defense against major fungal diseases and parasitic insects.
For now, we bid you farewell and wish you successful organic cultivation!

Further Reading

  • NCBI – “Rose Flowers—A Delicate Perfume or a Natural Healer?” – An exploration of the therapeutic properties of rose flowers.
  • Nature – “In the name of the rose: a roadmap for rose research in the…” – A roadmap for future research on roses, including genetics and breeding.
  • NCBI – “Therapeutic Applications of Rose Hips from Different Rosa Species” – A study on the therapeutic applications of rose hips from various species.
  • NCBI – “Therapeutic efficacy of rose oil: A comprehensive review of clinical…” – A comprehensive review of the therapeutic efficacy of rose oil.
  • ScienceDirect – “Physiological effects of viewing fresh red roses” – An investigation into the physiological effects of viewing red roses.
  • OUP – “Genetics and genomics of flower initiation and development in roses…” – A study on the genetics and genomics of flower initiation in roses.
  • NCBI – “Pharmacological Effects of Rosa Damascena” – An article on the pharmacological effects of Rosa Damascena.
  • SSRN – “Nutrient, Phytonutrient and Antioxidant Activity of the Dried Rose…” – A study on the nutrient, phytonutrient, and antioxidant activity of dried rose.
  • PubMed – “Cytotoxic, antioxidant, antimicrobial properties and chemical…” – An article on the cytotoxic, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties of roses.
  • TandFOnline – “Comparative evaluation of chemical substances and sensory properties of…” – A comparative evaluation of chemical substances and sensory properties of roses.

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