Pruning roses is a prickly subject for some but it’s not that tricky, as long as you identify which particular species you’ve got, as this is the key. Pruning should take place over the coming weeks but in northern or colder spots wait until the beginning of March.
First, there are five golden rules:
- Sharp, clean secateurs are essential; dirty ragged cuts cause disease.
- More air and light in the middle of the plant means better blooms and less disease. So, cut back to an outwards facing bud to encourage an open centre.
- Make a slightly slanted cut just above a bud. This allows water to run off and not collect by the bud, rotting it. Do please be mindful of the words “slightly slanted” here.
- Always remove dead, diseased or damaged growth. Weak or spindly shoots only suck energy from the flowers so nip these out too.
- After pruning feed with specialist rose food or Growmore to perk up plants for the year ahead.
Modern Bush roses – Bush roses flower on new shoots so love a hard chop as this stimulates lots of fresh growth and therefore flowers. Hybrid tea (or single flowered) roses like ‘Just Joey’ and ‘New Dawn’ have one single showy flower atop each stem, floribunda (or cluster flowered) roses have little clusters of showy blooms. Treat both the same. Cut back all growth by ½ to ¾, but no less than a foot or so from the ground. Deadhead spent blooms in summer to encourage more flowers.
‘English’ roses– Popular English shrub roses like ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ love some hard pruning too, but never cut roses in this group back by more than half.
Patio roses – Patio or miniature roses need no regular pruning, just shear them gently to keep a compact shape if needs be.
Shrub roses/wild roses – This is a huge group containing species, rugosa, and old roses like Alba, Centifolia, Damask, Gallica, Bourbon, China and Portland, Hybrid Musk, Moss, Scots and Sweet Briar.
All need little pruning. Just remove one or two older branches back to the base in late summer to encourage fresh growth. But even that isn’t required regularly.
Most shrub/wild roses grow pretty big, so if it proves necessary to regularly cut back a rose in this group to control their size, it may well be that this is a species in the wrong place.
Climbers – Don’t bother pruning climbing roses like ‘Kiftsgate’ now or you might lose this year’s flowers. Instead prune after flowering in late summer. Start by replacing a few really old branches with new ones tying them in tight. Lastly prune any flowered side shots back to about 15cm (6”).
Rambling roses – Rambling roses don’t need pruning, but if they do become too large prune them in the same way you would a climber.
Overgrown roses won’t like a hard chop all at once – it’ll shock them too much. Instead, do it in stages. Cut back by no more than half its height, removing all dead wood this spring. The following year cut back further if necessary, removing some older shoots down to the ground to encourage fresh shoots.