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Pruning roses – how to do it right, no matter what type of rose

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A garden filled with different-coloured rose bushes in full bloom
Roses look great in every garden. Find out how to prune any kind of rose correctly below

Roses are a really popular flower. There's something for everyone: whether you're after red, white, pink or multi-coloured roses, whether you want large or small flowers, whether you prefer short or long stems, or whether you like your roses fragrant or odourless – there are countless different types of roses. But whichever type you go for, roses are a beautiful addition to your garden (or balcony) and really help to bring it to life, which is why they play such an important role. To make sure they look their best when they bloom, it's important to prune your roses regularly. With the right tools and techniques, it's also a lot easier to do than you might think. Follow our tips and tricks to bring out the best in your roses.

Why do roses need to be pruned?

If you prune your roses regularly, they'll thank you by blossoming beautifully. But looks aside, giving your roses a trim will also enable you to enjoy them for longer. Each time you cut a rose, you can guide the way it grows. Pruning gives you the opportunity to rejuvenate your rose (if necessary), and by removing dead or sick branches and stems, you can prevent illnesses and fungal infections. The result is a healthy and long-lasting rose bush which produces lots of blossoms. Enough reasons to reach for a pair of pruning shears – and with our advice, you'll be pruning like a pro in no time.

A shoot on a rose bush is cut with a pair of pruning shears.
Pruning your roses regularly results in healthy growth and a beautiful blossom

Getting started: when is the best time to prune roses?

The right time for pruning your roses may vary depending on how they grow and how often they bloom. It's always a good idea to know what kind of roses you have and what their characteristics are. Generally speaking, most roses tend to be pruned in spring, once the frost has gone. The right time to start pruning your roses can also vary depending on where you live. It may help to keep an eye on other flowers: once forsythias (also known as golden bells) have started to flower, you can get started. An exception to this rule are roses that only bloom once a year. It's best to prune these roses after they have bloomed. If you cut back too much in spring, you may end up removing buds that have already formed, which can result in your roses producing fewer flowers in the summer.

Rose pruning basics

Pruning technique

Every type of rose needs to be cut differently in order to flourish and bloom. But essentially, all roses need to have their dead, diseased or inward-facing canes cut away and all their suckers removed. Suckers are shoots that have sprouted from below the bud union, and so compete with your main stem. Always ensure your cuts are angled towards the ground so that rainwater can run off the plant better and to give the cuts a chance to heal quickly. Ideally, you should aim to cut above an outward-facing bud eye, which is a bud that hasn't developed fully yet. Generally speaking, for rose varieties that flower often, if you give them a good prune in spring, the first bloom may be somewhat lacklustre, but from that point onwards, the rose can collect energy and bloom more intensely when it flowers again. In contrast, if you're more conservative when pruning in spring, the first bloom will be more impressive but the second bloom will yield less.

Tools

Pruning shears – when pruning roses, your shears are your main tool. Sharp blades are essential and the shears need to sit well in your hands. Since shoots that grow from the ground can get quite thick, cordless secateurs such as the Bosch EasyPrune can make light work of this.

Gardening gloves – roses have thorns, so you'll need a good pair of gardening gloves. Besides protecting your hands, they'll also help you keep a better grip on your shears.

Bag – put all the canes, shoots and flowers you have cut away in a bag. For larger canes and shoots, you can use a chipper to cut them down to size.

A blonde woman in a white T-shirt effortlessly cuts a thick rose cane using Bosch EasyPrune cordless secateurs
For thicker canes, cordless secateurs such as the EasyPrune from Bosch can make light work of pruning

Tailored cuts – the best way to prune your rose

The type of cut you need to make for different rose types depends on how they grow and how often they flower. For some roses, you can use similar techniques but with others, it's very important to take into account their special characteristics while pruning. However, the following advice applies to all roses: you need to completely remove dead or damaged canes and wilted flowers.

Shrub roses

Characteristics: bloom once or more often, bushy upright growth

Shrub roses that tend to bloom more than once are usually pruned in spring, which promotes better growth. Cut back the shoots by roughly a third. Remove old canes around the base but aim to always keep around five to eight strong shoots around the base area.

  • Shorten shoots by a third
  • Remove any old shoots
  • Leave five to eight healthy shoots at the base

In spring, when pruning shrub roses that bloom once a year, you should only remove dead or diseased shoots, since flowers tend to grow on older canes. You can make deeper cuts after your roses have flowered. To make sure the centre of your rose remains light and airy, cut away older canes near the base.

  • In spring, only remove dead or diseased shoots
  • After your roses have bloomed, you can remove older shoots
  • Cut away wilted flowers

A man with a beard who is wearing a straw hat and a blue T-shirt cuts a rose from a pink rose bush using pruning shears
When pruning roses that bloom once a year, remove wilted flowers and thin them out a little if needed

Ground cover roses

Characteristics: usually bloom more than once, wide coverage or upright growth

Ground cover roses are very durable roses that produce abundant flowers. Pruning them in spring should ensure light, airy growth. As with all rose types, you need to remove dead, old or inward-facing canes and suckers. Cut out any unsightly canes or canes that are too tightly bunched together – you really don't need to have too many with this type of rose. It's advisable to do a radical pruning every five years to promote the growth of new shoots.

  • Remove unsightly canes or shoots that are too tightly bunched together
  • Shorten all canes a little
  • Do radical pruning every four to five years

Floribunda roses

Characteristics: usually bloom often, wide bushy growth, multiple flowers per stem

Floribunda roses are great for smaller gardens. They have a bushy growth, grow to around knee height and can endure quite hard pruning like hybrid tea roses. This means you can cut back all shoots by around two to six eyes in spring – aiming to cut more vigorous shoots by four to six eyes and weaker shoots by around two to three eyes. Cut back overgrown or old shoots down to the ground as this encourages new shoots to grow.

  • Shorten vigorous shoots by four to six eyes
  • Cut back weaker shoots by two to three eyes
  • Remove old shoots down to the ground

Hybrid tea roses

Characteristics: usually bloom often, wide upright growth, one flower per stem

Like floribunda roses, hybrid tea roses can handle a hard pruning in spring. Shorten all the shoots for this rose type as well, ensuring that you cut less of the more vigorous shoots and more of the weaker shoots. Since cutting shoots encourages growth, this should result in more even shape as the plant grows. Completely remove any suckers, crossing canes and old wood.

  • Shorten vigorous shoots by four to six eyes
  • Cut back weaker shoots by two to three eyes
  • Remove old shoots down to the ground

Rambling roses

Characteristics: usually bloom once, a particularly limber climbing rose

Rambling roses are fast-growing climbing roses which can climb up trees or cover entire arches. This type of rose only requires a light prune. Simply remove dead or diseased shoots in spring. If you want to thin them out a little, you can cut them back them some more after they have flowered. To do so, remove individual shoots down to the stem. To promote more coverage, cut one-year-old shoots in half.

  • Only requires a light pruning
  • In spring, only remove dead or diseased shoots
  • After flowering, thin them out a little by removing individual shoots

A climbing rose with pink flowers climbs up a metal arch.
Climbing roses, which are the rose variety that rambling roses belong to, are well suited for covering Roman arches and can also climb up tree trunks

Standard roses

Characteristics: bloom often, round growth on one stem

When pruning a standard rose, it's important to know which rose type was budded onto the stem since it could be any kind of rose. For hybrid tea roses, floribunda roses and shrub roses, shorten all shoots to the same length to ensure a compact, round shape. If a rambling rose was budded onto the stem, cut back less. Always try to bring out the character of the rose type.

  • The type of pruning required depends on the type of rose grafted onto the stem.


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