shrub rose pink

When to Prune Roses

When to prune rose bushes is a thorny problem that concerns many people. How to prune roses correctly is another, related, question that we’re frequently asked.

So I thought answering the questions in this blog might be useful – and also gives the excuse to add in some photos of beautiful roses.

To begin, it may sound obvious, but knowing what type of rose you have means that you’re more likely to get the pruning right. By this I mean whether your rose plant is a –

  • rambler
  • climbing rose
  • hybrid tea
  • floribunda rose
  • shrub rose
  • miniature, dwarf or patio rose
  • groundcover rose
  • standard rose

Roses which carry decorative (and edible) hips over the winter shouldn’t be pruned between late summer and spring if you want to enjoy the hips or are leaving them for the wildlife. Almost all roses have the ability to set hips, although not all do and some are showier than others.

 rose hip

When to Prune Roses – General pruning notes

  • Always remove dead, diseased or dying shoots first
  • Cut neatly to visible buds or old leaf scars from which buds will appear, on the outside of each shoot
  • Deadheading is a form of pruning
  • Climbing roses and ramblers

When to Prune Roses – Climbers and Ramblers

The difference between a climbing rose and a rambler, generally speaking, is that climbers tend to flower for longer periods, often from June until the first frosts; whilst ramblers flower earlier in the summer, then send out lots of new leafy growth. They need different pruning techniques.

Southsea rose garden pergola

Rambling rose

When to prune a rambling rose – they don’t generally need much pruning, but it is an idea to remove some of the oldest shoots. This can be done at any time after flowering, unless you want the rose hips.

How to prune a rambling rose – the older stems can be taken down virtually to the base, or graft, so on average about 6″ up from there. You will need to train and tie in the new leafy growth as the rose will flower best on this the following year.

Climbing rose

When to prune a climbing rose – climbers need annual pruning in winter and flower the following year on yet more short shoots produced the spring after pruning. They will slowly develop a woody, gnarled framework over the years.

How to prune a climbing rose –  it is a good idea to one or more of the older stems down virtually to the base, or graft, on a rolling basis. This will give you more blooms as the rose flowers best on younger growth. Then prune any side shoots back by about 2/3 of their length to a strong bud.

rose 'etoile de Hollande'

When to Prune Roses – Bush roses including hybrid tea, floribunda and patio roses

Hybrid tea have large flowers, floribundas have clusters of flowers. Prune these bush roses from late winter to early spring.

bush rose, pruned, roses, rose garden

Prune hybrid tea roses by about half, or to 4- 6 buds from the base.
Floribunda roses should be pruned less hard, to about a foot from the base.

However, miniature and patio roses only need pruning to maintain an attractive shape; so if they’re okay, you needn’t get out the secateurs!

yellow roses

When to Prune Roses – Shrub roses

Is your shrub rose has one flush of flowers or is it a repeat flowering rose?

Those that flower only once are best pruned only lightly, after flowering, to where you can see new growth. They can be pruned again in the winter to remove the oldest stems which produce fewer flowers.

Repeat flowering shrub roses are the modern varieties and can be pruned from late autumn to early spring. Reduce healthy main stems by about a quarter, in the autumn, and again in spring; or remove a third in spring with no autumn pruning.

rosa 'gertrude jekyll'

When to Prune Roses – Ground cover roses

Generally pruned in spring; the aim is to reduce congestion and stimulate new growth on old plants.


When to Prune Roses – Standard roses

These roses are so called as they have been pruned to a particular shape, in this instance a tall single stem with a globe of flowers at the top. It’s a style often seen in parks and formal rose gardens.

Penshurst Place rose garden - underplanting with stachys

Prune a standard rose between late autumn and early spring.

How to prune a standard rose – you pretend that the “standard” part, the stem, is not there. This is the root stock and is a straight stemmed rugosa or briar rose (both of which are species roses). Instead imagine that where the join is (usually a knobbly bit on the stem) is at ground level and only prune the rose plant above.

standard rose, pruned, roses, rose garden

The aim is to reduce the branched “head” by about half – or even more – to make it into a balanced candelabra shape, cutting out obviously dead branches and removing any damaged or skinny stems and those that cross the middle of the bush, thus spoiling the candelabra.

So now all you need to do is check your secateurs are sharp! But if you still have any concerns about which type of rose you have, do please send us a photo and ask – you can do this via Instagram Facebook or email.


Related Gardening Blogs for You from the Award Winning Plews Potting Shed

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How to Prune Correctly – Things You Need to Know

Hybrid Tea Roses

Garden Visits – Roseto Comunale, Rose Garden, Rome

Romantic Roses for Valentine’s Day and Beyond

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