Pruning equals growth. An annual pruning session will result in prettier, fuller rose shrubs with strong and flowery shoots. Pruning roses is much easier than people tend to think. There is no need to be too gentle: garden roses are very strong.
When to prune roses
Make sure your tools are always clean and sharp. But when is the best time to prune rose shrubs? And what is the effect of pruning roses?
Once freezing temperatures disappear around the end of February and early March, it’s time for the most important pruning: spring pruning. This pruning will help the rose shrub rejuvenate. You will need to remove all dead and weak or damaged branches. Leave the strongest branches where they are, but prune them back to 15 to 20 cm above the soil. How exactly to prune roses depends on the rose variety.
- Large-flowered roses and cluster roses
Prune large-flowered roses (Floribundas) and cluster roses (Polyanthas) every year. Prune branches above soil level back to 1 centimetre above the third outward-facing bud. The outward-facing bud is a point on the outside of the branch, usually with a line underneath. These buds are dormant buds that will sprout after pruning. Because these buds are located on the sides, the new branch that emerges will grow properly sideways as well. You could make it a lot easier for yourself by pruning all the branches to this height. To reward you for your efforts, your rose will produce beautiful strong new branches that will bloom profusely.
- Species roses
In principle, botanical roses do not need pruning. If the rose shrub gets too big, you can limit this by pruning back the branches. Most botanical roses bloom on biennial wood. So you will need to be patient for a year before you can see these branches bloom again. This can be prevented by pruning after flowering.
- Shrub roses
Shrub roses do not need pruning every year. Once every two or three years is sufficient. They will still continue to flower beautifully in the years they are not pruned. Going a year without pruning will also mean bushier plants that provide better ground coverage. Shrub roses can generally be pruned back every 2 or 3 years, to 5 – 7 centimetres above the soil.
- Climbing roses
Climbing roses should be pruned as little as possible. There is certainly no need to do so in the first two years. Only prune the shrub if it has become too big or old. That’s the time to rejuvenate it. You need to do this thoroughly. The rose will grow vigorously from the pruning point. If you don’t prune back enough, the shrub will actually get bigger rather than smaller.
Prune both large and old roses in the second half of March. Cut them back thoroughly on the main and side branches. Divide the side branches along the wall or pergola and tie them up. Cut off any excess branches shortly above the soil, to allow new branches with flowers to appear from below. Although flowering will be somewhat sparser than usual the first year following such a rigorous pruning, you will be richly rewarded the year thereafter.
- Standard roses
How to prune standard roses depends on the variety that has been grafted onto the stem. Check the relevant group to find out how to prune them. You might also have to trim some branches growing inwardly in the centre of the sphere. This will improve air flow and ensure that enough light reaches the leaves inside the sphere.
Pruning roses in summer encourages the rose to produce new flower shoots instead of rose hips. This is done by dead-heading the roses. If the rose shrub is too large, cut the branches back a little, up to halfway down the branch. This will encourage growth of new, shorter flower shoots.
In autumn, prune the rose shrub to make it neat and tidy before winter arrives. The idea is to bring the shrub back into shape. Don’t be too rigorous, and don’t prune below knee height. If you prune your roses shorter, frost damage may occur. If the rose still has some hips, don’t prune these. Birds love rose hip pulp and seeds.
Pruning root suckers
Roses are often grafted. This means that a cultivated rose is grafted onto a wild rose (the rootstock). Sometimes ground shoots sprout from the rootstock. These are called root suckers. When these appear, the shoot does not grow from the grafting site (the thickening above the roots where the branches are) but from the rootstock. You can also recognise root suckers by their leaves, which are clearly different. Remove root suckers by breaking off the branches or cutting them back close to the roots.