Rose Pruning Tips

by Don Trotter


Hello fellow Earthlings and welcome to the rose garden. This is the first of a five part series on rose care that comes just in time for your early spring rose projects. In this first part we will be discussing types of pruning techniques used by most rose growers and the types of roses that usually receive pruning of this kind. So grab your pruning shears and let's take a look at those roses. So for the next few weeks we will be in the rose garden with lots of helpful information to prevent gnashing of teeth. Let's get to it.

Rose pruning is a simple process made complicated by all of the different schools of thought on the topic. If you remember four things you will always be a successful rose pruners, and your roses will be dazzling examples of your prowess. The four not so secrets are:

  1. Keep the center of the bush clear of growth, like a big vase or bowl.
  2. Remove all dead or decayed growth.
  3. Keep some shape to your garden roses, be gentle with the cuts
  4. Remove crossing branches in favor of the stronger growth.

If you try and follow these four directives, a finer quality rose bush will certainly inhabit your garden spaces. When your finished pruning your roses be sure to seal the cuts you've made that are larger than a quarter of an inch in diameter. The best and the cheapest pruning sealer I have ever used for roses is good old white glue. Yup, Elmer's is a great sealer for your rose pruning projects. It dries clear, is flexible, and allows for natural scar tissue to form below the cut. And it's cheap! Here are the types of rose pruning most commonly used and the types of roses they are used on.

Hard Pruning or Low Pruning

Canes are cut back to three or four buds from the base or bud union. This leaves short sturdy canes of about 4 to 5 inches long.

Hard pruning is recommended for newly planted bush roses of the hybrid tea, grandiflora and floribunda tribes. Hard pruning is often used by growers to produce show blooms for exhibition. This method is not good for established garden roses and should not be practiced. It can still be used to rejuvenated sickly plants and neglected ones, but hard pruning is no longer accepted as correct pruning.

Moderate or Medium Pruning

Canes are cut back to about half of their length. Weaker stems are cut back more depending on their location on the bush.

Moderate pruning is the accepted method for treatment of established garden roses. Floribundas, hybrid teas, grandifloras, and tree roses all respond best to this pruning practice. If the roses are fed well, you can expect show quality roses on beautifully shaped bushes.

Light or High/Long Pruning

Canes are cut back to about two thirds of their length. This means that after removal of unwanted wood the remaining stems are merely tipped.

Light pruning is not generally recommended as it will produce spindly bushes and if practiced year after year will result in an early blooming bush with poor quality flowers.

Hybrid Tea Roses

Newly Planted - Hard Pruning is required to build up a strong root system and to stimulate the growth of sturdy, fresh canes from close to the base of the bush.

Established Roses (12 months or older) - Moderate pruning is the best method for general garden display. For show blooms hard pruning is sometimes used. For very vigorous varieties light pruning is recommended.

Floribunda Roses

Newly Planted - Where hybrid teas should be hard pruned to a height of between 4-6 inches, floribundas prefer a cane length of 6 inches

Established Roses (12 months or older) - Moderate pruning is the best way to prune floribundas, but some old stems are hard pruned to within a few inches of the ground, while new canes which arise from the area of the base last year are only lightly pruned. This method of varying stem height will ensure a long period of continuous bloom

Standard or Tree Roses

Newly Planted - Hard pruning is recommended, but should be less drastic than pruning for new bush roses. Stem/cane length should be about 8 inches long.

Established Roses (12 months or older) - Moderate pruning is best to form a properly balanced head which will produce plenty of flowers. Hard pruning should be avoided on tree roses because the vigorous canes will affect the shape of the plant and make it less attractive.

Miniature and Shrub Roses

Newly Planted - No pruning is required other that the elimination of any dead or broken canes that may have occurred in transit.

Established Roses (12 months or older) - Very little pruning is necessary except for eliminating dead and sickly growth. Use scissors on miniatures instead of your pruning shears.

Climbing Roses

Newly Planted - No pruning is necessary other than removal of dead canes and tips.

Established Roses (12 Months or older) - Little pruning is required apart from the removal of dead and distressed wood. Withered shoot tips with spent bloom on them should also be removed.

In special cases such as very vigorous hybrid teas, climbers and shrub roses, light pruning is the only recommended way to cut these plants.

Rose pruning should be a simple and easy process with rewards well in excess of the amount of labor required. Next time we will be discussing disease control without resorting to potentially harmful chemical fungicides. See you in the Garden!


Got questions? Email the Doc at Curly@mill.net. Don Trotter's natural gardening columns appear nationally in environmentally sensitive publications. For lots more helpful gardening tips check out Don's books Natural Gardening A-Z and The Complete Natural Gardener at your local bookstore or at all on line booksellers, both from Hay House publishing www.hayhouse.com

Stay Connected with TDS





Subscribe to TDS Newsletters

Join over 250,000 other subscribers!

Join Fido!

Discounted movie tickets
Sign up for Savvy Savings at TDS and get a free membership for discounted movie tickets!

Your Email:


The Dollar Stretcher
Dollar Stretcher Parents
Dollar Stretcher Tips
Financial Independence
The Computer Lady
Computer Lady Lessons
Healthy Foods

Your Email:


View the TDS Privacy Policy.