Roses are magical flowers in the garden—and cutting the bushes back feels like it takes some magic to do. Demystify the process of pruning your roses and learn from our tips.

By BH&G Garden Editors
April 01, 2016

Since you're typically only supposed to prune roses once a year, it can be tough remembering how and when to do it. And the pruning timing, techniques, and methods all depend on which type of roses you having in your garden. If you need a refresher, here's our guide.

Hybrid Tea, Grandiflora, and Floribunda Roses

Cut back your hybrid tea, grandiflora, and floribunda roses to about 18 inches tall in early spring, just before they start to grow. One guide to help you know when to prune is to watch for forsythia to bloom. In the coldest climates, prune these roses back to live growth. It may be as low as 8 inches, depending on how severe the winter was.

Because many of these types of roses are grafted, watch for any shoots that seem to be coming from the roots and not the rose stem. These are usually unwanted suckers from the root system and should be removed at ground level.

Though it may seem like butchering, pruning this way will give you plants that produce lots of lush blooms on sturdy stems.

Climbing Roses

Climbing roses can be a little trickier to figure out. The best time for pruning depends on what kind of climbing rose you have. Prune those that bloom only once a year right after their blooms fade. Reblooming climbers, on the other hand, should be pruned in early spring.

Shrub Roses

Shrub roses may not need pruning at all, but it depends on what type you have. Many modern shrub roses require no pruning except to remove dead or damaged growth. If your shrub roses bloom once a year, lightly prune them back after their flowers fade. Prune back reblooming shrub roses in early spring.

Tips for Pruning Roses of All Types

  • Always remove dead, diseased, or damaged growth.
  • When cutting out diseased growth, dip the blades of your pruners in rubbing alcohol between each cut to help prevent spreading disease.
  • Avoid leaving dead, ugly stubs on stems by making your cuts about 1/4 inch above a leaf bud.
  • Prevent a tangled mess of rose shoots by making your cut to a bud that's pointing away from the center of the plant. (Buds facing the center will grow shoots that grow into the middle of the rose.)
  • Cut out any thin, weak growth. On most roses (except miniatures), the general rule is to cut back any stem thinner than a pencil's thickness.

Pruning Shrubs


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