How to Care for Roses

Pruning Roses

Pruning is necessary to maintain healthy roses. If left entirely on their own, rose plants will produce dense, tangled growth, which opens a path to disease. The following steps will help you properly prune your roses.

pruning roses
Prune before new leaves appear.

  1. Roses are best pruned at the end of the dormant season, just as buds are swelling but before new leaves appear. First prune out dead or diseased growth, then any branches that rub together. Young plants should be further pruned to about four stems, which are called canes, by removing weaker canes. Established plants can be allowed eight or more canes, especially in warmer climates. Prune the remaining canes back to about one-half (in cold climates) to one-third their original height. Pruning will open up the plant, letting in light and circulation, and it will also stimulate growth of young, healthy canes.

    pruning roses
    Cut canes at an angle.

  2. Cut canes 1/4 inch above an outward-pointing bud at a 45- to 60-degree angle.

    pruning roses
    Remove dead growth
    during the growing period.

  3. During the rose's growing period, remove any weak or dead growth and any suckers growing from the base. To encourage maximum flower size, many rose enthusiasts disbud; that is, they pinch out all buds except one per stem. Deadhead (prune off flower stems when the blooms fade) to stimulate repeated flowering.
In the next section, we'll talk about pruning shrubs and climbing roses.

Want more information about roses? Visit these links:

  • Rose Gardens: Learn all you need to know to plan, plant and care for your rose garden.
  • Gardening: We answer all of your general gardening questions in this section.