Nothing is less attractive than a spindly rose bush that has been allowed to grow too tall and leggy. Rose bushes are often neglected when it comes to pruning from fear of cutting off too much or damaging the plant. Pruning roses is vital to their health and productivity, and when done properly, you will have plants that are bushy and full of fragrant roses.
Prune your rose bush in the spring after the last frost and before new buds appear. When pruning, always make the cuts above an outside bud so the new growth will grow outward, opening up the middle of the plant for better air circulation and sunlight exposure.
Begin pruning by cutting all of the branches or canes of the rose bush down to the height you want the bush to be. This allows you to see the canes of the rose bush better and the overall shape of the bush.
Cut out all the dead and damaged canes and any canes that cross or rub each other. Remove any branches that grow across the middle of the plant, which decreases the amount of sunlight and air circulation the inner part of the bush receives.
Finally, remove any canes that are smaller than the diameter of a pencil. Be sure to leave some growth on the bottom of the rose bush to help it form a nice bushy shape.
After doing a major pruning when your bush reaches maturity, a little bit of pruning to keep its bushy shape is all that is required. Each spring, keep your rose bush looking bushy and full by cutting off the top third of the plant, removing any canes as outlined in steps 1 through 4.