Correct Way to Cut Back Rose Bushes


When your rose bushes start to look unhealthy, misshapen or lack the prolific blooms you want, it signals that the shrubs need pruning. A correctly completed pruning improves the rose's growth and vigor. You should prune your roses as part of regular maintenance. The American Rose Society's "Basic Pruning Guidelines" state that pruning increases blooms, encourages new growth and keeps the plant healthy. Rose bushes require different pruning techniques depending on the type. Before you begin, make sure you know what kind of rose bush you have.

Step 1

Evaluate the condition of your rose bush in early spring. Look for dead or damaged canes and diseased parts. Remove canes with pruners about ¼-inch from the outward facing bud at a 45-degree angle, slanting away from the bud. Dead or dying canes look dark brown or black and appear shriveled.

Step 2

Cut off very weak canes, which measure less than a standard pencil width in thickness. Shorten canes by 6 inches that grew long and look as though the weight of the flowers might cause bending.

Step 3

Remove any suckers. Grafted roses may grow suckers from the roots. These will grow and form flowers different from the species grafted onto the roots. Pull back the soil to see where the sucker emerges from the root and cut it off at that point.

Step 4

Prune excessive canes. For hybrid teas, floribundas, miniature and grandifloras, you should remove all but three to five healthy canes, leaving an open center for good air circulation. Shorten those canes so each contains approximately five buds that face out. If you have a modern shrub rose, remove about a third of the oldest canes and leave one-third of the canes that grew in the previous season. Cut back vigorous canes that originate near the ground by a third. Remove twigs and shorten branches to 1 foot.

Step 5

Spread a drop of wood glue on the cuts. This seals the site and prevents insects, such as cane borers, from causing damage to your roses.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruners
  • Wood glue
  • Wire brush


  • American Rose Society: Basic Pruning Guidelines
  • "The Pruning Book"; Lee Reich, Ph.D.; 2010
  • University of Illinois Extension: Our Rose Garden: Pruning

Who Can Help

  • American Rose Society
Keywords: prune shrub roses, rose bush pruning, rose pruning guide

About this Author

Kitten Arbuckle is a freelance writer living in Indiana. Arbuckle has been writing for websites such as Garden Guides since early 2009. Her education includes training in landscaping, certification in herbal medicine from a botanical sanctuary and a variety of college courses.