How to Trim Back Rose Bushes


Pruning roses seems like a daunting task, but with a little practice, you'll find the process less intimidating. Remember that your goal in pruning is to promote healthy growth by opening your rose plant up to light and air. Roses don't get larger in size like trees, but become tangled, unproductive plants if neglected. Experiment with pruning and watch your rose's performance during the summer. You'll soon find the method that works best for your roses. Roses are seldom killed by pruning mistakes, so get out those pruners and get to work. Hybrid tea roses require the most pruning. Rambling and shrub roses benefit from lighter prunings.

Step 1

Cut newly planted roses or neglected roses uniformly to 4 to 5 inches above the ground. This is called hard pruning and shouldn't be a regular pruning practice. Prune roses in late winter when the forsythia is in bloom and new growth is just appearing. Prune long, straggly vines in fall, but don't prune after October 1, except in warm climates (south of U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone 7). Pruning promotes new growth that will be damaged by frost.

Step 2

Cut out dead and diseased wood cleanly at the base of the plant or until you see greenish, white growth that indicates the branch is healthy and living. Cut out branches that rub against each other. Pull, don't cut, any suckers (spindly, vertical growing soft vegetation) from the plant. Cutting them will encourage them to grow back.

Step 3

Cut modern hybrid roses to 1/3 or 1/2 of their height. This is known as the easy-care method and results in healthy growth and blooms. When making pruning cuts, cut 1/4 inch above an outward facing bud. Buds are the small triangular bumps on rose branches that provide new growth. Cut at a 45-degree angle, slanting the cut away from the bud.

Step 4

Remove spent blossoms (deadheading) before they go to seed to encourage more blooming. Cut the stems back to the next outward facing bud above a five-leaflet formation.

Things You'll Need

  • Sharp hand pruning shears


  • Rose Magazine: Pruning Roses
  • University of Illinois: Our Rose Garden

Who Can Help

  • University of Illinois: Our Rose Garden Selecting Rose Plants
Keywords: pruning roses, rose care, growing roses

About this Author

Julie Christensen has been writing professionally since 2001. She is a full-time freelance writer and former teacher with writing credits from several regional and national publications, such as Colorado Parent and LDS Living. She specializes in parenting, education and gardening topics. Christensen studied early childhood education at Ricks College, and spent 20 years as a teacher and director in university and public school settings.