How to Prune Shrub Roses

Shrub roses make good hedges and landscaping elements. image by Creative Commons, DRW and Associates Inc


New hybrids and variations on old-fashioned varieties have made rose-fanciers of gardeners who wouldn't have attempted rose culture back when hybrid tea roses ruled the garden. Far from the divas that ruled that day, today's re-blooming and ever-blooming shrubs make great hedges and landscaping choices but, like any garden perennial, are not entirely care-free. Now that you've decided to invest in a few container-grown beauties, learn to do some simple pruning to keep them bushy and vibrant.

Step 1

Examine plants carefully when you buy them. They are usually sold "hard-pruned" back to three or four branches. Branches should be cut just above outward-facing buds (bumpy places on the branch between the thorns), so the shrub grows away from the center.

Step 2

Correct bad cuts by re-cutting above an outward-facing bud or scraping off inward-facing end buds. If inward-facing buds are allowed to determine the basic shape of the shrub, they will grow into the center, closing it up, limiting air flow and light. This may result in a shrub that develops mildew or black spot or, worse still, dies from the inside out.

Step 3

Limit pruning to trimming and removing dead branches in early spring for the first two or three years to keep shrubs neat. Allow them to establish themselves in your garden. Deadhead flowers by pinching them off close to the base of the bloom; deadheading helps strengthen bloom by cutting down on the number of flowers the shrub has to support. Cut flowers for use in the house by cutting just above an outward-facing cluster of five leaves. New buds will form at the five-leaf points.

Step 4

Prune modern shrub roses, modern floribundas and rugosas roses during their dormant season in late winter. They are repeat bloomers. Prune main stems back no more than one-third of their length and side shoots beck no further than two-thirds. Remove dead wood in late winter and take a few of the oldest or least productive canes out entirely to help the shrub focus energy on productive branches.

Step 5

Prune old garden roses like Albas, Damasks and shrub roses after they have bloomed in early summer. They bloom only once a season. Prune to maintain shape, cutting new shoots no more than one-third. Maintain a balance of older and younger shoots, particularly in varieties that bloom on "old wood". Remove one or two main stems every few years to rejuvenate shrubs. Remove dead or diseased wood in the spring.

Tips and Warnings

  • Always sterilize tools with a 50 percent bleach or 70-percent rubbing alcohol solution before and after cutting diseased foliage or canes.

Things You'll Need

  • Hand pruners
  • Lopping (long-handled) pruner
  • Sharp knife
  • Gloves
  • Bleach or rubbing alcohol and water
  • Sprayer or sponge


  • Pruning Rules
  • Pruning Video

Who Can Help

  • Pruning Different Types of Roses
  • All-America Rose
Keywords: shrub roses, how to prune roses, pruning shrub rose bushes, pruning roses, rose pruning

About this Author

Laura Reynolds began writing professionally in 1974. She has worked as author and editor in nonfiction, professional journals and newspapers. Reynolds has also served in numerous appointed and elected local offices. She holds a Bachelor of Science in education from Northern Illinois University.

Photo by: Creative Commons, DRW and Associates Inc