How to Cut Back Rose Bushes for Transplanting


There are two things to remember about transplanting roses: transplant them while they are dormant and take as much of the root ball as possible. The size of the root ball determines how much foliage the rose can sustain. The smaller the root ball, the less foliage will survive. Cutting back roses is the same as pruning roses. You can cut back roses the day of the transplant, although pruning several days in advance will leave you more time to fuss over your rose on the day of the move. Always use sharp pruning instruments and make clean cuts rather than tearing or crushing canes.

Step 1

Transplant roses in late winter or early spring while still dormant.

Step 2

Prepare a 1:10 bleach solution to disinfect your pruning shears between rose bushes. Dip the pruning shears in the solution, opening and closing them several times. You don't need to dry the pruning shears.

Step 3

Wear rose gloves (specially made leather and fabric gloves that reach to the elbow) or heavy duty leather work gloves to prevent rose thorns from scratching and scraping your skin.

Step 4

Remove dead and broken canes and canes that cross or rub other canes. Cut these canes back to the crown (where growth emerges).

Step 5

Shorten rose canes to 18 to 24 inches. Make cuts on a 45-degree angle 1/4 to 1/2 inch above an outward-facing bud (the place where leaves and branches emerge).

Tips and Warnings

  • Always burn or toss rose clippings to prevent the spread of disease. Never compost rose clippings.

Things You'll Need

  • Plastic bucket
  • Bleach
  • Water
  • Rose gloves or heavy duty leather work gloves
  • Pruning shears or loppers


  • Botanica's Roses; Margaret Olds, Editor; 1998
  • Taylor's Master Guide to Gardening; Houghton Mifflin Company; 1994
  • Transplanting Shrub Roses

Who Can Help

  • University of Illinois: Pruning Roses
  • BBC: Gardening Techniques
Keywords: transplant roses, cut back roses, rose care