Cutting back rose bushes is a way to provide better air circulation and sunlight to the center of the rose plant. This can result in healthier growth with a greater abundance of roses. Cutting back rose bushes is also a way to redirect the plant's growth. When you remove diseased or dead wood from the plant, the rose bush can focus its attention on producing new growth. It is not difficult to cut back rose bushes, but there are a few important techniques to learn about how, when and where to make the cuts.
Cut away any diseased, dead or dying wood from the rose bush. Cut away the dead canes where they meet the base of the rose bush. Make your cuts at a 45 degree angle so that the new growth will emerge facing up and out. The best time to cut back most types of rose bushes is during the spring, after the last frost has passed. Cut back your rambling rose bushes after they finish blooming, usually in the early fall. Fall is also the time when you should cut back and remove any dead wood from your rose bushes to protect them from potential wind damage.
Look at the center of the dead wood where you made the cut. If the center is white, the cut is good. If the center is brown, cut the wood farther down the cane to make sure that you remove all of the dead wood. Healthy wood appears greenish white inside the cane.
Cut back any thin growth, or twigs. Search for canes that touch or overlap and remove one. Touching canes are another way diseases can spread in rose bushes.
Cut back each of the healthy canes on your rose bushes 50 percent to half of their length. You should look for a bud that is facing outward and then make your cut 1/4 inch above that bud. Remember to always cut at a 45 degree angle. This moderate pruning method is the one that's most often recommended for Floribundas and Hybrid Teas. Light pruning involves only cutting the canes back to 1/3 of their length. You run the risk of your rose bushes becoming spindly with light pruning. Hard pruning is the method generally used in trying to rejuvenate weak and neglected roses. Hard pruning is when the canes are cut down to about 4 inches tall.
Remove and dispose of the pruning debris. If you leave dead, diseased or healthy cuttings around your plants, they will attract pests and can impact the health of your rose bushes.