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How to Prune Old Rose Bushes

Rose bushes create a vibrant and fragrant garden. Planting roses along an outdoor wall or pathway creates an inviting design to your home. Pruning back your roses is an essential maintenance plan to begin when the bush is young. Remove dead and weak branches to free up nutrients to the rest of the bush. Keeping rose bushes properly trimmed back will extend their life and ensure a full and healthy bush.

Wait until the roses have undergone a major frost and leaves and buds have fallen off. Roses don’t undergo a full winter dormancy, rather a slow-growth dormancy that is the ideal time to prune the rose bush.

Rake away all old twigs and leaves around the base of the rose bush. Insects lurk within this moist environment so remove all debris to ensure they don't harm the rose bush.

Cut off dead branches that are diseased and damaged by removing the entire branch. Remove all old and twisted branches. Open up the old rose bush by cutting off all branches that cross the central stem.

Remove all thick branches that are pencil-sized or smaller to free up nutrients for the main stem of the bush. This will allow more light into the plant. Remove all branches that rub against each other.

Cut off tiny green saplings that grow off the central stem of the bush. Remove all sucker shoots, or shoots that sprout up from the roots of the bush, as soon as they become visible.

Cut above one set of buds on each branch that point outside of the rose bush. Prune down to a healthy bud by cutting at a 45-degree angle. Use sharp pruning shears to prevent ragged cuts and to decrease the chance of the rose bush becoming infected. Paint the open wound with sealing compound to ensure disease does not spread around an older bush.


In between each cut, sterilize the pruning shears to avoid contaminating the rose bush with infections.

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