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How to Thin Rose Bushes

By Nannette Richford ; Updated September 21, 2017

Roses have been cultivated for their beauty and fragrance for thousands of years. In fact, according to the University of Illinois, the rose is more than 35 million years old and has been cultivated since ancient times. Romans cultivated public rose gardens and used roses for weddings, medicinal remedies and for perfume to mask body odor. Today, there are more than 150 species of the rosa family ranging in habitat from Alaska to Mexico and in some areas of northern Africa. Cultivation to produce prolific blooms includes pruning and thinning to maintain a healthy vigorous plant.

Thin rose bushes in early spring at the time when the forsythias begin to bloom in your area to promote lush growth and to improve air circulation. Plants allowed to become too dense promote disease.

Remove any dead or diseased canes by cutting them back ground level. Healthy rose canes appear green on the outside and white in the center of the cane. Browning or pithy canes will not produce abundant blooms and may promote disease.

Cut away old canes from the center of the bush to allow new canes to take over if the bush becomes overly dense. Healthy young canes grow quickly replacing those that are removed, reviving the plant.

Trim branches that cross the center of the rose bush or have become misshapen back to the main stem or to ground level. These prevent air circulation and create a tangled mass if allowed to grow.


Things You Will Need

  • Pruning shears


  • Thin rose bushes regularly to maintain the size and shape you desire.

About the Author


Nannette Richford is an avid gardener, teacher and nature enthusiast with more than four years' experience in online writing. Richford holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from the University of Maine Orono and certifications in teaching 7-12 English, K-8 General Elementary and Birth to age 5.