Pruning is the process of cutting back the growth of a rose bush to produce a more healthy, productive plant. Few plants benefit more from pruning than roses. While the thought of taking a pair of shears to your prized rose may make you cringe, it is a necessary task.
There are so many varieties of roses, some having different pruning needs, that it is not possible here to discuss the specific procedure of every type rose (that would take an entire book). However, following the general advice here will work for most roses.
First, the objective of pruning is:
1. To open up the middle of the plant to air and light.
2. To remove dead or diseased wood
3. To remove canes that are growing in the wrong direction, i.e., crossing or rubbing another cane.
There are many different pruning techniques recommended by many different people. So many in fact that it can become very confusing. Our suggested method is based solely on our experience of growing roses for years. It may not be the best in all situations but it is the simplest and has worked for us. Just keep in mind the three objectives to pruning, listed above, and you will be O.K.
Roses are vigorous, tough plants and it is unlikely you will kill your rose by pruning improperly. You may reduce the production of blossoms for one season, but it's hard to actually kill a rose by pruning. So, don't be reluctant to prune.
When To Prune
There are two times of the year that are appropriate for pruning. Choose either but take note of the cautions that follow.
You can prune in the spring as soon as the very first buds appear. This must be done before the buds begin to swell. And definitely not after the buds open, showing green foliage.
Or you can prune in the fall, after growth has stopped, but before the first frost. Be aware that rose canes only live for a given period of time, then they turn brown and die. They do not continue to grow forever, like trees. Therefore, it is likely you will always have some dead wood every year.
Here is our simple pruning method:
1. Stand back and observe the overall height of the plant.
2. Then cut it in half.
3. Remove any dead (brown) wood.
4. Remove any canes that are growing toward the center of the plant. And any canes that are rubbing other canes.
When pruning, cut at the live portion of the cane, just above an outward facing bud. Greenish white colored canes are live. Brown canes are dead.
If you are planting a new rose bush, you should prune nearly to the ground. Leave about 4-5 inch long canes. This will help your new rose to establish a good root system.
As stated above, we have used this simple pruning method for years and have beautiful roses every summer. It may not be scientific or the best for every type rose, but it works for us. If you prefer a detailed procedure for your specific type rose, do a search on the web for "Pruning Roses" and you will find hundreds of detailed methods to prune (some very complicated). Again, our goal, here, is to provide a simple pruning method for the average backyard gardener.