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How to Trim and Prune Roses

Roses make a beautiful ornamental plant. In addition its leaves can also be used to make perfume and wine. The hips have a high concentration of vitamin C and can be eaten. Proper care of roses involves keeping them properly trimmed and pruned back.

Where to Trim Roses Image

When roses are first planted they should get their first trim. This is when shaping begins. Trim back vigorous branches that have gotten ahead of the space provided for the plant. The next trim should occur in the spring just as buds begin to appear on the rose bush. It is best to do this before the buds have burst because at this point the sap will be flowing.

Use the appropriate pruning shears. The best type of shears are the curved-edge shears with two sharp edges1. Avoid the anvil type shears because they do not make as smooth a cut and tend to crush the stems on one side. Be sure to wear a pair of heavy work gloves to avoid the thorns on the stems. Keep pruning shears sharp to avoid mashed twigs that are slow to heal. For cuts larger than 1/2-inch in diameter it is wise to apply grafting wax or pruning compound.

Most rose bushes, including hybrid teas, floribundas, and grandifloras should be cut back to a height of about 18 inches. First prune away the dead canes as close as possible to the bud union. Trim back weak and broken branches. Ideally the trimmed bush should be formed to allow for the most air circulation and maximum strength of the plant. This means cutting out the smaller branches and the ones near the middle of the bush. Finally, cut out all but three or four of the remaining canes, even though the extra canes being cut might appear to be healthy. Try to spread them evenly about the rose bush. Do not leave any high stubs.

When trimming a rose bush try to make cuts about a quarter-inch above a bud. Ideally trim to buds facing the outside of the bush as these will be the places where new canes will form. Slant cuts; this will help moisture to run off and help prevent disease and rot.

For climbing roses, the procedure for spring trimming must be modified. Many of the climbing roses produce their flowers on previous year's canes so too hard a trimming will greatly reduce the number of flowers. Mainly trimming should be done to get rid of dead and diseased branches, and to reduce any overcrowding. At the end of blooming get the pruning shears out again. Cut back a few of the older canes. This will allow newer canes room to replace the old, which are more susceptible during the winter months to dying back or disease.

When rose blooms begin to fade they can be trimmed back to about 1/4-inch above the highest five leaf cluster. Some rose gardeners like to concentrate all the energy on the main rose of a branch. In this case trim off the smaller roses that appear on the same cane. Others desire to concentrate the plant's energy on the cluster of smaller roses and remove the larger central rose before it buds. Perhaps the optimum strategy is to remove the central bloom just as it begins to fade and then allow the later peripheral flowers to show their stuff.

Dispose of cuttings by burning or in the trash. Roses are susceptible to many diseases that can winter over on old canes left lying about or which have been composted. Some books recommend that when disease is present the pruning shears be dipped in a solution of bleach and water to sterilize them between cuts to avoid spreading the disease.


  1. Pruning Shears at Amazon

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