The Ultimate Guide to Pruning Roses for Healthy Growth

The Ultimate Guide to Pruning Roses for Healthy Growth

Don’t you love roses? They’re a beautiful addition to any landscape; they transform any property with an alluring color when in bloom. When planted in rows, they’re a sight to behold. But if you want your roses to look extra luxurious, you need to know when and how to prune them.

Why Prune Roses

Before we dive into the when and how to prune roses, let’s discuss the why. It’s simple: to promote healthy growth and beautiful flowers. Of course, pruning is an annual event, and it’s also essential to roses' health, productivity, and longevity.

When to Prune Roses

When it comes to pruning roses, it’s all about timing. But be sure not to prune too early. The best months for pruning roses in Southern California are January (after the first full moon) and February. During the winter, rose plants are hibernating, or they’re dormant. They’ve dropped their foliage, their sap has thickened, and they’re using their nutrient reserves deep within the core of their branches. Growth buds will also begin to swell during the roses’ dormant season.

Pro Tip: remember to finish pruning roses by mid-February. That way, you can avoid setting the plants back.pruning roses

How to Prune 

Prune at the right time: at the end of their dormant season. In Southern California, we begin pruning rose shrubs, bushes, vines, etc., in January (after the first full moon) and early February.


Remove the right branches: 

  • Prune dead wood and wood that doesn’t have healthy growth growing from it.
  • Remove branches that cross through the plant’s center
  • Remove branches that rub against more giant canes
  • Remove branches that make the rose bush look lopsided
  • Remove any unproductive old canes
  • Remove any remaining foliage; it will help reduce the chance of disease later
  • Cut back the previous season’s growth by one-third to one-half—make cuts above outward-facing buds
  • The ideal result should leave the bush with a V-shaped appearance and a relatively open center

Remove suckers:

  1. If you notice any suckers, remove them completely.
  2. Pull them off with a downward motion.
  3. Allow the wound to air-dry before replacing soil around the bush.
  4. Remove the sucker and be sure not to remove the new cane growing from the bud.

Match pruning to the roses you’re growing: you’ll want to make your cut just above an outward-growing bud.

Use the Right Tools

Pruning roses is much easier when you use the right tools. Make sure to use sharp pruners. Disinfect your pruning tools to avoid spreading plant diseases. You can use rubbing alcohol and apply it with a spray bottle or by wiping over the garden tools with a damp cloth sprayed with a mixture of 1/2 Clorox and 1/2 water (Clorox wipes work too). And wear a long-sleeved shirt!

The following are must-have tools for pruning roses:

  • Sharp pair of bypass pruners
  • Gauntlet gloves
  • Small pruning saw
  • Sharp pair of loppers

It’s a good idea to consider cutting flowers as a form of pruning. And if you plan on putting it in a vase, cut off enough stems to support the flower in a vase. Don’t deprive the plant of too much foliage. When pruning, always leave a stem with at least two sets of five-leaflet leaves.

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