Pruning is essential for the overall health, vitality and appearance of roses. Winter is the key time to cut back most varieties, except rambling roses, which are pruned in summer immediately after flowering.
The basic principles of pruning are the same: cutting back hard will promote the strongest growth, while light pruning will result in less vigour. The other basic rules include cutting to an outward-facing bud to prevent compacted growth, and removing closely positioned stems that might rub or compete for space. Also remove stubby ‘snags’ (short, dead lengths of stem with no growth on them) and thin, twiggy stems, which are unlikely to produce anything worthwhile in terms of growth and flowering potential.
More pruning content:
- Pruning – the basic cuts (video guide)
- Pruning newly planted shrubs (video guide)
- Dealing with overgrown plants
Follow our advice on pruning all kinds of roses, below.
Modern shrub and English roses
Modern shrub roses are a broad group, but all are robust, repeat-flowering and come in a wide range of colours. English roses have been bred to include the qualities of modern shrub roses, with the beautiful fragrance of old roses. Varieties of modern shrub rose include ‘Meidomonac’ (Bonica), ‘Little White Pet’ and ‘Cerise Bouquet’. There are lots of popular English rose varieties, such as ‘Munstead Wood’, ‘Boscobel’ and ‘Gertrude Jekyll’.
Unlike bush roses, the more you cut back modern shrub and English roses, the more leafy growth they’ll produce at the expense of blooms. They need an established framework of branching stems on which to bear their flowering shoots in summer. Prune from January to March. Follow our step-by-step advice on how to prune modern shrub roses.
Bush roses include cluster-flowered floribundas and large-flowered hybrid teas, and have been bred for their ability to flower freely on strong new growth made during the current growing season. This means they can be cut down hard every year to keep plants compact. Prune from January to March. Well-known varieties of bush rose include ‘Iceberg’ (floribunda) and ‘Elizabeth Harkness’ (hybrid tea).
Patio roses are shorter-growing forms of bush roses. Meanwhile, miniature roses simply need to be encouraged to produce thicker stems that will be topped with blooms, while any thin, unproductive twigs should be removed completely. Follow our step-by-step advice on how to prune bush roses.
Rambling and species roses
Rambling roses are vigorous, scrambling plants that can be used to cover walls, pergolas and even climb through trees. They usually flower once a year, in June, producing a magnificent display of blooms. Rambling roses to grow include ‘Wedding Day’, ‘Veilchenblau’ and ‘Kew Rambler’. Species roses come from all over the globe and like ramblers, are robust and vigorous. As they have simple flowers, they’re great for pollinating insects. There are lots of species roses to grow, including Rosa complicata, Rosa moyesii and Rosa glauca.
Rambling and species roses as well as ground cover varieties (some of which share parentage with ramblers and climbers) flower most freely on a framework of stems that have been made in the previous couple of seasons. This means that the oldest flowered stems are cut out each year to encourage new shoots to form from the base and to stop them turning into a tangle of unproductive stems. Also remove any scrappy shoots. Find out how to prune a rambling rose and how to prune a species rose.
Prune from August to September.
Climbing roses are vigorous selections from the same breeding as bush roses. Roses from other groups can be climbing roses, hence you’ll come across English climbing roses, climbing hybrid tea roses and more. Climbing roses to grow include ‘Teasing Georgia’, ‘A Shropshire Lad’ and ‘Claire Austin’.
In winter, once a main framework of stems has been trained across their support, the sideshoots of climbing roses can be cut back close to the main framework. Follow our step-by-step advice to pruning a climbing rose.