This article has been checked for horticultural accuracy by Oliver Parsons.


Pruning roses is essential for their overall health, vitality and appearance. Winter is the key rose pruning time to cut back most varieties, except rambling roses, which are usually pruned in summer immediately after flowering.

The basic principles of pruning roses are the same as pruning anything else: cutting back hard will promote the strongest growth, while light pruning will result in less vigorous regrowth. The other basic rules include: removing dead, damaged or diseased wood; cutting to an outward-facing bud to encourage outward growth; removing closely positioned stems that might rub or compete for space; and encouraging fresh new growth from lower down by removing any main stems that are starting to lose their vigour. 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.

When to prune roses

The best time to prune most roses is from late winter to early spring, just around the time new growth starts. In the south of the UK, spring growth may stay as early as January, while further north you may not see any new leaves until April. Rambling roses can be pruned in summer, as soon as they have finished flowering, however sometimes it's easier to wait until autumn or winter, so you can see what you're doing more clearly, once the leaves have dropped and the new, long stems have ripened in the sun, making them less liable to snapping.

Follow our advice on pruning roses, below.

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Modern shrub and English roses

Modern shrub rose 'Team England'
Modern shrub rose 'Team England'

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

A hard-pruned hybrid tea rose
A very hard-pruned hybrid tea rose

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, as long as they are well mulched and fed every year. 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

How to grow rambling roses
Rambling rose 'Super Fairy'

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, like ramblers, are robust and vigorous. As they have simple, open 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 younger stems from the past year or two. This means that the very oldest flowered stems are cut out at the base each year to encourage new shoots to form from the base and to stop the plant from 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

Pruning and tying in a climbing rose
Pruning and tying in a climbing rose

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 to encourage flowering. Follow our step-by-step advice to pruning a climbing rose.