Pruning Roses in the Winter

The best time for pruning roses is in the winter when they are dormant.  Roses are shrubs that benefit from a hard pruning or renewal pruning.  The pruning causes the plants to sprout new, healthy growth.  Many roses only bloom on new wood, hybrid teas included.  For luscious flowers during the summer, make some time for pruning rose bushes during the winter.

How to Prune Roses

One way of classifying roses is by their growth habits.  There are climbing roses, hybrid tea roses, wild shrub roses, floribunda roses and more.  Each type of rose requires a slightly different pruning technique for overall structure, but all three can be improved with these pruning actions:
  • Always prune back to an outward facing bud for hybrid teas. For every other growth type, prune back to an outward facing bud about 80% of the time. Roses like air flow through their branches. That helps prevent humid conditions that allow bacterial and fungal diseases to grow.
  • While pruning rose bushes, strive to remove at least 1/3 of the growth. A renewal pruning schedule is to remove to the base of the plant 1/3 of the growth each year. Remove branches evenly from around the shrub.
  • Remove any dead canes (branches).
  • Remove branches that are growing toward the center of the plant.
  • Remove crossing branches that have the potential to rub against each other or grow together.

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Pruning Rose Bushes

Pruning a true rose bush means you are dealing with one of the older species types of roses or a newer hybrid shrub rose.  These need less pruning than very picky hybrid teas.  These roses also bloom on old wood-meaning growth that is at least a year old-so you should wait until after flowering for pruning these rose business because, otherwise, you will cut off the flower buds!  These plants mainly benefit from pruning to maintain size and vigorous growth.  Each year you will prune to remove dead wood.  You can prune as much or as little as you like-just know that when you prune to drastically reduce the size of the shrub, you could wait a year or two for heavy flower displays.

Difference between Pruning Roses in the Winter and Pruning Roses in the Summer

Winter pruning is generally to reduce size, encourage good spring growth, and remove any dead or week tissue that could become infested with disease.  Summer pruning is more for deadheading to encourage re-bloom.  Re-bloom shrub roses are pruned just below the flower to deadhead.  Hybrid teas can be pruned in the summer back to just above an outward facing leaf with five leaflets (not three).  Summer rose pruning is about the look of the plant, while winter pruning is about the health.  For the most part, even if you make a pruning mistake, the plant will grow back-you might just be out a season of flowering if you prune at the wrong time.  Do not let that scare you from pruning your rose bushes.  They will benefit from a good pruning more than from neglect.
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