Pruning a Rose – Types of Pruning

Pruning a Rose - Types of Pruning

Three different types of pruning are practiced by Rose gardeners :


This consists in cutting a shoot back to three or four buds from its base; e.g. in a bush rose to an outward growing bud and at a point which is usually 5-6 in. from the ground.


In this form of pruning, a shoot is cut back by about half its previous year’s growth.


Here there is very little cutting away; usually the dead flowers or hips are removed by cutting at the first or second eye below the flower-bearing stalk.

Pruning Hybrid Tea and Floribunda Roses in the First Year

rose pruningThese should be hard pruned in the first spring after they have been planted, i.e. cut back to the third or fourth outward-growing bud from their base, to ensure that as many new shoots as possible spring from low down on the bush and that it grows into a well-balanced, compact shape. If this is not done, the bush soon becomes leggy and unsightly.


Roses, which are very vigorous, do not take kindly to hard pruning. In the main, they should be moderately pruned; otherwise, they do not bloom so
plentifully in the summer.

It is the modern practice to prune hybrid tea roses moderately, i.e. to cut their shoots back by half their previous year’s growth. However, because of their great vigor, many soon become very tall and rather unwieldy for today’s small gardens. There are two ways in which this can be largely overcome.

(1) Moderate prune all shoots except two. These are hard pruned, i.e. cut back to two or three buds from the base of the bush. This procedure can be repeated in successive years.

(2) Hard prune the bush every three years. This method seems to keep its size under control without any serious lowering of its flowering power.

The second method is the better.

Pruning Floribunda Roses

Because the original floribundas stemmed from polyantha-pompom roses, they were first lightly pruned, i.e. only the clusters of dead flowers were removed. Because of their great vigor, this resulted in unwieldy bushes. When they were moderately pruned like modern hybrid teas, they lost their repeat flowering, whereas with hard pruning they failed to grow and tended to die. The modern technique, aimed at keeping them in flower over a long period, is a combination of light pruning to produce early flowers and moderated pruning, which gives flowering shoots that produce color later in the season. During the first year they are hard pruned, but, the procedure in the second year is slightly different from that of the third, which remains uniform for the rest of their lives. This modern technique is defined below :

Pruning Floribunda Roses in their Second Year

(1) All the main shoots, which are the previous year’s growth, and grown from the base of the tree, are lightly pruned by cutting out the clusters of dead blooms at the first and second eye, whichever is growing outwards, below their base.

Secondary shoots which have developed below the clusters should be cut back to three or four eyes from the main stem.

All other shoots, which are emerging from the shoots that were hard pruned in their first year, should be cut back to half their length.

Pruning Floribunda Roses in their Third and Subsequent Years

(1) All one-year-old wood, that emanates low down on the bush, should be lightly pruned by cutting out the dead flower heads.
(2) All the remaining shoots are moderately pruned, i.e. they are cut back to about half their length.

Pruning Standard Roses

Standard hybrid tea and floribunda roses are pruned in the same way as their dwarf counterparts. The object should be to preserve always an open center to the head. With hybrid tea standards, moderate pruning is usually the best.

Pruning Weeping Standards

The most effective of these are Group 1 Ramblers , that have been budded at the top of tall stems of the particular stock. All the old wood, which has flowered, is cut out near to their base as soon as the blooms are spent in the summer. The current year’s growth is allowed to remain and flower the following season.

Pruning Polyantha Roses

After all dead, diseased, weak or inward-growing shoots have been removed, cut away clusters of dead flowers in late winter or early spring.

Pruning Shrub and Species Roses

Apart from removing the dead blooms regularly, which enhances their power to repeat-flower, all that shrub and species roses require is to have cut away surplus growth to keep them in shape and their size under control.

After some years, however, they tend to become bare at the base. This can be remedied by cutting one or two of the older shoots back to an outward-growing bud about 9 in. from the base. If this is done annually for two or three years, the roses will be completely rejuvenated.

Pruning Miniature Roses

These roses, in the main, need to have diseased or dead wood and spent blooms only cut away, apart from any necessary thinning out and trimming to shape and size. Pruning is best done with a pair of nail scissors.

Pruning Ramblers and Climbing Roses
There are four groups :


These climbing roses pro­duce nearly all their new shoots from the base. The group includes ‘Dorothy Perkins’, Excelsa’, ‘Francois Juranville’ and ‘Sander’s White Rambler’. All ramblers flower on the previous season’s growth and it is necessary to prune them soon after they finish flowering in the summer.
Pruning is done by cutting out all the old shoots at the base. At the same time, it is equally as important to tie in all the new shoots,
which will bloom in the follow­ing summer.

Pruning Group 1 ramblers. All old shoots (marked x) that have flowered during the current summer are pruned to an outward growing bud near the base of the plant. The new shoots (marked y) that remain, are tied in at the same time.


These mainly produce their new shoots at points on the old wood higher up the tree. Examples are the old ramblers Albéric Barbier’, Albertine’, `American Pillar’, ‘Chaplin’s Pink Climber’, Easlea’s Golden Rambler’, ‘Emily Gray’ and ‘New Dawn’.

The old wood is cut back to a point where a robust, young, green shoot emanates. This leading shoot is left and tied in ready for next year’s flowering. All the shorter laterals are pruned back to a bud, 2 or 3 in. from where they originate. Old wood that has no new leading shoot should be removed to prevent overcrowding. This type of rambler tends to become bare at the base. This can be re­medied by cutting one or two stems down to a bud 1 ft. from the ground.

Pruning Group 2 ramblers. All old leading shoots (marked A) are cut back to the point at which a new leading shoot (B) emerges. The new shoots are all tied in. All laterals (marked D) on the main shoots remaining are cut back to the second or third bud from their point of origin


This group contains the more vigorous climbing sports of the hybrid teas and floribundas, the stronger growing large flowering climbers, such as ‘Casino’ and ‘Coral Dawn’, and the climber ‘Mermaid’.

The time to prune these is either late fall or winter, and not in spring after the new growth has appeared. None of last year’s new shoots should be pruned unless they are damaged or are occupying too great a space. All exhausted wood should be cut away and the laterals that flowered last year reduced to the third eye from their points of origin.

Most of these roses, especially the climbing sports should not be pruned in their first year, because the latter are liable to revert to their dwarf stature.


Included in this category are the climbing sports of ‘Iceberg’, ‘Korona’ and ‘President Herbert Hoover’, the large flowering climbers, which are typified by `Elegance’, ‘Golden Showers’, ‘Handel’, `Rosy Mantle’, ‘Schoolgirl’ and ‘White Cockade’, the Kordesii climbers or pillar roses, `Ritter von Barmstede’ and ‘Dortmund’ and the Bourbon climber Zéphirine Drouhin’.

This group needs little attention other than a general clearing out of unwanted growth and pruning to control shape and size. During their first year remove only any dried out ends of stems, together with any dead wood and very twiggy shoots.

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