Like most other woody ornamental plants of the landscape, roses need occasional pruning to keep them in shape. Generally, research shows that it is better to prune hybrid teas, floribundas, polyanthas and grandifloras in early spring rather than in the fall or winter. Tissue near pruning cuts made in the fall may lose their winter hardiness and cause even more winter dieback.

As with any woody plant, it is always a good idea to cut out any dead, diseased or dying plant tissue. This is especially pertinent in the spring when there may be dead parts of the cane due to winter injury. In the spring, there are often 3 different colored parts to the cane. On top will be black tissue which is definitely dead. On the bottom, the cane is nice and green showing that it is alive. In between is a brownish colored tissue that makes the transition between green and black. It is usually  a good idea to cut down from the top until you reach tissue that is moist after the cut. That indicates live tissue.

Many types of roses, especially the hybrid teas, consist of a fancy flowering rose (the scion) grafted to a sturdy, wild type rose rootstock. So, never prune these types below the swollen graft union. To do this or if winter kills the cane to the graft union, the value of the plant is gone. It will send up shoots from the rootstock which will have a much different type of bloom or none at all.

When pruning to reduce the length of a cane, always cut just above an outside facing bud. This will encourage a nicer form and a bushy effect. Cutting to an inside bud will lead to canes going toward the inside of the plant and give an unpleasing effect.

Of course, always use sharp tools. Dull tools tend to rip tissue rather than cutting it leaving jagged edges that are unsightly and take longer to callus over.

Climbing Roses and Single Blooming Roses

For climbing roses and those types that bloom just once per year, follow the general rules listed above. However, these roses should be pruned after they flower and not in the winter or spring (except to remove winter kill), since they form their blooms on cane grown the previous year. Pruning in the winter or spring will only remove valued flower buds.


Note: We have provided some general information and observations on this topic aimed at the home gardener. Before you take any serious action in your landscape, check with your state's land grant university's Cooperative Extension Service for the most current, appropriate, localized recommendations.

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