Pruning is intimidating! It’s seriously one of the scariest topics for new gardeners (I know it was for me!). But fear not. Roses are one of the easiest plants to learn how to prune, and spring is the perfect time to do it. Pruning roses in spring triggers healthy new growth, prevents disease, and creates tons and tons of gorgeous blooms. In this post, I’m going to help you break through the fear, and show you exactly how to trim rose bushes.
I have some great news for you… you really can’t kill a rose plant by over trimming it. Trust me, I used to be terrified of pruning my roses.
I was so worried that I’d screw something up, or make them look terrible, or even kill the plant because I didn’t know what I was doing. So instead, I just ignored it.
Well guess what, pruning is an important part of rose care in spring. And ignoring that fact only led to years of disappointment as I saw less and less flowers every summer.
It got to the point where my roses looked so pathetic and overgrown that I had to do something. That was the year I finally learned how to prune my roses, and discovered just how easy it is!
Now my roses look amazing every year, and I’m so happy! This is why I want to show you just how easy it is, and give you my best pruning tips. So that you can enjoy your roses again, and keep them looking amazing year after year.
Pruning Roses In Spring
It’s easy to neglect roses, because they don’t need to be pruned regularly in order to grow and bloom year after year. But, if you want to keep them healthy and looking their best, pruning helps a ton!
Pruning roses in spring not only keeps them looking their best and encourage tons of flowers, but it also helps to prevent disease and get rid of ugly winter damage. Proper pruning is the best way to give your roses a healthy start in the spring.
Best Time To Trim Rose Bushes
As I’ve already mentioned, spring is the best time to trim roses and keep them looking their best. But pruning will trigger growth, so you don’t want to prune your roses too early in the spring or a hard freeze can kill the tender new growth.
So how can you figure out when to trim rose bushes? The easiest way to make sure you’re getting the timing right is to wait until you see new growth forming on the plant.
You can prune roses as soon as you see the buds starting to pop, or you can wait a little longer and prune once the leaves start to grow.
Tools For Pruning Roses
Using the right pruning tools is super important, and that’s why I’ve teamed up with Fiskars for this post. Quality tools really do make a huge difference, trust me I know from experience. Here are the tools I use for pruning roses…
I really love Fiskars line of PowerGear2 garden pruning tools. Fiskars PowerGear2 pruners give you the power to cut through tough stems and branches that you wouldn’t be able to cut with traditional pruning shears.
The PowerGear2 loppers are also a must when it comes to pruning rose bushes, they can cut through the thickest stems and branches with ease. These tools help to make the job of rose pruning a snap!
Proper Pruning Techniques For Roses
When pruning roses in spring, you want to make your cuts just above a healthy bud. Make the cuts about 1/4″ above the bud because anything above the cut will die back. And you don’t want a bunch of ugly dead canes sticking out everywhere.
Also, try to make each of your cuts at an angle to keep water from entering the wound and causing tip rot. If you’re pruning more than one rose bush, it’s a good idea to disinfect your pruning tools between each bush to prevent the spread of disease. You can wipe the blades with rubbing alcohol, or wash them with soapy water to clean them.
To figure out where on each branch to make your cut, find the first bud on the healthy part of a stem.
If you’re still feeling uncertain, another way to do it is to start close to the top and keep pruning down until you see fresh green growth. Then you can find the next bud down from there to make your final cut.
Healthy rose canes are green around the inside edge, and lighter green or even white in the middle. Unhealthy or dead canes are brown or gray in the middle, so keep cutting until that dead stuff is gone.
How To Trim Rose Bushes Step-By-Step
Pruning roses in spring is easy, I promise. Really, the hardest part in this whole process is keeping yourself from getting pricked by the thorns (somehow I always end up with a few tiny slivers whenever I prune my roses).
Here’s a quick overview of the steps, with even more detailed steps below…
- Remove all the dead canes
- Prune out any damaged canes
- Remove any crossing canes
- Clean up all debris around the base of your rose
Step 1: Remove all the dead canes – Pruning out all the dead canes and winter damaged branches first will make the rest of the steps much easier, because you’re basically clearing the clutter.
It’s usually pretty easy to spot the dead branches because most of the time they’re brown or gray in color.
But healthy stems can be brown too, so sometimes you need to make a cut first before you can tell if the cane is dead. Dead canes are brown on the inside, so if you don’t see any green, keep on cutting.
Step 2: Prune out any damaged canes – Canes that are cracked, broken or otherwise damaged should be removed even if they’re still alive.
Damaged canes are an invitation for pests and disease, and we don’t want to deal with any of that. So, find the next bud below the damaged portion of the stem, and make your cut just above that.
Step 3: Remove any crossing canes – What I mean by crossing canes are any stems that are overlapping and touching each other. The reason we want to remove crossing canes is because they can rub together in the wind and damage each other over time.
Keep the cane that’s in the best shape, and remove the other one. In the photo below, I removed the smaller stem in front because it already had quite a bit of damage on it, and the other cane looked much healthier.
Step 4: Clean up all debris around the base of your rose – This sounds like a silly step that you could just skip after trimming rose bushes, but it’s actually really important. You want to make sure and clean up all debris around the base of your rose to help remove any diseased material, and keep your rose healthy.
It’s also good to remove any mulch or leaves that are covering the stem of your roses to make sure they get plenty of airflow.
I use a hand rake for this job rather than my hands because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten stuck by a thorn doing this. Be careful around the base of the plant though, so you don’t damage any buds that are down there.
Related Post: When To Rake Your Lawn In The Spring
This year my rose got quite the haircut. I chose to do a heavy pruning of my climbing rose this year because it’s been several years since I’ve pruned it.
If this is your first time pruning roses in spring, then you might feel more comfortable stopping much sooner than I did. I don’t want you to panic if you end up pruning more off your rose than you meant to.
So start small, and work your way into it if that makes you feel more comfortable. But remember, you’re not going to kill a healthy rose bush by over-pruning it.
Related Post: How To Prune Lavender Plants
Pruning is an important part of rose bush maintenance, and spring is the perfect time to do it. Not only will you be rewarded with tons of blooms, but your roses will be much healthier too.
Just remember that rose bushes are very forgiving of newbies, and they will recover even if you make mistakes when you’re pruning them. So prune them to the point where you are comfortable, and then try again next year. You’ll get the hang of spring pruning in no time.
More Perennial Gardening Posts You Might Like
- Spring Garden Clean Up Checklist
- Pruning Your Plants And Trees In The Spring
- Perennials Made Easy! How To Create Amazing Gardens
- Partial Shade Shrubs For Your Garden
Share your best tips about pruning roses in spring in the comments section below.