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For Pruning Any Rose, a Few Basic Rules Apply

March 29, 1997|From Associated Press

The time to prune most roses is when their buds have pushed out a quarter of an inch of new growth. The way to prune depends on whether the rose is a hybrid tea, floribunda, grandiflora, shrub, species, rambler or climber.

A few general rules apply to all types of roses.

* Always cut a quarter of an inch above, and sloping away from, a healthy bud so that the pruning wound heals quickly.

* Look for stems whose bark is brown and dry, or otherwise off-color, indicating disease or winter injury.

* Cut away such dead and diseased parts back to healthy wood, which also has white, rather than dark, pith.

* Wherever you see two branches rubbing against each other, remove one.

* Snip off spindly branches.

That done, it's time to get down to specifics for each type of rose.

Hybrid tea

Shorten strong stems to a foot or more; shorten weaker stems to 6 inches. The more severely you prune, the larger, though few and later, the blossoms. In warmer areas, prune more or less severely depending on how large you want the bush and the blossoms.

Floribundas and grandiflora

Similar to hybrid teas, except the bushes are larger, and the blooms are smaller yet more abundant. Do not prune floribundas or grandifloras as drastically as you would hybrid teas. Instead, remove very old stems at ground level and shorten young, vigorous stems by about a third.

Shrub and species roses

Even less pruning is needed for some of the shrub and species roses, an admittedly ill-defined hodgepodge that includes such roses as Father Hugo's rose and rugosa rose. When branches on these near-wildings become congested, cut some old wood back either to the ground or to vigorous side branches.


Each season, rambling roses bloom once on long canes that grew the previous season. Right after flowering, in summer, cut to the ground all the long canes that have just flowered, making way for new canes that will flower next season. Reduce the number of new canes by cutting away excess ones at their bases by this time of year at the latest. Tie those canes you save to some support--a split-rail fence is traditional.


In contrast to rambling roses, climbing roses have stouter canes off of which grow branches that flower year after year and, sometimes, more than once a season.

Shorten flowering branches to 6 inches now (or immediately after flowers fade with varieties that bloom twice each season). Cut old canes back to the ground or to vigorous, low branches only occasionally--not every year as with ramblers--to keep in bounds and encourage some replacement growth.


One problem with all these schemes for rose pruning is that they assume that you know what type of rose you have, which is not always the case.

If you do not know the kind of rose you have, this spring remove dead, diseased and misplaced stems.

Then watch the growth and flowering of the plant this summer: When does it bloom? Does it bloom in older or younger wood? Observe closely, and next year you will be an expert in pruning roses.

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