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Pruning roses

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Floribunda rose (Rosa 'Easy Going')
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Gilles Murray)

Generalities

The main purpose of pruning is to keep a rose bush strong and healthy and to maintain its shape. Limiting the number of canes and buds produces stronger canes with more blooms.

Before the buds open, prune your roses to renew the canes and maintain a balanced shape. Proper pruning reduces the risk of fungal diseases by allowing air and light to reach the centre of the plant. Canes should be pruned back to just above an outward-facing bud to keep the centre of the shrub open.

When to prune

In our climate, there is no need to prune a rose bush in autumn unless you are planning to move the plant or install winter protection. Any major pruning should be done in spring, before the buds open. Avoid severe pruning after July, as it would encourage the growth of young canes that might not survive the winter. The ideal time for pruning depends on the type of rose.

Repeat bloomers

Major pruning should be done in spring, before blooming. During the growing season, remove deadheads to promote continuous blooms. Cutting back to just above the first or second five-leaflet leaf will encourage the growth of a flowering branch. Choose a fairly sturdy cane for the new blooms.

One-time bloomers

Prune in summer, after flowering, so as not to interfere with that year’s blooms. In spring, remove any diseased or frost-damaged wood. Renewal pruning in spring will not affect the health of the rose bush, but will reduce the number of blooms in that year.

Annual maintenance pruning

In spring, remove any injured, diseased or frost-damaged wood. Cut back old, weak and crossing canes. Remove all unwanted new growth (suckers) growing from below the graft union or the roots as soon as it appears.

Technique

Cut canes cleanly above an outward-facing bud. Keep the centre of the shrub open. To avoid spreading any diseases, regularly disinfect your pruning shears with a 70% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol solution.

How to prune different types of roses

Types of roses Shape pruning (after planting)
Maintenance pruning (subsequent years)
Regeneration pruning

Hybrid tea roses

Choose 3 branches of the same size that form a triangle. Prune above the third or fourth bud that points outwards. In the spring.
Keep 4 branches with 4 to 5 buds per branch.

After 8 or 10 years.
Cut back one third of wood.

Floribunda and grandiflora roses

Choose 4 branches of the same size that form a vase shape. Prune above the fourth or fifth bud that points outwards. In the spring.
Keep 5 branches with 5 to 6 buds per branch.
After 8 or 10 years.
Cut back one third of wood.

Shrub and miniature roses

Prune the extremities of branches for good branching and a balanced shape. In the spring.
Keep healthy, well-oriented branches; cut back wood by about one third.

After 5 years.
Cut back a few of the old canes to the base.

Climbing roses

Prune the tips of branches above an outer bud. Train branches on a trellis during growth season.

In the spring. Prune the tips of scaffold branches; keep 2 or 3 buds when pruning small lateral branches; arrange branches in a fan shape on the trellis.

After 5 years.
Cut some old branches all the way down to the ground; replace them with young branches from last year so as not to leave any bare spots on the trellis.

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