Rose Prune

By David Marks
Rose bushes grown in the UK are very tolerant as far as pruning goes, even a rose bush pruned back to near ground level will bounce back within a year or two. 

The key rule for pruning, if you are unsure of how to go about it, is to follow the instructions for a floribunda rose. Even if that is not the best method for a particular rose, it will still grow well.

This article is for Hybrid Tea, floribunda, shrub roses (including David Austin roses) and patio roses. It is not for climbing or rambling roses.

DIFFERENT ROSE TYPES

Different rose types are best pruned in slightly different ways. If youalready know which rose type you want to prune, skip this section.

If you know the name of the rose you are pruning, the lists below may wellidentify the rose type. Failing that, use a search engine to identify the rose type.

HYBRID TEA ROSES

Generally, Hybrid Tea roses grow to around 60cm / 2ft to 120cm / 4ft high. When theflowers first open they tend to have a central, pointed section which is surrounded byfully open petals, although this is not always the case. Additionally, most ofthe rose flowers will be produced on a single stem.

A good example of a Hybrid Tea rose is the picture of Just Joey below.

Just Joey - a typical Hybrid Tea rose



 

FLORIBUNDA ROSES

Generally, floribunda roses normally grow to around 60cm / 2ft to 150cm / 5ft high. Theyproduce multiple flowers on each stem which are typically smaller andflatter compared to Hybrid Tea roses. They normally have a good number ofleaves and overall the plant is dense and twiggy.

A good example of a floribunda rose is the picture of Margaret Merril below.

Floribunda rose Margaret Merril
Image copyright notice



 

SHRUB ROSES

Shrub roses are a very varied group of roses and in practical terms it’s very difficult to characterise them as a group. Probably the easiest definition is that Hybrid Tea roses, floribunda, patio, miniature, climbing and rambling roses are not shrub roses, anything else is, an all probability, a shrub rose.

Their flowers can be produced once a year or be repeat flowering. They dotend to be taller and larger than Hybrid Teas or floribundas but this is notalways the case.

WHEN TO PRUNE ROSES IN THE UK

All roses are best pruned when they are dormant. In the UK this occurs from December to early March.

Whilst I wouldn’t prune a rose when a frost is present, there is no need toworry about a frost occurring after you have pruned. Roses simply shrug offfrosts when they are dormant. I would however try and avoid pruning in wetconditions, choose a dry day so that the cuts can callous over without any riskof infection.

If you miss that window, it is still beneficial to prune your rose bush up to the end of April. After that leave it until the next year.

HOW TO PRUNE A FLORIBUNDA ROSE

Prune a floribunda rose (this includes patio roses) as follows:

  • Remove all stems which show any signs of disease or damage. Cut them back to ground level or back to a main stem.
     
  • Remaining stems should then be pruned back to 30cm / 1 ft from ground level. This will allow you to get a good view of the structure of the rose bush.
     
  • Now prune the rose bush so that it has five or six stems arranged equally apart roughly in a circle from the centre of the plant. These stems should ideally be growing out from the centre of the bush.
     
  • Compromise may be required but the idea is to keep the centre of the rose bush open and have the branches growing outwards. This is to allow air circulation to the centre of the plant and avoid infections.
     
  • When selecting stems, make sure that you remove stems which are touching or nearly touching another stem. Where stems are touching, they will rub off the outer bark and allow infections to enter.
     
  • Green stems are healthier than browner stems so remove the browner stems and leave the green stems.
  • When selecting the stems to remain, don’t leave spindly stems. Your are looking to have five or six stems which are at least the thickness of a pencil, hopefully thicker.

Floribunda rose before pruning
Image copyright notice

Floribunda rose before pruning

Floribunda rose after pruning
Image copyright notice

Floribunda rose after pruning

HOW TO PRUNE A HYBRID TEA ROSE

Prune a Hybrid Tea rose as follows:

  • Remove all stems which show any signs of disease or damage. Cut them back to ground level or back to a main stem.
     
  • Remaining stems should then be pruned back to 15cm / 6 in from ground level. This will allow you to get a good view of the structure of the rose bush.
     
  • Now prune the rose bush so that it has four or five stems arranged equally apart roughly in a circle from the centre of the plant. These stems should ideally be growing out from the centre of the bush.
     
  • Compromise may be required but the idea is to keep the centre of the rose bush open and have the branches growing outwards. This is to allow air circulation to the centre of the plant and avoid infections.
     
  • When selecting stems, make sure that you remove stems which are touching or nearly touching another stem. Where stems are touching, they will rub off the outer bark and allow infections to enter.
     
  • Green stems are healthier and younger than browner stems so remove the browner stems and leave the green stems which are more vigorous.
  • When selecting the stems to remain, don’t leave spindly stems. You are looking to have four or five stems which are at least the thickness of a pencil, hopefully thicker.

HOW TO PRUNE A REPEAT FLOWERING SHRUB ROSE

Prune a repeat flowering shrub rose as follows:

YEAR 1 (after its first year of flowering)
Remove anydead or unhealthy stems back to live wood.
Remove all foliage to reduce therisk of black spot and other diseases next year – burn the foliage.
Trim backstems by about 10cm / 4in.
Step back and look at your shrub rose, prune backany stems which are longer than the overall structure of the rose so that it hasan even profile.

YEAR 2 and ONWARDS
Remove any dead or unhealthy stems back to live wood.
Remove all foliage to reduce the risk of black spot and other diseases next year – burn the foliage.
Prune away a third of the length of all stems. If you want to reduce the size of your shrub rose next year, prune away a half of the length of all stems.
Step back and look at your shrub rose, prune back any stems which are longer than the overall structure of the rose so that it has an even profile.

HOW TO PRUNE A SINGLE FLOWERING SHRUB ROSE

Prune a single flowering shrub rose as follows:

YEAR 1 (after its first year of flowering)
Remove anydead or unhealthy stems back to live wood.
Remove all foliage to reduce therisk of black spot and other diseases next year – burn the foliage.
Trim backstems by about 10cm / 4in.
Step back and look at your shrub rose, prune backany stems which are longer than the overall structure of the rose so that it hasan even profile.

YEAR 2 and ONWARDS
Remove any dead or unhealthy stems back to live wood.
Remove all foliage to reduce the risk of black spot and other diseases next year – burn the foliage.
A single flowering shrub rose can be left to its own devices from now on. Prune it if you want to reduce its size the next year.

AFTER PRUNING ANY ROSE BUSH

After you have pruned a rose bush there are a few critical tasks to perform to help them grow healthily the next summer.

Correct pruning as described above will reduce the risk of fungal diseases butpreventing black spot is a different matter. We have a page dedicated topreventing black spot which can be found
here
.

The basics behind preventing black spot are first to remove all leaves dropped to the ground from your rose bush. Black spot overwinters in leaves dropped to the ground. If you remove those leaves and burn them you will have removed the primary source of infection.

The second action to take will provide two benefits. Lay cardboard or five page thick newspaper around the rose bush. Cover it with some form of mulch – wood chip, compost or even grass clippings if they are available (this can be added to as the year progresses). This will smother any remaining old leaves and prevent the black spot spores from reaching your rose bush.

This mulch, cardboard / paper with mulch on top will also help retain moisture and eventually rot down providing constant low level nutrients to the plant. Do this over two or three years and the benefits will be significant.

Before you lay that cardboard / paper / mulch, give the roses a feed with
fish, blood and bone. A handful per plant scattered around will do the job. It is a long lasting fertiliser which will provide all the nutrients your plant needs for two or three months. You can buy far more expensive rose feeds but fish, blood and bone will do the same job at a fraction of the cost.