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It's time to prune your roses!

Published on July 24th 2021

by CandideUK. All rights reserved

A close up of a flower
What do you expect from your roses? Large, perfect blooms for picking or do you prefer masses of blooms? Do you enjoy pampering your roses, or should they just look after themselves?
Every gardener is different and wants different things, which means there is no right or wrong way to prune roses.
A close up of a flower
Here is a simple guide from Ludwig Taschner:

Light pruning

Consider light pruning if any of the following is true for your roses.
  • You would prefer lots of flowers on shorter stems.
  • The roses grow in partial shade.
  • The roses grow in mixed beds.
  • The roses don’t get a lot of attention.
  • Your garden contains novelty roses like Spire, Panarosa, ‘Iceberg’ type roses, shrub and groundcover roses.
Lightly trim the rose using hedge clippers and remove dead or twiggy growth to open-up the bush. Cut out crisscrossing stems and reduce forked stems to a single tine. The rose is not cut down substantially but remains tall with plenty of stems that will sprout quickly in spring. This quick sprouting produces green leaves that feed the roots, giving the rose a good start.
Light pruning also activates the roots which spread out and go deeper, allowing the rose to withstand some neglect or irregular watering.
The effect of light pruning on flower production is that the rose produces lots of short-stemmed flowers that may be smaller than single specimens but are still perfectly shaped. Even lightly pruned hybrid teas produce masses of blooms when lightly pruned.
A close up of a tree
Lightly pruned rose.

Medium to severe pruning

Does the following apply to your garden?
  • You prefer long-stemmed specimen blooms for picking.
  • The roses are planted close together.
  • The roses will receive regular watering, fertilising and spraying.
  • Your garden mostly has Hybrid tea, Antico Moderno, floribunda and some Fairytale roses.
A close up of a plant
Medium to severe pruning reduces the height of the rose to about 50cm and removes most of the stems leaving two to three young, healthy stems to form the framework of the bush. This stimulates the development of new basal stems, as well as long flowering stems from eyes on the remaining stems.
This pruning method also allows space to grow for roses that are planted close together, because of the limited room or because you want a massed rosy effect.
However, cutting back hard means that you have to renew the soil by digging in fresh compost and organic material to a depth of 30cm, and fertilising so that the roots are in rich, free-draining soil. Regular watering is also essential if the plant is to send out ample new growth in spring. This needs to be followed by regular watering, monthly fertilising and spraying throughout the year for maximum performance.
A close up of a plant
Severely pruned rose.

‘Iceberg’ and similar roses

‘Iceberg’ does well with light trimming but after a few years, the bushes may become very large and tall. The base often becomes denuded but that is not a problem if annuals or perennials are planted around the base.
Iceberg prune video
If the bushes have become too big, cutting back the top of the bush will force new shoots from the lower woody branches and stems. Do not cut directly into the woody stems as it takes a long time for the dormant eyes to sprout and if the plants do not get enough water they may die. Rather wait a year and cut back to the new stems when pruning the following year.
Iceberg rose

Climbing roses

These are another special case. Climbers that only flower in spring, mostly Heritage and Banksia roses, should only be trimmed or pruned after flowering.
Modern, repeat flowering climbers like ‘Towering Rose Magic’ or ‘Wedding Garland’ are tidied up by loosening the ties and opening up the plant so that old stems can be removed. The remaining stems are trimmed but not cut back. Cutting back very vigorous climbers will make them grow without flowering for the whole of the coming season. Retie the stems positioning them as horizontally as possible to encourage sprouting all the way along the stem.
To read more about pruning climbing roses, tap on the article below.
A close up of a flower

PRUNING: Climbing Roses


A red flower in a field
Cherry Garland climbing rose.

Pruning basics

  • When to prune
In most areas, the roses can be pruned from July 12 until August 2, except for very cold areas where pruning should be delayed until mid-August. This includes gardens alongside low-lying streams and rivers that tend to be much colder than areas slightly higher up.
  • Equipment
It helps to have the right equipment; a thick, strong pair of garden gloves, a long-handled lopper and a pair of secateurs. We recommend Star 6 as reliable, strong secateurs.
When cutting, make sure that the thick blade of the secateurs or long-handled lopper is facing up and is pointed away from you. If the thicker blade faces downwards it will bruise the stem severely.
Pruning after-care
After the roses have been pruned, pull off all leaves because they can harbour pests and diseases. Dig in compost, superphosphate and fertiliser (Ludwig’s Vigorosa 5-1-5 (25) or Vigor-longer around each pruned bush. Water well afterwards.
Water weekly until the end of August, then increase to twice a week.
Spraying after pruning is not necessary if you carried out a regular spraying programme during the growing season. However, if the roses have suffered from scale or mealybug, spray with a double strength Ludwig’s Insect Spray (100 ml in 5litres water) or Oleum as this will smother any residual scale.
Attend Ludwig’s practical demonstrations to find out more about pruning roses. Dates for the final few demos are below and ONLINE BOOKING is essential:


Friday | 17 July | 10h30
Friday | 24 July | 14h00

Big Red Barn

Saturday | 18 July | 10h00
Pruning truly is easy! If you would like to see me prune bush roses, watch this video.

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