Rose Bush Care, Pruning Climbing Roses & Pruning Standard Roses

Proper rose bush care and pruning is the key to growing healthy plants that give beautiful flowers year after year. With so many spots to grow roses around your home, from ornamental arches and pergolas to containers on patios or balconies, knowing how to prune correctly can make all the difference.

How to Care for Roses: Fertilizing, Watering & Garden Hygiene

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Roses are very greedy feeders, so be sure to give them what they need both at the beginning of and during the growing season. No matter how well you have improved the soil, they will quickly want more feed.

Add a 3 inch (7.6 cm) mulch of farmyard manure to the base of the plant each spring at around the same time as pruning, and add high-phosphorous organic rose fertilizer twice throughout the season: once before their spring bloom and again before they bloom late-summer.

Roses also need lots of water. Instead of watering little and often, give your roses a regular good soaking if the ground around them is beginning to get dry.

Make sure fallen leaves and other debris don’t collect around the plant’s base. This increases the chance of disease spreading. Clear and destroy the leaves and debris, don’t add to the compost.

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Pruning Rose Bushes: Pruning Climbing Roses, Standard Rose Bushes & Common Variety Roses

pruning climbing roses Cutting near a node
in the direction of growth

Pruning roses encourages their natural growth and increases the number of flowers each season. You’ll need a good pair of sharp, clean pruning shears and protective gardening gloves to prevent thorn pricks.

Prune when the plant is semi-dormant. This time comes between losing its leaves in fall and the when new growth starting in spring. Don’t prune if frost is in the forecast.

If you live in a very warm climate, you may need to prune roses hard in the cooler months. This will create an artificial dormancy that will improve the following season’s flowers.

The pruning cuts should be just above a bud. Make an angle that points in the direction the new bud is growing. Also be sure to remove any dying or dead shoots so the plant doesn’t get overcrowded.

Deadhead flowers throughout the season to increase the number of blooms.

pruning climbing roses Healthy growth after pruning

Pruning Standard & Common Variety Roses

To prevent standard roses from becoming too top heavy, they need pruning in the spring. Cut the main shoots back to between 8 and 10 inches (20-25cm). To keep the overall shape, reduce the side shoots by about a third.

For hybrid tea roses, prune the main stems back to between 8 and 10 inches (20-25cm). Floribunda roses shouldn’t be cut back quite as far. They only need pruning to about 12 to 15 inches (30-38 cm). Miniature roses only need very light pruning. Just tidy up any stems that have died back or thin out stems if the plant is getting overcrowded.

Pruning Climbing Roses & Rambling Roses

Pruning and training climbing and rambling roses is essential if you hope to get even flower coverage across their growth. The varieties need support and will reward you if grown on arches, pergolas or even around trees.

Don’t prune a climbing rose for the first two years after planting. If you do, it may return to a bush shape. However, do train its growth around the support during these initial years.

pruning climbing roses Pruning diseased stems

And make sure you bend young growth horizontally so it goes sideways, which will increase the number of flowers. After this, prune out diseased, dead or weak looking stems to keep the plant tidy.

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Looking After Roses in Fall & Winter

If taller roses are planted where they are exposed to strong winds, it may loosen their roots. This makes them vulnerable to frost damage. Cut back at least the top third of the plant in fall to prevent this from happening.

Roses may suffer in severe winter weather. Add a mulch of garden compost to their base in late fall. Container-planted roses may need straw packing on top to protect them from frost and ice.

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Proper Care of Cut Roses

As mentioned on our Growing Roses from Seed, Cutting & Transplant page, roses that are destined for a vase should be cut in the morning with a focus on flowers that are just beginning to open. After severing the rose stem with an angled cut using clean, sharp pruning shears, a second small cut should be made into the base of the stem before placing them in water.

It’s very important that cut roses are placed in water as soon as possible. They prefer lukewarm water because the flower will take this up more easily than if the water is cold. Make sure that foliage does not dip below the water line as this encourages bacteria to grow.

Change the water every three or four days. When you do, cut about half an inch (1cm) from the bottom of the stems and replace the roses in the vase.

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