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Pruning Roses

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Why prune roses? For several reasons; to improve flower quality, to remove unproductive or diseased branches, to leave a few of the good, strongest canes as the foundation of a healthy bush, to give the plant an attractive shape and keep it the desired size for your landscape and to stimulate renewal growth.

When should they be pruned? Typically, prune before the plant breaks dormancy and after the danger of frost is past. For roses that bloom all summer: At elevations 2000 ft. or less, prune between late winter and early spring. At elevations 2000 ft. or more, prune between early to mid-spring. For roses that bloom only once: prune right after the flowers fade.


  1. A fine-toothed, curved saw for cutting woody tissue.
  2. Pruning shears:
  3. Bypass pruners with one cutting blade bypassing the second blade.
  4. Anvil pruners with one sharp blade and a flat surface for support.
  5. Long-handled lopping shears for thick canes or getting into hard-to-reach places.
  6. A pair of heavy-duty leather garden gloves

Pruning Cuts

Always cut to a strong outside bud. If removing the entire cane cut on the bud union where the cane originated. Cut at an approximately 45 degree angle ¼ inch above the bud or bud-union. If a longer section remains, die-back will occur. Cut the cane with the sharp side of the pruners opposite the bud to assure a clean cut and that the non-cutting side will be pressing against the part of the stem that will be discarded.

Pruning Procedures:

Hybrid Teas, etc.

  1. Cut out old or diseased canes down to a good bud at least an inch below any evidence of disease. The pith should be creamy white, not brown or gray. Prune down to healthy pith or to the bud union.
  2. Cut out weak, spindly, or deformed growth or canes that are not desired, such as canes that grow outward or canes that cross.
  3. Remove all suckers (undesired shoots that come from the rootstock below the bud union). Remove the sucker base from the crown area.
  4. Thin out the remaining healthy canes to the desired shape, and cut them down to the selected height.


Climbing Roses (after 2nd year)

  1. Prune ramblers and vigorous climbing roses after blooming when flowers begin to fade.
  2. Cut out diseased canes, dead canes, older gray canes and weak new canes.
  3. Save the green healthy canes and cut laterals back to 8 to 10 buds. Remove suckers.
  4. Prune hybrid climbers and ever blooming large-flowered climbers when they are dormant.
  5. Remove dead and diseased canes, get rid of sucker growth, and remove old growth or weak growth.
  6. Retain 3 or 4 vigorous canes and give them support.

Ever blooming Climbers

  1. Pluck off flowers after they die.
  2. Do not remove foliage.

Hybrid climbers

  1. When removing hybrid blooms, leave 2 leaf buds on each flowering shoot.
  2. Train canes on support by arching them and pointing their tips downward.
  3. Shortening some of the canes will stimulate the laterals to develop.

There will be a demonstration on rose pruning on open garden day, February 7th, starting at approximately 10:30 am. The Tuolumne Master Gardener Demonstration Garden is open 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is located at Cassina High School, 251 S. Barretta Street in Sonora.

Mary Evans is a retired University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener of Tuolumne County.