Long, thick gloves, ideally covering the forearm up to the elbow
Pruning sealer compound (optional but recommended)
Every rose has its thorn—and every rose bush has extra bits and branches that can lead to diseases, wonky shapes, and fewer blossoms. Keeping your roses happy and healthy requires the occasional haircut, and timing is just as important as your pruning technique. Here’s when to cut back your roses and how to do it.
When to Prune Roses
If you want to know when to prune roses for the best results, consider the type of rose bush you have. While all types of roses need one serious pruning session per year, many types have different needs. Where you live can also affect the timeline.
In general, early spring is the best time to prune roses before the bud eyes (area on the stem where you see new growth) swell or are easily visible. However, if you live in a hotter region, it might be winter before your roses are ready for pruning.
Here are some general guidelines for when to prune roses in your garden:
For shrub roses, pruning should take place in late winter to early spring, just before the new buds begin popping up.
Wild roses, old garden roses, and climbing roses that only bloom once are best pruned after the last blooms have died away for the season.
Aside from that, pruning dead or diseased portions can take place on an as-needed basis. Deadheading, or removing spent blossoms, can happen throughout the blooming season to encourage more growth. However, it’s best to stop all pruning around eight weeks before the first frost date when the plant starts to go dormant.
Don Protective Gloves
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Rose thorns are no joke, so it’s essential to protect your hands and arms during the pruning process. It’s best to wear protective gloves that reach the elbow—your local hardware store or garden center should have gauntlet-style rose gloves specifically intended for this purpose. If you don’t have long gloves on hand, wear several layers of long sleeves to protect your arms.
Cut Any Dead, Broken, or Diseased Portions
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If you spot any dead or diseased wood, look down the stem until you locate the area where the wood becomes healthy and green. Then, cut at a 45-degree angle. You should see white flesh at the center; if not, continue making cuts until you do.
Remove Any Thin or Twiggy Branches
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Next, remove any thin, gangly branches. Again, cut at a 45-degree angle. Take care not to cut into the base of the rosebush, as this could leave an open wound and invite disease.
Prune Away Overly Thick Areas
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If you see any areas of congestion with excessive leaves and branches, make a few cuts to allow in more air and light.
Cut Back Any Remaining Canes
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Once you’ve done your major pruning, cut back the remaining canes to stimulate growth. Locate the nearest bud eye, which is a raised bump on the stem where a leaf would normally grow. Cut above 1/4 of an inch above the bud eye at a 45-degree angle that slopes away from the bud.
Seal Major Cuts With Pruning Compound (Optional)
This last step is optional but highly recommended: Cover your cuts with a pruning compound. This helps protect your roses from rot, pests, and disease.
Deadhead Throughout the Blooming Season
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As your roses grow and die back, deadhead them throughout the growing season. You can do this by making a quick cut just below the base of the flower. Again, it’s best to stop all pruning around eight weeks before your area’s first frost date.