Pruning Old Fashioned Roses
The following guidelines are offered as
suggestions for pruning old roses. Those who have more experience may
have other techniques which work well for them and may work better
than those listed below. Such is the joy of gardening and other
leisure pursuits, your experience is different from mine but both are
a pleasure and neither is incorrect.
6 points to remember about pruning:
For pruning roses (and everything
else) we use bypass pruners as they make cleaner cuts than anvil
pruners. Buy yourself a high quality pruner as it makes the task
much easier. (I’ve used the same Felco pruners for 12 years and have
only replaced the spring once.)
Severely pruning once-blooming
varieties in spring (before they bloom) will sacrifice bloom in the
SOMETIMES a VERY HARD pruning will
restore a weakened plant.
A rose that is pruned with care each
season will perform better in every way than a rose that is allowed
to grow on its own for several seasons without attention.
Though we’ve tried to be vague with
regards to the absolute date for pruning roses remember the
hardiness zone you live in will affect the growth characteristics of
your roses. We are located in zone 5b (USDA), you may want to
consult a rosarian in your area for more specific suggestions.
If you cut something off that you wish
you hadn’t remember - IT WILL GROW BACK PRETTY SOON, DON’T FRET
For all roses in
To start each season remove any dead, damaged, diseased, broken, weak,
or spindly growth. You can do this anytime you notice suspect canes
throughout the season too. Always cut back to just above an outward
facing bud, you don’t want to promote the growth of branches that will
cross or interfere with other branches. Always make your cuts angled
with the direction of growth of the bud you are cutting back to.
For specific types of roses (*these
are suggestions NOT rules)
Floribunda, Polyantha, Miniature and Hybrid Perpetual
In our area it is advisable to prune modern roses in
the spring. Remove all the canes except the largest and healthiest.
Cut them back to 3 or 4 good buds, or about 4-6”. Sometimes after a
mild winter the canes of these cultivars may be green most of their
length. It is still advisable to prune them back to maintain a nicely
shaped plant. Hybrid Perpetuals, if not pruned yearly quickly become
lanky and bloom production is reduced.
Prune after blooms are all finished. To encourage new
growth shorten old branches by about ¼ of their length and shorten any
long or lanky canes by 1/3.
Most varieties require only light pruning. After the
first flush of blooms prune the plant to maintain or improve the
shape. For climbing varieties see suggestions for climbers & ramblers.
Prune after blooms are all finished. Shorten new canes
to about ½ their length and shorten any long or lanky canes by 1/3.
Prune hard to about 6” in early spring to encourage new
growth leaving only the most vigorous canes. In warmer climates a
light pruning to shape the plant will suffice.
Climbers should not be pruned in their first or second
year in the garden aside from removal of dead, damaged, diseased,
broken, weak, or spindly growth. You must begin training the 3 main
canes as soon as they reach up to the support structure. Once the
growth has reached the structure train the branches horizontally to
encourage the growth of bloom producing side shoots. After the second
season one should remove canes that are crossing other main canes and
downward growing side shoots. It is also advisable to cut back the
length of main canes by about ¼ to encourage new flower producing
growth. As the rose grows and gets taller it may become difficult to
prune so thoroughly. However, if you can find a way to do it your
efforts will be rewarded. Care must be taken
when pruning Climbing sports of bush varieties so as not to cause the
variety to revert back to bush form.
Ramblers are more vigorous growing than climbers and
therefore require a different approach. Prune non-recurrent ramblers
in summer after they have bloomed. For the first couple of seasons
prune all side shoots from the main branches to encourage vigour.
These canes should be trained horizontally (as with climbers) to
encourage bloom producing side shoots. After the first couple years
and the plant is established remove some of the old growth leaving the
most vigorous canes. Train some of the new, fresh growth to fill in
the gaps left by removal of the old wood. As ramblers produce an
abundance of new shoots from the union it is suggested that one remove
the majority of those as they are produced to ensure that the
nutrients go to producing growth and bloom where it is most desired.
Once blooming – Prune after the blooms are finished.
Remove some old wood to encourage fresh growth and prune to shape.
Repeat blooming & Portlands – Prune in early spring.
Select the strongest most vigorous growth and prune it to about 1/3 of
its length. Remove all dead, damaged, diseased, broken, weak, or
Prune after the blooms are finished. Remove some old
wood to encourage fresh growth and prune to shape. The removal of side
shoots and the shortening of canes can encourage some Gallicas
to “stiffen up” as they grow older and not be so lax.
As Hybrid Musks
bloom on new and old wood you can prune liberally in early spring to
encourage new growth. Remove twiggy growth and very old canes and
shorten the length of all the canes by 1/3.
Once blooming varieties – Prune after spring bloom is
finished. Shorted long new growth by ½, remove spindly new growth.
Repeat blooming varieties – Prune in early spring.
Shorten old growth by about ½ and thin out the branches if there are a
lot of them.
Noisette grow late in the season so there is likely to
be quite a bid of dead wood to remove. Cut back the entire plant by
about ¼ and remove spindly and twiggy growth.
Rugosas don’t require much pruning except to shape the
plant or removal of suspect canes.
Prune shrubs in early spring. Remove weak growth and
shorten long canes by about ½.
Species and other hardy antiques
Prune after the
spring bloom season has passed. Prune these only to maintain a size or
shape and to encourage new growth. The more branches on these plants
the more the bloom they will produce.
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