Rose Pruning

Rose Pruning Is Easy

Kelvin Trimper
President, World Federation of Rose Societies and Member Rose Society of SA

Pruning is not a difficult task if you use the right equipment and follow a few simple rules. Annual rose pruning in winter is an opportunity to rejuvenate and shape the rose plant and encourage new growth from the bud union and ultimately increase flower production. I recommend pruning in July and August. Avoid the temptation to prune too early.

Wear old clothes including a long sleeved shirt, sturdy footwear, a brimmed hat and preferably eye protection. Wear all leather gloves, preferably gauntlets.

You need a good pair of bi-pass secateurs like Felco or Fiskars, good quality loppers and a pruning saw. Make sure your tools are sharp. A pruning saw is ideal for cuts over 2 ½ cm and for removing old canes from the base when a clean flush cut is required.

When you approach the bush, don’t bother looking at the top third to half – this will be removed. Focus on the bottom half of the plant. Ideally, you want to retain strong, healthy, young canes and remove all dead wood, weak twiggy growth and weak or damaged branches. If sufficient new canes have grown from the base (water shoots), then you can remove old canes from the base. Also remove canes crossing over into the centre of the plant. Ultimately, you want the rose bush to resemble a cup shape, free of growth in the middle. The outer rim canes should be reduced to one-third to half of their original height.

Preferably cut at a 45 degree angle and about 7mm above an outwardly facing bud (eye), this will direct the new growth away from the centre of the bush. The bud eye was where foliage was attached. Remove all leaves from the canes. 

Leave approximately 6 to 8 canes growing from the base which is adequate and two to three side canes, these can be cut back to show 3 or 4 healthy buds.

All old foliage should be removed and pruning remnants collected because they are covered in spores and fungal diseases. Once finished, a winter spray should be applied – use pest oil, winter oil or Lime Sulphur. This will kill over-wintering aphids, spider mite eggs and fungal spores which reside in cracks and crevasses on the stems.

Now do your roses a favour and apply Neutrog Seamungus – it is a great soil tonic. If planting new bare root roses add Seamungus in the hole and then water the rose in with Neutrog GoGo Juice added to the watering can to give the rose a good start. 

I recommend adding a layer of mulch in late winter whilst it is easy to move between the rose bushes.

Within a few weeks the dormant bud eye will begin to swell. In another three weeks the swelling will result in a young new stem.

Hybrid Tea bush with large old branches removed
Hybrid Tea bush with large old branches removed
Wear leather gauntlet gloves
Wear leather gauntlet gloves
"The correct angle and direction of the cut. Cut at a 45 degree angle"
"The correct angle and direction of the cut. Cut at a 45 degree angle"