How to Prune Roses Like Master Gardeners

Raul Cornelius is a Senior Editor at BalconyGardenWeb and an expert in flower and herb cultivation based in Phoenix, Arizona. A frequent speaker at horticultural events, he is also an active contributor to Facebook flower groups. Holding an MBA and a BCom, Raul blends his gardening skills with strong leadership and analytical abilities. Passionate about writing and photography, he enjoys early mornings with coffee and books, and nature bike rides during weekends.
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Learn How to Prune Roses Like Master Gardeners to keep the shrub happy, vibrant, and flowerful like never before.

How to Prune Roses Like Master Gardeners
Shutterstock/savitskaya iryna

Maintaining roses involves much effort, and if you want to learn How to Prune Roses Like Master Gardeners, here are all the secrets!

Here are some Fantastic Tips to Make Roses Bloom

Why Roses Need Pruning?


According to Master Gardeners, rose pruning stimulates new flower growth while making the plant bushier. It also eliminates dead and diseased canes while activating new buds from the base.

Learn How to Deadhead Rose here

Understanding the Types of Roses Before Pruning

According to master gardeners, before you start pruning, it is essential to know the type of the rose.

1. Repeat Flowering Climbing Roses

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Avoid pruning these roses for the first two to three years. Just remove damaged, diseased, and dead parts and leaves. After 3 years, thin out mature canes by trimming down to the base during early spring.

This will help to control their growth while making the plant bushy.

Learn How to Grow Roses Vertically here

2. Floribunda Roses


Prune these roses in the second year by cutting back the canes to about 1/3 of their length. Late winter to spring is the best time to do it.

3. Repeat Flowering Modern Roses

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Once this rose completes 2-3 years, snip back the old canes. Also, thin out branches that are growing wild to give it a proper shape.

4. Tree Roses

These roses only require pruning on the grafted bushy head. Ensure you are not taking off the entire growth. Snip to give it an excellent shape after the plant is 2-3 years old.

5. Hybrid Tea Roses

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These roses grow large flowers on 2-4 feet tall plants. Start pruning during early spring by removing 1/3 to 2/3 length of the canes. These plants grow fast after they are trimmed and also bloom profusely.

6. Old Garden Roses


Start pruning in mid-summer after flowering (generally mid-late June). These plants don’t require sharp trim but take advantage of thinning. All shrub roses can be pruned after flowering in late winter (February to March).

7. Groundcover Roses

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You can prune them after flowering, generally between February and March or according to your climate. Trim them light, making sure you are not taking more than 1/4 of the growth.

8. Miniature and Polyantha Roses


Cut back main stems by one-third of their size. For miniature roses, shorten the weak branches and remove lanky or dead growth. Avoid reducing the height by more than 1/3 of the overall plant.

Check out the Best Rose Varieties here

When to Prune Roses?

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When to prune roses can be determined by your region’s hardiness zone and the type of plant. Mostly, pruning is done during spring before new growth spurts and flowers begin to grow.

Remember that climbers and old-fashioned roses flower only once a year and need to be pruned instantly after blooming. Avoid trimming these rose varieties heavily during spring as they flower on wood from last year’s growth.

Quick Reminder: The best time to prune is before the buds break open and after the frost has ended in your region. Though, some roses are fussy about the time of pruning and like to be cut down before putting an end to dormancy.

Have a look at some Thornless Rose here

Best Time to Prune Roses According to the Hardiness Zones


Zones 3-4: May

Zones 5, 6, and 7: March or April

Zones 8: February or March

Zones 9: January or February

Zones 10-12: December to January

As stated in Oregon State University Extension Service, roses should be pruned from mid-February to early March, when plants begin to grow. Pruning before forecasted lousy weather or last hard frost can result in the plants getting damaged and dying back.

Also, slightly trim the roses’ top and heavy side parts to prevent wind damage.

Preparing Roses for Winter

It is essential to know that you have to stop pruning roses 8 to 10 weeks before the expected first frost date in your region. For cold climates, cut back all dead wood to allow proper air circulation, resulting in good growth when the plant revives again in the spring.

It’d be good to leave some flowers as it will encourage the development of some seeds that will be a food source for birds in winter.

If you live in a frost-free climate, then you can give your plants a nice trim whenever you feel like it. They won’t mind it at all!

Note: If you are thinking about pruning roses to the ground level, then do it only in late winters, when the plant is seriously damaged or diseased beyond saving. In that case, remove everything, leaving only the large, firm, and healthy canes.

Get the Best Rose Maintenance Tips here

Directions to Prune Roses 

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Tools You Will Require:

  • Sharp pruning shears
  • Pair of leather gloves
  • Mini saw for large canes


  1. Wear garden gloves and full sleeve shirt or jacket to save yourself from scratches.
  2. Trim the top 1/3 of the old plant growth. Cut small lanky, dead, diseased, or crossing canes. Also, snip away the ones that are damaged and overgrown.
  3. Eliminate all the pruned leaves as old-growth might carry insects and diseases.
  4. Cut back suckers or shoots growing from the stem below the budding.
  5. Select and keep 4-6 healthy and robust canes.
  6. Clear all debris and leaves from the base of the plant.

Key Takeaways and Mistakes to Avoid

  • Do not use a knife or scissors to prune. Always use bypass shears.
  • Larger stems result in bigger flowers. If a stem is less than a length of a pencil, snip it off.
  • Always cut at a 45-degrees angle or make a horizontal cut.
  • Do not feed the plants after pruning. Let them recover and fertilize after a couple of weeks.

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