Roses: Care and Pruning

Pruning and caring for roses isn’t tricky or difficult whether you are a seasoned rose gardener or even just a beginner. Roses are one of the easiest and most rewarding flowering shrubs to grow. With proper pruning and some basic rose care, you will be able to produce some spectacular roses that will be the envy of your neighborhood!

Rose Pruning Basics

Roses should be pruned by late winter or very early spring. The new buds will begin to swell early so keep watch and don’t start too late. Make sure that you start with good quality sharp, clean pruners. Most important of all: when pruning roses make sure you have a good pair of gardening gloves and wear a long sleeved shirt!

Cut just above an outward facing bud

All pruning cuts should be made at a 45 degree angle. Make each cut about one quarter to one half inch above an outward facing bud. Cutting above an outward facing bud means that the new growth will be outward, away from the center of the plant which improves air circulation and gives the rose bush an attractive overall shape. If possible, dab on a bit of pruning seal after each cut. If you don’t have that, some gardeners substitute white glue!

Prune back the rose bush until you have anywhere from four to eight healthy looking canes. How tall you leave the bush will depend on the type of rose that you are growing. In general you want to encourage a bowl shape shrub with new growth facing outward.

Make sure you also remove any diseased or blighted leaves from the bush itself and from the ground surrounding it.

Cut right to the live tissue

When you are cutting back, make sure that you prune right to where there is live or green tissue. It should look light colored and healthy, not dark and porous. Dead branches need to be removed completely. Saw them off right to the base of the rose bush. Remove all the thin and spindly growth as well. Generally anything that is thinner than a pencil should be cut out. Take off all the suckers too. Suckers are healthy looking canes than grow from below the grafted section on the main stem of the rose bush.


Roses will benefit from feeding about three times a year. Feed them in the early spring, right after you prune, then again when the first blooms appear and once more in late summer or early fall. When you first plant your new rose bush add a handful of bonemeal to get the roots off to a good start.


Roses need regular watering in order to produce the biggest and most beautiful blooms. Make sure that when you water, the moisture reaches down to the bottom of the roots, which is generally about eighteen inches. It is better to give a good watering once a week or so rather than a light sprinkle every other day. Good deep watering will develop a healthy root system resulting in a vigorous healthy rose bush. As well, try to water with a hose or drip system from underneath the leaves as leaving water on the rose leaves themselves can encourage disease.


Finally, make sure that your rose bush gets enough sun. Roses need a minimum of six hours of sunshine each day, but more is even better. Your roses also need space so allow enough distance between plants to provide good air circulation between plants.

When you purchase a new rose bush it will come with specific comments and instructions about proper care and maintenance specific for its type.