For the Love of Gardening  

What works & What doesn't...


WHEN ? ...

When the Forsythia Blooms.


PAUL ZIMMERMAN (author of "Everyday Roses" and featured in many rose pruning videos, is coming to speak at the

April 27, 2019 in Peterborough Ontario... and, he is speaking on easy-care roses and holding a

Master Class in Rose Pruning

... if you are nearby, get a ticket soon: spaces for the class are limited.

... but lots of room for his talk on roses

Pruning roses is easy.

(Rose Trees have different needs...)

I hope you don't prune your roses in the fall !!! 

Leave the canes standing at least 3 feet tall in the Autumn so the nutrients can feed the roots to keep them strong over the cold winters.

Then, when the Forsythia blooms in Spring, look for those tiny buds that begin to show dark red all up the sides of the rose canes.  

Pruning roses is more than just for shape; it encourages new growth, removing any dead or diseased wood; it's good for them. 

For other pruning - like trees and shrubs, go here

AND, TOOLS? See what works for me...


Because it encourages them to put out new growth and  more blooms.

 Remember, they need light, air and water. 

If any one of these is missing, your roses will not do well so this will help when you begin to prune. 

Although pruning roses in the Spring is the best time, you can actually "groom" them any time.  In fact, they can be trimmed any time during growing season.

Be mindful and understand why you are pruning.  Some say you cannot kill  a rose by pruning it.. take that with a grain of salt, but your roses want to live… and they, like all plants, have an incredible will to survive.

Pruning roses can only make them better.

But first....TOOLS:  Take care of those you use for pruning rose;keep them clean and sharp. Sharpen them often because if you squeeze the rose stem instead of making a sharp cut, you can leave that stem open to  bugs or disease.

Clean them often with wipes to remove any possibility of spreading any unseen bacteria from one bush to another). It is worth the effort.

Pruning tools:

By-pass pruners” which act somewhat like scissors are best. The blades pass one another instead of meeting each other. (photo below)

These above, are made by Felco and although more expensive, you can take them apart to clean and sharpen and replace parts if need be. They are comfortable to use, but you must try pruners (or secateurs) for yourself.  If they are not comfortable to use, you will not  use them. 

Although I have both kinds, I also like these "Trail-blaze" by-pass pruners because I can open and close them with one hand.  The Felco pruners, take two hands. But the Felcos do last longer and they stay sharp longer.  

So decide what works for you.

 "Anvil pruners”  behave more like a knife when you slice something on a board; they tend to crush the stem (but so will dull pruners) and that leaves the stem vulnerable to disease and mould.

They work best on dead and brittle canes.

I suggest a pair of gloves that will repel thorns, like gauntlets that cover your lower arms to protect you from thorns. Otherwise, a long sleeve shirt.

Now, let's get to the "HOW" of it all.


Start at the top of the bush: it is easier to see what  you are doing and you won’t make any huge mistakes if this is your first time.  Start by taking off the top third of the rose bush, and yes, one stem at a time.

This is no place for hedge trimmers as they are for hedges, right?

ELECTRIC TRIMMERS CHEW THE STEMS, INSTEAD OF CUT THEM and you have little control over where you trim.

This great photo by Gail Trimble of the Marin Rose Society shows very clearly the right cut.

You should use a downward angle when pruning roses to make sure water runs off, and not into the cut stem.  Make your cut at about 45 degrees.

(However, in the past few  years, much research and work have created the new, hardy, easy-care rose that is bred to resist disease.. so the downward angle is really more important for those lovely Tea Roses.

This doesn't mean you don't have to be careful but it does mean the new roses will tolerate more.)

Decide which direction you want the branch to grow and then cut just above a bud that faces that way and that's the way the branch will grow.  


These are roses that grow in fuller, more rounded shape. Check the centre of the bush.  Look for any dead or broken (or even bent) stems or canes and prune down that stem until you find green inside, especially in early Spring. 

Stop there.

With these roses, you are trying for a vase shape. Prune the outer branches shorter so they fan out and support the inner ones.

If it is later than Spring when you get around to pruning your roses, you will likely have to move some branches aside to see the centre.

You need enough light and air in the centre that those canes will not die off.

Again, if you buy roses that are  hardy and disease resistant, like the newer roses, keeping the centre open is less important than it is for Tea Roses or the older varieties.


(like The Fairy)

When pruning these rose bushes,  leave some branches growing toward the centre or it will have bare spots. 

Use your judgement to see the overall shape as it has to please you too, not just the rose.. 

This photo from the Royal Horticultural Society, shows the ultimate shape you want for a spreading rose.


Prune out any canes that cross over each other or rub against another - remove them or they will damage the bark and may can create too many shadows for sun to reach inside.

You will often see long stems shoot out of the ground next to the base of the rose.  This is most likely a sucker and it needs to be removed. 

Especially on a grafted rose as the sucker will -if allowed to grow, revert back to the original rose and your favourite may not survive. 

You will have to move the soil from around the base and take the suckers off down beneath the soil and break or tear them off, do not cut them:   that just encourages the rose to send  up more shoots.  Suckers don’t show up on “own-root” roses.

Then,prune out all stems that are smaller than the thickness of a pencil, (unless, of course, the bush is a miniature).

This photo, also from the RHS, shows pruning out the dead cane in the centre of the bush. It is the obvious  dead brown colour.

I sometimes find myself hesitant when I first begin pruning my roses.  But remember the new growth always starts at the top bud of any cane so prune it back at least another 10 to 12 inches from there. If you don't, that bush will start its new growth from the old and just get taller and bigger. Decide how big you want it to grow.

With some larger bushes that grow 3 to 5 or even 6 feet tall, you might want to cut them down to half that.  Some gardeners cut their roses to the ground. 

I am not always that brave. 

Sometimes when I prune them "hard" they bloom better and the canes stronger... and I make an effort not to prune off more than half....

Some roses bloom on older canes and if we prune them to the ground every season, they will always struggle to start from scratch each Spring. It could mean they may not have enough energy to produce blooms. 

Having said that, once in awhile, if a rose is really not performing, you have nothing to lose.  Cut it right back and see what happens…  you might be pleasantly surprised


Don't cut climbing roses back to the ground..

These are pruned differently.  Of course you will take out all the oldest canes, any that cross or any that like to reach out toward you…. Those wayward branches need to be pruned (trained) to grow toward a wall, or trellis.

Remember the blooms grow from the laterals (those branches that grow horizontally).

Every Spring, take out one (or two, if the rose is a few years old) of the oldest canes that come from the base.The rose will then send up new canes and that keeps it rejuvenated.


It's best if you don't do any pruning to these roses their first season because they need all the energy possible to establish roots.

Some brave gardeners suggest you cut off all blooms when you plant it so the energy goes to the roots and makes a stronger plant. I am not quite that brave; especially if it blooms only once a season.  

Just remove and dead or damaged branches; more t hat that, the rose may grow too quickly, and use up nutrients that the roots need.

Wait until the following spring.

FLORIBUNDAS (with many roses on one stem) and HYBRID TEAS (with one rose on each stem) are repeat-flowering and so do well with a hard pruning. This encourages vigorous growth and strength.

Leave 3 to 5 main, young and strong stems, and prune them back to about 5 or 6 inches above the soil.Their canes tend to be taller than most with the bloom(s) at their ends.  This cam lead to bending or breaking if not pruned for strength. In the fall, reduce the height by about one-third to prevent wind and ice from breaking stems.  

Do the rest of the pruning in the spring.

The lovely Astrid Lindgren - a glorious Floribunda rose.


"Bonica" and "Constance Spry" are good examples of shrub roses. Because they bloom on older stems, they do not need  hard pruning. Make sure there is good air-flow through the shrub to prevent diesease and remove any dead or crossing stems.

REMEMBER; Pruning roses is not that difficult once you start.  Another good thing about pruning roses in the Spring, is that if you make a mistake, it will have lots of time to recover.

Take it one stem at a time…. Take your music to your garden along with your tea, and start pruning. favourite books...

... on planting, growing and pruning roses, is by Paul Zimmerman called

"Everyday Roses" 

Come to the

to meet Paul and have his book signed

and another book:

"Roses Without Chemicals"

by Peter E. Kukielski

(note, Peter was consultant with their

Royal Botanical Gardens

new Rose bed - come and hear

Alex Henderson (RBG)

at the

telling that remarkable story.)