Pruning Roses

July is the month when most roses are pruned, although there are some exceptions. For example, it’s not yet time to prune those roses that have one single massed flowering in spring. This group includes some of the old-fashioned roses, as well as banksias and many weeping standards, all of which should be pruned after flowering. Most climbing roses, too, should be left until after blooming before you think about cutting them back. And, in cold districts, you might like to wait until later and prune when there’s no risk of new growth being damaged by frost.

Rose pruning is a topic that causes angst for even the quite experienced gardener, but it’s not really all that difficult. Even if you did no pruning, the roses would survive. After all, roses never used to be pruned when they were growing in the wild.

Roses do, however, respond really well to pruning. They flower well on the new growth that pruning stimulates and, after pruning, they’re neat and tidy and look as if they’re comfortable in the garden.

So let’s get into it. Just like a good cook, before pruning it’s wise to gather ingredients and tools before you start.

You’ll need

What to prune

Begin by cutting out any weak, spindly, criss-crossing or dead stems. Then, if it’s an established bush, look critically at the stems and remove some of the oldest. This can be done by sawing the old, dark brown stems off cleanly at their base.

Cut remaining stems back to a few buds above where last year’s growth began. The topmost bud that remains after pruning should be facing outwards. New growth will come from this bud, so it’s important that it heads in a good direction.

Now stand back and take a good look at the rose. Does the remaining wood seem healthy and vigorous? Is the centre of the bush nice and open so that the sun and air can get right into it? Complete any tidying up that’s necessary.


There are two more things to do before the job’s complete. The first is to spray the whole rose, and the soil beneath the bush, with Yates Lime Sulphur. This will help to remove any rose scale from the stems and also destroy fungal spores that are lingering in the soil. The other task is to renew a good layer of organic mulch over the root area, taking care to avoid direct contact with the rose’s trunk.

In warm climates, before applying the mulch, spread some Thrive Granular Rose Food. However, in frosty areas, it’s best to wait until the last frosts are over before feeding the roses.


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