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Pruning Rose Bushes for Beautiful Flowers - Bush Roses

Pruning Rose Bushes

All rose bushes (Hybrid Tea and Floribundas) benefit from hard pruning in the spring. Rose flowers are borne on the tips of new growth and pruning back hard encourages the rose bush to send out plenty of new shoots. Pruning also encourages a better shape, with the flowers not too far from the ground! Un-pruned or 'snipped-at' roses can get to a metre or so height in 2 years, with flowers at the top of straggly growth, and lots of prickly stems totally devoid of foliage at the lower half of the rose bush.

Bush Roses and Shrub Roses

Rose Bushes and Bush Roses should not be confused with Shrub Roses. Shrub roses are totally different. Hybrid Tea and Floribunda Roses are those which are normally referred to as Bush Roses.

Rose Peace - A favourite Hybrid Tea rose, that needs regular pruning for perfect flowers

There is no secret formula for rose pruning. It is so easy to do, yet some 'gardeners' still profess that it should be done in the 'old-fashioned' (now discredited) way, of pruning to an 'outer growing bud' because this is the one that breaks into growth to give the classical rose bowl shape. Truth of the matter is, that several buds below the pruning cut - whichever way they face - break into growth. Some of them inward facing!

Generally, the Hybrid Tea type roses should be cut back a little harder than their floribunda relatives - say 6in (15cms) for the HT and 9 - 12in (22 - 30cm) for the Floribundas. Robust grower - such as Queen Elizabeth is often pruned higher. 9 - 12 in is fine for those as well.

Some of the finest rose beds that I have seen, are cut back by a hedge-trimmer each year; with scant regard as to whether on not the cut is above, below, or indeed through an outward facing bud. I have had a fair bit of flack over the years for suggesting this seemingly hap-hazard way of pruning.

So be it. I and several major rose growers in the UK did experiments for this type of pruning back as long ago as 1970. we all agreed at the time, that there was no problem with this type of pruning. How could we not agree? the proof was there for us to see in the flower growth that summer. If you still want to cut to an outward facing bud, then go do it - no problem!

The most important thing to remember, is that you cut your rose bush back hard, to within 30cms of the ground, into year-old green wood, or several-years-old brown wood.

  • Prune your rose bushes in March or April,
  • Use good pruners for pruning your bush roses and other shrubs.
  • Wear gloves - roses can be rather vicious
  • Be careful picking up your debris
  • Also cut out all of the dead wood of the rose bush - use a pruning saw if need be.
  • Feed the rose bush with Fish Blood Bonemeal - or any other balanced fertilizer
A floribunda rose ready for pruning in Spring.

Job to do - what a mess!

The same rose after hard pruning

Job done! Weeding is the next job here!

and the new growth that has started on this pruned rose, just five weeks after pruning

5 weeks on, we have this - plenty of basal growth ready to form a well-shaped framework.

More information about Roses

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Pruning Rose Bushes - How to prune Roses -Hybrid Tea and Floribunda types. Spring and Autumn

Pruning Rose Bushes in the Spring

So much mystique surrounds the subject of pruning rose bushes. There are so many experts on the subject, and of course when you get many experts you get many opinions! We show you how to prune Roses. Pruning roses is so simple, other than the fact that most rose bushes have thorns!

Firstly, lets answer the question "Why do roses actually need pruning?"

Answer. Bush roses flower best on new shoots made in the early spring and summer. The flowers are larger, more prolific and actually last longer when there is a good framework of new shoots on the plant.

As well as the healthy flowers this pruning will provide, you will also get nice new healthy rose foliage clothing the plant from more or less ground level up to the top.

Rose Pruning Diagram

If you cut back your rose bush quite hard in early spring, this will force it to send out new shoots (Branches). For every old branch you prune, there will be at least two new ones to grow and take its place. More shoots = more flowers.

Another reason is, that if you do not prune your rose bush, you will end up with a tall tangle of old stems - some of which will be dead and which are devoid of foliage lower down - so you end up with a rose bush which is many feet tall with just a few weal flowers on the top. Nothing but bare prickly stems lower down. It stands to reason, that if the flowers are further away from the root system (Food supply) then they will receive less food to produce strong healthy blooms.

Once a rose bush flowers for a few years on old un-pruned bushes, the flowered stems become exhausted and eventually dies as new shoots sprout from lower down the stem. Old flowered shoots die.

Most of us will have seen rose bushes that fall into the latter category. Some rose bushes will grow many feet in a year even if pruned. Queen Elizabeth is a typical example.

Pruning Rose Bushes in the Autumn

Rose Pruning Diagram

The first period is in late autumn when growth has stopped. Simply cut back your rose bush stems by about a third or half. This is simply to stop the rose from rocking about in the winter winds. In strong winds, rose bushes can be damaged at the root stock area - sometimes meaning that the bush breaks off, but usually meaning that the rose will send up suckers in the following year from the damaged root area. (Not many people know that!). In the spring, it is a good idea to check the bases of your roses, to make sure that there is no damage, and also to heel them in a little if the rootstock has carved a gap around itself with winter wind rock.

Autumn pruning of roses should go a long way towards preventing this potential damage.

The main period for pruning roses is in the early spring (March) - before growth starts

With Hybrid Tea roses - The ones that normally have the larger flowers, just one or two to a stem - prune the rose bush down to within 6 - 8in from the rose union. All stems. It would be better if you cut just above a dormant bud. However, if you are cutting into old neglected wood, then it will be more or less impossible to tell where the buds are, so just cut to within 6 - 8 inches. Job done. Nothing more complicated than that. It does not matter in the least if you cut just above an outward facing or inward facing bud. Below the pruning cut, several new shoots will develop - inward and outward facing. It has long since been proven that there is no need for any 'special' care when pruning roses. When I first wrote this in a television magazine, I was berated by all the rose purists. A few years later, even the Royal National Rose Society was in agreement.

Old neglected rose bushes can be rejuvenated by this hard pruning. You can cut right back into old gnarled stems and they will still sent out new growths.

With Floribunda or multiflora type rose bushes, the pruning cuts should/can be less severe - at around 8-10in from the base.

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