How to Prune Roses

Pink Rose Bush
Roses may seem intimidating to handle, but are more simple to care for than you might think. (MRoseboom, Getty Images)

Beginning gardeners often feel intimidated by the process of pruning roses, but for those who are growing roses just for their own enjoyment, the process is not that difficult.

There’s little you can do while pruning your rose that you can’t correct next time, and the plants really do benefit from some attention to promote healthy and vigorous growth and blooms.

A little attention to pruning will make sure you have the largest, showiest blooms around!

When to Prune Different Types of Roses

Before you begin pruning, you need to determine what type of rose you have and how it blooms, as this will affect both your timing and technique.

Repeat bloomers (such as hybrid tea, grandiflora, floribunda, and polyantha) should be pruned in the late winter or early spring.

Single bloomers (such as some antique roses and shrub roses) should be pruned after they finish blooming in the late spring or summer.

If you aren’t sure, look for the metal tag at the base of the main stem – it will give you the name of the rose variety, and you can easily look up the type. If there isn’t a tag, hold off on pruning until you’ve observed when the rose blooms.

Tools Gloves Prune
Wearing gloves is always recommended, especially when handling roses with thorns. (nevennn, Getty Images)

Tools Needed for Rose Pruning

  • Small bypass pruning shears
  • Bypass lopping shears
  • Fine-toothed pruning saw (if plants are very large)
  • Alcohol, bleach, or hydrogen peroxide for sterilizing tools
  • Wood glue for sealing cuts (if desired)
  • A good pair of nitrile or rubber-coated gloves

This grandiflora represents the thickness and abundance of growth that can happen after pruning. (Soguler, Getty Images)

Pruning Hybrid Teas, Grandifloras, Floribundas, and Polyanthas

These roses are repeat bloomers that flower on “new wood,” which is the recent thick, green growth. These plants naturally shed old canes every few years, and pruning helps that process along.

Don’t be afraid to take the pruners to these plants in late winter or early spring. While they might look stubby when you’re finished, it won’t last long. Follow these steps for successful pruning of repeat bloomers:

Pruning Roses
Remove old brown canes. New growth cannot begin for any plant if it’s stunted on old stems. (MaudiB, Getty Images)
  • Sterilize tools.
  • Remove dead, blackened, diseased, or old and striated canes by cutting them off flush with the crown.
  • Next, take off any suckers that are sprouting directly from the root stock below the crown by ripping them downwards to remove all material where the sucker joins the roots.
  • Thin the plant by removing any branches that rub, overlap, or face inward, as well as any spindly branches. You may remove just the branches or the entire cane.

For the largest blooms, most gardeners then take off all but the newest, thickest, strongest green canes (anywhere from 3 to 8), keeping canes that contribute to a nice vase shape.

If you don’t wish to prune that severely, just remove enough canes to open up the center of the plant so light and air can penetrate.

Cute Rose Stem
A proper cut should shed some water from the stem. (MaxBaumann, Getty Images Signature)
  • Head back the remaining canes by a third to a half. Areas with colder winters will need to cut more due to freeze damage. Make sure you cut back until you reach healthy white pith.
  • Make all cuts about 1/4″ beyond an outward pointing bud. Angle the cut at about 45° to shed water away from the bud.
  • Apply wood glue, if desired, to the cut ends.
  • Clean up and discard all fallen leaves and cuttings to prevent the spread of fungus or disease.

Dark Pink Rose Bush
Less pruning, or light pruning is a method used for shrubbery. (maximys15, Getty Images)

Pruning Antique Roses and Shrub Roses

Antique and shrub roses are garden roses, rather than show roses, and are pruned more lightly to give them a more natural-looking shape. Follow these steps when pruning them:

Rose Bush Pruning
While being cautious of your own hands, being gentle with the plants to care for them is recommended. (AndrisTkachenko, Getty Image
  • Sterilize Tools.
  • Cut canes flush with crown.
  • Remove any canes that are dead, blackened, or diseased by cutting them off flush at the crown (where the main stem was grafted onto the root stock). It is a noticeable bump right near ground level. For non-grafted roses, the crown is where the canes originate from the roots.
  • Thin the plant very lightly, by removing branches that cross, rub, or grow inwards. If the plant is dense or tangled, thin out a few of the oldest canes.
  • Head back the remaining canes by just cutting off the tips. If the plant is spindly or too large, you can cut it back by up to a third.
  • Make all cuts about 1/4″ above an outward pointing bud. Angle the cut at about 45° to shed water away from the bud.
  • Apply wood glue, if desired, to the cut ends.
  • Clean up and discard all fallen leaves and cuttings to prevent the spread of fungus or disease.

Wall Climbing Roses
Even these high-climbing giants need some tender love and care. (gurineb, Getty Images)

Pruning Climbing Roses and Ramblers

Follow these steps to prune climbing or rambling roses:

  • Sterilize tools.
  • Remove only dead, diseased, or unproductive canes by cutting them off flush at the crown.
  • Next, remove any suckers that are sprouting from the rootstock, below the crown. Remove suckers by ripping them downwards to remove all material where the sucker joins the roots.
  • Climbing roses and ramblers bloom all along the canes, on small side branches called “laterals.” Lightly nip back the tips of the laterals to encourage new growth, leaving 2-3 leaf buds on each branch.
  • Apply wood glue, if desired, to larger cuts.
  • Clean up and discard any fallen leaves and clippings, to discourage disease and pests.

Further Reading


  1. I am trying to find out why my New Dawn rose blooms only one time in the spring. I have had it 3 years and it is so big that in our area as the rose bush that ate the neighborhood. However it only blooms in the spring, but is advertised as blooming all the season. You may not respond to this question, but I thought I would give it a try.
    Jane Watt

  2. I have exactly the same problem – it’s the biggest healthest rose ever – blooms like crazy in the spring and then nothing – I planted it because it was supposed to be ever blooming and am very diappointed – those that I have asked about this problem are baffled as theirs bloom all summer – the answers I have received have been inconsistent – from fertilzing too much to too little- maybe someone else will see this and give us an answer!!

    • Hi Harish,
      This is an article on how to prune roses, but when to prune roses is covered in the section titled “When to Prune Different Types of Roses.”

  3. i just have i question to ask. what name of rose in first picture….it’s a gift from my from but he don’t know its name

  4. our house in Austin Texas came with 2 beautiful large rose bushes that had the best smelling very large pink blooms. There was never full sun but it still bloomed regularly almost throughout the year. In the 3 years we’ve been here it has developed black spot that wouldn’t get better and now at the beginning of winter (though is usually is mild here) only has a handful of sick leaves between the two plants. they are just tall stems! I’m sick about loosing these gorgeous blooms. Should I now prune all the way down and hope that spring will put out new stems with healthy leaves?

    • Hi, Bridgett,

      Gardening questions can be tricky since the rules can change based on the region. We would suggest contacting your local Master Gardeners association.
      Master gardeners train on a range of topics so they can provide advice, at no charge, for people in their area.

      Thanks for your question, and good luck!

  5. All my roses have black spot fungus. Can they be saved ? Some are large and I would hate to lose them and start over.

  6. Danny, I have black spot on my Peace rose from the low rose next to it. I’ve been using pellets on both but not working. The low rose has had it before but not my Peace. I think in Spring I’ll give it away & buy another tall one. I will also spray as you directed. Should I cut them both down a third now or wait till Spring? I would love to buy a large photo of your lovely pale pink 3rd rose pictured under – Tools needed for Rose Pruning. Would that be possible?
    Thank you for your expertise!


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