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Is It Almost Time To Prune The Rose Bushes?

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Queen Elizabeth rose bud on my 2 year old bush


Soon it will be time to think about pruning the rose  bushes.

Well, not here in zone 6, but somewhere, it is almost time.









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Queen Elizabeth rose bush in winter


Most roses really benefit from pruning in the early spring, just as the leaf buds begin to swell. There are a lot of reasons to prune rose bushes, so it’s well worth the effort. Some of the reasons are:

  • To rejuvenate the plant and encourage new growth
  • To create a better shape to the plant
  • To remove dead or diseased stems
  • To encourage more blooms
  • To thin out the stems to allow for better air circulation

Because pruning encourages new growth, it’s best not to prune too late in the fall. The new growth would be likely to be damaged by the cold temperatures of winter. Also, by waiting until after the winter, you’ll be able to see any damaged stems that need to be removed.

Using the right equipment and tools is important. Long sleeves and really good gloves  are a must. I highly recommend deerskin gloves. Deerskin are the only leather gloves I know of that prevent thorns from stabbing your hands. See

Using sharp (to make clean cuts), clean (to prevent disease) tools is also a must. Use pruners and loppers (for the thicker stems) to make the cuts. The long handles of the loppers allow you to reach without getting your arms in the thorns.

Make 45′ cuts, just above a bud that is facing away from the center of the plant. Make the cut about 1/4″  from the bud, as shown in the picture.

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Correctly pruned rose bush stem (45' angle, 1/4" from leaf bud)

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Cut too far from bud










First, remove any of the dead leaves that are left. Then remove any dead wood (usually dark brown or black). Then remove stems that are damaged, broken or diseased. Also remove any suckers that are coming up. (Suckers are stems that grow from the root stock, below the graft)

Second, evaluate the shape of the bush. Remove the very small branches and enough stems to open up the center so light can reach it and to allow for better air circulation. This will help to prevent many diseases caused by moisture on the leaves. The stems that are remaining should be cut back to about half their height.

Some roses don’t need pruning. Shrub roses, such as Rugosas for instance, are fine left on their own. Climbing or rambling roses only need pruning to thin or to control the growth.

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Queen Elizabeth roses bushes

Don’t be intimidated by all the hoopla about pruning roses. Pruning really helps the plants and a healthy rose bush isn’t easily killed by incorrect pruning. Besides…it will grow out.

So give it a try.






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