When is the Best Time to Trim Roses?
08 Nov 2022
By Michael Jacobson
Properly pruning roses is essential to their growth and ensures they live a long life, though it’s easy to see why the process can be intimidating for inexperienced gardeners. The idea of cutting off parts of your plant in order to help it thrive may seem counterintuitive, but in reality, you are just directing your plant’s focus to the areas that will benefit from it the most.
But before you reach for the secateurs and start snipping away, understand that trimming involves making the right cuts in the right places at the right time. This handy guide will take you through everything you need to know about when to trim roses, season by season.
Spring - major pruning
Spring is the key time for rose maintenance, as you want to be pruning at a time when the plant is becoming active and growing again, as opposed to going dormant.
Your rose bushes should be looking fairly bare at this time of year anyway, but removing any leaves that remain will provide you with easier access to the canes you need to trim. It also helps to lower the risk of pests in the leaves overrunning the bush.
Cull dead/weak stems
Any dried, brown stems that don’t show potential for new growth can be trimmed all the way back to the base of the plant, or to the point where they begin to appear fresh again. Any fragile and flimsy green stems can also be removed, as they are often prone to crisscrossing, which is detrimental to the plant’s shape and health.
Curate an open layout
By “open layout”, we mean a layout in which none of the stems will be competing for space or light. This will benefit the overall appearance of the bush once it blooms, by giving it a better chance of growing in a balanced and symmetrical way. A nice, open layout will also help to increase airflow and reduce the chance of disease spreading. Remove any stems that cross over each other, or don’t fit your desired shape.
Time to prune
Now prune any and all remaining stems with clean 45-degree angle cuts - don’t use any tools that might bend or crush the stem. Cut back to a bud that is outward-facing, as this will encourage it to grow in a way that will support the desired layout. Roses can handle being cut back thoroughly, but the most common advice is to cut back one-third of the new growth.
Any clippings should be collected and disposed of appropriately - you don’t want to leave thorny branches all over the place.
Feed for new growth
Roses always benefit from additional nutrients and fertilizer, and pruning is the perfect time to gift them with a layer of compost or mulch. The bush will use this food to fuel its growth throughout the summer. You don’t want to be fertilizing as fall draws in, as any new growth will be delicate and vulnerable to colder temperatures.
Most varieties of roses will respond badly to being pruned in summer; this is because summer is when the stems will be at their most lush, therefore pruning can result in loss of sap - which can damage the health of the entire plant. However, there are things you can do to encourage your roses to keep blooming.
Deadhead to encourage bloom growth
The act of “deadheading” refers to getting rid of flowers that have run their course. The cutting off of these spent blooms helps to encourage new ones to blossom, as well as improve the overall appearance of the bush.
As temperatures begin to drop your roses will start to go dormant - too much trimming at this time of year can stimulate new growth, which will then go on to fail in winter. Even so, a few final cuts are still recommended to keep your plant in the best shape possible.
Get rid of any stems that look like they may be damaged by winter weather - anything with the potential to cross and rub, to be snapped or bent by high winds, or that shows signs of disease. If left unchecked these are the sorts of features that could cause your roses to struggle as it gets colder.
Where can I find out more about caring for roses?
It’s no secret that we’re big fans of roses at French Florist. Luxurious and romantic, roses are delightful to look at and rewarding to grow, and there are dozens of varieties to choose from. There are plenty of resources online, like Rebecca Sweet and Paul Zimmerman, to help you pick your preferred rose and learn how to establish them in your garden - but it is always worth checking out local gardening clubs for tips and tricks specific to your region’s climate.
Buy beautiful roses online with French Florist for same-day local delivery
Love roses but don’t have the time, experience, or space to grow your own? At French Florist, our local team of experts creates jaw-dropping arrangements that always pass strict quality control checks. Order roses for delivery nationwide, or same-day local delivery.