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.
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.
There are two rose pruning periods for optimum results (Sorry!)
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.
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.
Image shows Autumn and Spring pruning!