The time of year that it is best to prune roses may differ depending on your location, the weather at a specific time of year and the variety of rose that is being pruned. The following is general information that is likely to be applicable in many circumstances. Obviously, use your own judgment and check if you are unsure.
Generally speaking, roses should be pruned at the end of the coldest part of the year, just before the growing season starts. In the UK, this is likely to be late winter/early spring. As a rough guide for the UK, we suggest pruning in March to April unless the weather has not been typical. Many other websites suggest pruning can begin earlier than this, but in our opinion, during the past few years we have seen frosts and snow later in the winter than historically, hence why we suggest March to April. Cutting earlier than this may be detrimental, especially if there is ‘late frost’. Obviously, if the roses grow beyond what you would like during the year, you can cut them back to maintain control of your garden. However, we suggest that this is done minimally and the focus should be on getting the rose to the correct size when pruning between March and April. The cutting technique and angle should always remain the same. Take extra care and safety precautions when using sharp garden tools and keep children away from potentially dangerous implements.
When pruning, make sure that the cut is at an angle of about 45 degrees to the ground. This will help water run off the pruned area and down the stem rather than forming a droplet on top of the cut (droplets that form on a flat cut that is horizontal to the ground may cause rot and be harmful to the plant).
Always cut just above a bud. 2-5mm above the bud is fine as long as the stem area around the bud is not damaged. Use appropriate pruning shears to ensure a smooth cut that does not fragment/damage the stem.
If you cannot see a bud on a particular stem, cut to the height that you require. We recommend cutting the stem slightly lower than you would like the flowers to appear once in bloom.
To promote upwards growth, ensure that the terminal buds are those that face upward. To shape the rose to face downwards or look more ‘bushy’ ensure that the terminal buds are the ones that face inwards or towards the ground.
Ensure that any dead stems are cut back to healthy wood. This is important whilst pruning and can be minimally repeated during the summer/early autumn if necessary.
If the rose is a climbing variety, ensure that there is enough trellis for the season and try to tempt the stems into place as they grow. This is especially important in April to June. If using a trellis from previous seasons, treat with a plant safe wood treatment/varnish on a dry day in the winter before the rose growth season starts.
There are many different types of roses, including climbing varieties, ground cover, hybrid tea (e.g. sundance and gold medal), miniature roses, shrub roses etc. All require a slightly different technique and timing. Ask a specialist for further advice.
Thank you for reading. We hope that this has been a super useful article on the time of year to prune roses! Don’t forget to check out our cooking and kitchen sections too.