PRUNING IS THE KEY TO HEALTHY ROSES by Elsina M. Dean, Master Rosarian


“Cut out the old and protect the new”!

Elsina M. Dean
Elsina M. Dean

Many gardeners have a fear of pruning roses too much. They are afraid their pruning would kill their beloved rose or force it to grow “weird”. To alleviate your fears and concerns follow a few simple rules: Primarily you must have good, sharp tools! Use only by-pass pruners not “Anvil” type. Use of the Anvil type result in crushing the cane and serves as a foci for entry of disease and bacteria. The use of gauntlet gloves (long that extend to the elbow) prevents injuries from the prickly thorns. The use of loppers and a saw to cut away the old wood so that you can preserve the new green canes.

Most Modern Roses bloom on new wood. Your best blooms will come from healthy new growth. The old wood is grey and non productive. These are canes that need to be removed. There should be 3-4 of the best green new canes remaining. Ideally these canes should be growing up and outward in a “vase” type shape. This gives good air circulation which a rose needs to prevent disease within the bush. Do not leave any “stump”on the bud union. These will become hard and woody. The old canes should be cut flush with the “bud union”(that big bump at the base of the rose bush) Not cutting away the old woody stump would result in preventing the growth of new canes. If that happens, your rose bush will bloom less and less and will eventually have to be replaced. If your roses are budded or grafted look for any unwanted suckers (the new growth that emanates from the rootstock below the bud union) These suckers come from the roots rather than the bud union What it means is that what is growing is from another variety different from what you purchased. You need to get rid of this new growth, not by cutting but by tearing away from the point of origin at the base of the root below the ground.

When pruning remember THE THREE D’S! Cut way all growth that is DEAD, DISEASED or DAMAGED!