The 10 Biggest Mistakes People Make When Pruning Roses

Do the full, vibrant blooms of a rose make your heart pitter patter? Roses have been favorite amongst gardeners since the dawn of time and even today most Americans say the rose is their favorite flower!

If you are the lucky and proud owner of a rose shrub, you know that we are now at the height of the pruning roses season. Protect your darling flora by ensuring you aren't accidentally making one of these common pruning mistakes to ensure you have a summer full of beautiful blooms! Happy National Rose Month!


1) You cut too much off

According to gardening experts at Flowerscapes Garden Design & Landscaping, you shouldn't prune more than half the plant's original height. Ideal pruning is between 1/3 and 1/2 the plants original height.

the 10 biggest mistakes people make when pruning roses, gardening, landscape, Bontiful Rose Bush viaSummers at the Cottage
Bontiful Rose Bush viaSummers at the Cottage


2) You left too much in the center

As gardening pro Douglas Hunt explains, "the goal of pruning a rose bush is to produce an open centered plant". Pay attention to stems or canes that crisscross, as well as any weak canes growing towards the center.

the 10 biggest mistakes people make when pruning roses, gardening, landscape, Beautiful Roses on the Back Deck viaGaga s Garden
Beautiful Roses on the Back Deck viaGaga's Garden


3) You cut too early

Lynne from Sensible Gardening advises that you mustwait until after the very last frost for pruning roses. Roses are delicate, be patient pruner.

the 10 biggest mistakes people make when pruning roses, gardening, landscape, Delicate Roses via Gaga s Garden
Delicate Roses via Gaga's Garden

4) You didn't cut with the right tool

It's important to go about pruning roses with a curved bland, so you don't avoid crushing the canes Lynne says. Use curved gardening shears for standing pruning, a pruning saw for large canes, and lopping shears with long handles for extra thick canes.

the 10 biggest mistakes people make when pruning roses, gardening, landscape, An Outside 5 Leaf Mature Leaflet via Gaga s Garden
An Outside 5 Leaf Mature Leaflet via Gaga's Garden


5) You didn't make angled cuts

You've probably heard it time and time again, but it's a very important step for properly pruning roses.The Master Gardeners of University of California provides this diagram to help illustrate the proper cut. The goal is to slope the cut away from the leaves, and just above the bud.


6) You cut healthy tissue

When pruning roses, it can be tricky to know what to cut and what to leave. Founder and owner of Flowerscapes Garden Design & Landscaping, Robby Deckert, has a great tip: "Cut the cane until you notice the center pith is creamy-white and not brown. This is healthy tissue and the cane will be green."

the 10 biggest mistakes people make when pruning roses, gardening, landscape, Beautiful F J Lindheimer Roses via Natalie Scarberry
Beautiful F. J. Lindheimer Roses via Natalie Scarberry


7) You fertilize too soon after pruning

You should avoid fertilizing your roses for about 3 weeks after pruning according to the gardening experts at Flowerscapes Garden Design & Landscaping.

the 10 biggest mistakes people make when pruning roses, gardening, landscape, Pink Roses via Tracey B
Pink Roses via Tracey B


8) You skip over the weak, energy sapping stems

Susan Fox, an expert on all things roses, says that when pruning roses, you should cut out any stem thinner than a pencil. These stems will not be productive, yet sap energy and nutrients from the rest of the plant.


9) You leave behind "bad" leaves

When pruning roses, you can't forget about the old leaves! According to the Master Gardeners of Tulare & Kings Counties at the University of California, you should remove every leaf from the newly pruned bush as diseases and insects tend to carry over in old leaves. Then, clean all leaves and debris away from the base of the plant. If necessary, they advised you even scrape away the scaly bark from the bud union and base of the plan.

the 10 biggest mistakes people make when pruning roses, gardening, landscape, New Buds a Plenty via Gaga s Garden
New Buds a Plenty via Gaga's Garden


10) You aren't even pruning!

Rose expert Susan Fox breaks it down to the basics: Pruning roses encourages new (and bigger!) blooms, overall healthy growth, and increased resistance to disease and other common plant problems.

the 10 biggest mistakes people make when pruning roses, gardening, landscape, A Lovely Rose Assortment via Gaga s Garden
A Lovely Rose Assortment via Gaga's Garden


For detailed steps on how, exactly, to prune your roses, check out this pruning guide by Hometalk's very own Rosarian, Susan Fox! She's gathered together her best thoughts and tips on pruning roses, fresh from completing her rose judging at the 2014 Biltmore Estate Rose Trial- how fabulous!

If you have a specific question about your roses, ask one of the Pros on Hometalk using the Q&A forum.

Let us know what's worked for you, or just share your drop dead goregous rose photos in the comments. We know there are a great deal of experienced pruners in our midst!


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37 Comments | Add a Comment Displaying 15 of 37 comments | See Previous
  • Glenna Kennedy
    I planted 2 climbing roses in my front south-west facing garden about 2 years ago. I provided a trellis for them to climb on and was training them to climb. The soil they are in is a good combination with clay further down but I have amended the soil for
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    • Interiors by the Sea
      Interiors by the Sea Beaufort, NC
      Glenna Kennedy See above- cut back no more than 1/2. Cut out any stems that are dead now. See how that does before moving them. They may not be really winter hardy in you area. Only do the
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  • Pat
    Pat Fenton, MI
    Nothing better than a beautiful rose bush!
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  • Sue
    Sue Lexington, KY
    Thanks for the help!!
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  • Judy Lee Green
    Judy Lee Green Murfreesboro, TN
    Do I understand, # 9, that every leaf is to be cut off when I prune my roses??
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  • Mary McNamara
    Mary McNamara Johnstown, PA
    What and how often should I feed my Roses ?
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  • Sheryl S
    Sheryl S Quinlan, TX
    I got to close to my roses with weed & grass killer. Now the have long out of control stems that tower over the rest of the plant. Is there anything I can do?
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  • Interiors by the Sea
    Interiors by the Sea Beaufort, NC
    Cut off anything at the base that is below the grafted area. That's from the root stock & it will take over the top if you don't. Keep an eye on it- some varieties seem to be more prone to suckers than others.
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  • Glenna Kennedy
    We are a zone 5 and I have had roses for years, just never climbers. I have pruned out the dead stuff but really think I am going to move them next spring to a sheltered spot to see if that helps, although I have 2 older rose bushes (at least 20 years
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  • Peggy Dewitt
    Peggy Dewitt Pompano Beach, FL
    I am amazed that my 2 roses have survived my many battles with my bad help and their neglect! I used to do all these things but had to give it up. My 2 bushes are 40 years old and still growing and blooming. I am well now and can care for them, but will
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  • Jennifer
    Jennifer Naples, FL
    Peggy I discovered Bayers systematic fertilizer and it has worked wonders. I too live in Florida, Naples. I was plagued with black spot until I started using this product. I get it at Ace hardware store.
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  • Tammi
    Tammi Wayne, WV
    I thought you cut back in October. But, I had to recut a lot in the Spring. I have also heard that Roses didn't like a lot of water. Good information, Thanks!
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  • Jean M
    Jean M Valdosta, GA
    I love this article, thank u so much ;)....I have those knock out bushes, and according to the label, it says you don't need to dead head the roses, and really don't need to prune them alot. I pruned mine after the very 1st year they were in the ground,
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  • Elaine Simmons
    Elaine Simmons Florence, AZ
    Jean, I had Knockouts at my previous home and they are so hardy! I did prune mine too but not a lot. I pruned them because they were next to a sidewalk and interfered with walking.
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  • Mudman0007
    I purchased three little plants in late July, 2013. Two of the three croaked over our last hard winter. One survived....barely. I pruned it hard, nearly to the ground. It liked that...much to my great pleasure!! While still a small plant, it yielded
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Diana Mackie

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