Pruning Guide

Pruning Guidelines for Roses

Adapted from an article by James Armstrong, Consulting Rosarian and GPBRS member

Different types of roses are pruned in slightly different ways, but the following 6 steps apply to almost all types of roses:
1) Remove all dead wood
2) Remove all growth growing into the interior of the bush
3) Remove canes that rub against each other
4) Make all cuts a quarter-inch above an outward facing bud eye (there is a bud eye at every set of leaves) See photo below for the “perfect cut”
5) Remove all damaged or diseased leaves that remain on the bush
6) Clean up all dead leaves from around the base of each bush

For Hybrid Teas

a) Reduce the height of each bush by one-third to one-half. (Prune high to get more, yet smaller roses, prune low for fewer yet larger roses. If you plan to exhibit, prune low)
b) Remove all growth that is smaller than a pencil
c) Remove the oldest or most unproductive canes, but always try to leave at least 3 to 5 major canes

For Floribundas and Miniatures

a) Reduce the height of each bush by one-third
b) Thin and remove all excessively spindly growth
c) Leave at least 4 to 6 major canes

 For Shrubs and Repeat Blooming

Old Garden Roses

a) In general, prune much lighter than Hybrid Teas
b) Reduce height and width of each bush by one-fourth or so
c) Thin as necessary to provide better air circulation through the center of disease-prone varieties. Many roses of these types naturally get very large and do not really have to be pruned except to remove the dead wood. However, additional pruning may be required to keep them within their allotted garden space (they can overgrow and smother a small neighbor) or to keep them out of a path or walkway.

 Warning: If you grow once-blooming old garden or species roses, do not prune them in the winter or you will vastly reduce the number of flowers the bushes will produce that year. Only prune these types of roses after they finish blooming in the spring. Then, do not remove the new leaves, but otherwise prune and thin lightly as with repeat blooming old garden roses.


Climbers need specialized pruning and training beyond what can be described in this article. In general, they produce long canes that need to be trained to grow on a trellis, fence, building or tree by tying the canes to the support with soft plastic garden ties.

After the desired height is reached, you want to train the canes to grow as horizontally as possible so that laterals will grow out all along the length of the canes. It is only the laterals that are pruned in most years. Laterals produce most of a climber’s flowers and they are pruned back each year to leave 2 – 5 (or so) bud eyes.