How to Prune a Shrub Rose


Pruning is part of the regular care of shrub roses. Pruning involves removing dead or unnecessary parts of the plant to promote a beautiful and healthy rose. Light pruning --- removing spent blossoms --- is done during the growing season. A hard prune is done after the first hard freeze or during the late winter, while the rose is still dormant. This pruning prepares the shrub for new growth in the coming season.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden shears
  • Loping shears
  • Small pruning saw
  • Gardening gloves
  • Household glue
  • Use good quality tools for pruning a rose to prevent from damaging the canes. The American Rose Society recommends investing in the scissor type and not the anvil-type pruning shears. Make sure all tools are sharpened before pruning to avoid ripping the canes on the rose.

  • Make the correct cut when pruning. Look for the swelling on the cane, where new growth is going to appear; this is known as the "dormant eye." Move up the cane approximately ¼ inch for the cut. Hold the shears at approximately a 45-degree angle. Turn the shears so that the angle of the cut will be facing away from the center of the shrub. Not only does this present a neater look for the rose, it allows for more air flow, which deters the growth of diseases. The picture shows the swelling eye and the dotted line shows the proper cut directed on the opposite side of the eye.

  • Prune the dead canes back to the main stem. These can be discerned by cutting the tip off the cane. Dead canes are dried up and brittle and dark on the inside, while living canes have a light-colored pith inside and are slightly flexible.

  • Remove "sucker" canes from the shrub; these come from the root and not from the bud union. Prune suckers as close to the main root as possible, even if you have to dig under the soil to reach it.

  • Prune shrub roses for shape. Prune older shrubs---those that are more than one season old---by removing 1/3 of the rose's height. Every few years, remove some of the older canes at the base.

  • Smear household glue on the cuts to seal them, preventing insects and disease from invading the rose.

  • Clean up the area under the rose. Pick up the cut rose canes, leaves or petals and throw these away. Do not add them to a compost pile as they can promote pestilence and disease.

Tips & Warnings

  • According to "Botanica's Roses," shrub roses can be left for "three to five years with no pruning, other than deadheading. This minimal pruning results in large and more attractive plant."
  • Wear garden gloves to protect your hands from the rose's thorns.

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  • Photo Credit Paula K. Parker
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