How to Prune Rose Bushes in the Fall

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Rose bushes are pruned two times each year -- spring and fall. Fall pruning prepares roses for colder weather when the plants do not have as much energy for growth and bloom development. Fall pruning is lighter than spring pruning and can be thought of as grooming rather than heavy pruning.

Things You'll Need

  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Cotton ball
  • Handheld pruning shears
  • Long-handled, scissor-type pruners    
  • Heavy garden gloves  

Before beginning a pruning project, sterilize the pruning tools. Wipe the tools' blades with an isopropyl alcohol-soaked cotton ball. Sterilized tools prevent the spread of plant diseases.

General Guidelines for Pruning All Roses

Remove all faded and spent flowers on the rose bushes. This is called deadheading, and it allows the bushes to use their energy to produce new growth.

Check for dead wood. Dead wood is typically brown but may be blackish if frost-damaged. Dead wood has no green growth on the outside, and brown plant tissue is on the inside. Healthy wood is white or light green inside.

Cut off each dead wood stem or branch at the main stem. Make the cut flush with the main stem.

Cut back all branches that rub and cross each other. Summer growth spurts may have resulted in branches or long stems, also called canes, crossing each other.

Tip

  • Always make a 45-degree diagonal cut just above the next bud on a stem.

Fall Pruning of Specific Types of Roses

Hybrid Teas and Floribundas

Reduce the overall height of each hybrid tea and floribunda rose bush by one-third, and thin the center of the bush by removing some stems there.

Winter winds and cold weather draw moisture out of plants. Reducing the overall volume of rose bushes helps them retain moisture.

Ever-Blooming Varieties

Remove each spent flower of ever-blooming rose bushes by making a diagonal cut ¼ inch above the next bud down the stem.

Use long-handled, scissor-type pruners to cut back the lateral canes that bloomed in the summer, reducing them to two or three eyes per cane. An eye is the spot where a bud is beginning to develop. Remove all dead growth and twiggy growth. Cut back the oldest canes at the base of each plant, making every pruning cut flush against the main stem.

Ramblers and Once-Blooming Varieties

After the blooming period of ramblers and varieties that bloom only once yearly, remove their spent blooms.

Prune back weak canes and unproductive wood to the main stem, making clean lateral cuts flush with the main stem. This task leaves room to train new canes into the horizontal growth that encourages lateral blooms.

Old Garden Roses

Old garden roses are sometimes called heirloom roses. They are roses developed before 1867, when modern hybrid tea roses were introduced. Old garden roses do not need extensive pruning in fall. Hard-pruning can ruin their shapes and reduce their flowering.

Remove an old garden rose bush's old, unproductive stems, and reduce the bush's overall height by one-third. Make each pruning cut 1/4 inch above the next bud on a stem. The bright-red rose hips may be left on the plants for fall color.

Pruning cuts are made at a 45 degree angle ¼ inch above an outward-facing bud. When an entire branch or cane is removed, make the pruning cut flush against the remaining branch.

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