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Pruning Roses

Updated: Oct 5, 2018

Below is a great guide on how to prune roses in New Zealand conditions

Rose Pruning

In New Zealand, most roses are pruned between late June and mid-August, depending where you live. Don’t be tempted to start early as the roses will actually start growing again and then the new growth will get hit by the frosts, plus they won’t flower earlier if pruned earlier. Why do roses need to be pruned? First of all, it helps keep them to a manageable size in our gardens. It also allows old, dead and diseased growth to be removed and encourages the plant to produce more growth and, hence, more flowers for you to enjoy. Pruning also helps to shape the plant and open up the centre, allowing for more light and ventilation, which helps to minimize disease.

Pruning cuts

When making your cuts, make sure they are on an angle sloping away from the bud that will shoot into growth. Start around 5mm above the bud and slope back so the base of the cut is level with the bud. Take care to ensure the cut is clean with no ragged edges, otherwise die back can become a problem.

You can control, to some degree, which way your rose will grow by cutting to a bud pointing in a certain direction. In most cases, cut to one facing outwards but sometimes the strongest bud is facing inwards so it is best to cut to this.

If removing canes from right down at the basal union, do not leave any stubs behind as this can cause die back to occur. Always remove canes flush with the union.

Pruning climbing roses

Pruning a climbing rose (from top left): before pruning old shoots and die back removed cane tied horizontal side canes after shortening to two-three buds (above) end result of pruning.

Many people make the mistake of treating their climbers like bush roses and cut the long stems back each year and then wonder why they are not climbing. You want to train them horizontally along the wall or fence so you get blooms along the length of the stems. Ideally climbers should be trained into a fan shape. The stems are surprisingly flexible and there is little chance of breaking one.

If climbers are growing up a post where they have to grow vertically, what you can do is retain the long canes and wrap them around the post. Cut back side growth to two-three buds but also stagger the height of the canes so you get flowers all the way up the plant, rather than just at the top.

Top tips for rose pruning

  • Always prune on a day that you could get your washing dry.

  • Sharpen your secateurs and other tools before you start pruning.

  • You don’t need to apply pruning paste or similar products to cuts on roses. The best thing to do is allow the wounds to heal naturally.

  • Winter clean-up sprays can be applied after pruning but wait a few days after you prune. Copper is good for cleaning up the disease spores that are present around the plants while oil will assist with controlling scale. Check the packets for application rates.

  • Burn or dispose of rose prunings. Do not put them in the compost.

  • Once finished, give the basal union a light scratch with a wire brush. This removes flaky bark, lichen and moss that has built up around the union. New basal shoots emerge from here and are the life blood of your rose bush. Just scratch carefully so you do not damage any emerging shoots.

  • Once you have finished pruning, pick up all the fallen leaves from around the plants and fork over your soil.

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