How to Prune Overgrown Roses

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Pruning rosebushes promotes healthy growth and abundant blooms.

You need to prune overgrown roses (​Rosa​ spp.) as these are not healthy roses. If you have a rosebush you've been neglecting, pruning it properly can help restore it to good health. This will ensure you have beautiful roses for many years.

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Pruning Overgrown Roses

Pruning a rosebush should be done in the spring. When it comes to how and exactly when to prune a rosebush, however, the variety of rosebush you have matters. Most roses are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 5 and above, although the exact zone depends on the variety.

You want to prune about two weeks after the last hard frost. The University of Illinois Extension suggests pruning around the time the forsythias bloom. Pruning should help the bush get more air and light. Using a set of sharp pruning shears, make your cuts at a 45-degree angle 1/4 inch above a bud or eye that faces outward. Make sure your cut angles away from the bud.

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Remove any dead canes or canes that are shriveled, dark brown or black, as well as thin, weak canes that are no wider than a pencil. If you notice suckers emerging from the ground, remove them. To prevent cane borers, seal the cuts with white glue.

Varieties of Roses

To help your roses get the most out of pruning, it's best to determine what variety of rose you have. If your plant is a hybrid tea, floribunda, miniature or grandiflora rose, these roses flower best on new wooden canes. So for these plants, you'll want to remove dead, small and weak canes. Leave three to five healthy canes around the plant and prune those.

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For shrub roses, look for the oldest canes and remove one-third of them. Repeat this each spring, making note of the oldest canes. This will help your plant produce vigorous flowers year after year.

Prune old garden roses much like shrub roses, although for those that flower once, prune after the plant's flowering season is finished. Climbing roses should be pruned in early spring by removing old wood, while rambling roses should be pruned after flowering.

Best Pruning Methods

The way you make your cuts counts when pruning roses, according to Better Homes & Gardens. Angling your cut 45 degrees on the exterior of the cane, sloped down and away, allows the rose's natural sap to seal your cut while still allowing the cane to develop new growth.

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If you are looking for the rosebud while the plant is still dormant, it's usually identified by a slight swelling above the cane surface. If you're pruning after the rose has flowered, you can use the foliage to guide you to make your cut 1/4 inch above the bud.

Location is important. Cuts any closer to the bud may damage it. Cuts any higher may leave the plant vulnerable to pests. As far as checking for pests, you should make a point to check your roses yearly for winter pest damage.

More on Pruning

Better Homes & Gardens suggests using quality pruning shears with curved blades to avoid crushing rose stems. You can buy shears with removable blades, and there are smaller shears available that are good for miniature roses.

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You may also need a pruning saw to remove large, old canes. Lopping shears are good to cut through thicker canes. You'll also want a good pair of gardening gloves that will not allow the thorns to penetrate your gloves.

For cleanup, remove the dead foliage and canes. Refrain from putting them in the compost heap and put them in the trash instead. That's because there's a chance any dead rose foliage could be diseased and could contaminate your compost pile. Remove all the debris around your rosebush. Wipe your pruning tools with a rag lightly dusted with oil to prevent rust before storing them.

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Karen Gardner spent many years as a home and garden writer and editor who is now a freelance writer. As the owner of an updated older home, she jumps at the chance to write about the fun and not-so-fun parts of home repair and home upkeep. She also enjoys spending time in her garden, each year resolving not to let the weeds overtake them. She keeps reminding herself that gardening is a process, not an outcome.