A Lady Banks rose (Rosa banksiae) produces cascades of yellow or white flower clusters in spring or early summer, creating early color in your garden. Learning how to prune a Lady Banks rose ensures this vigorously growing plant stays healthy and looks beautiful. These roses are perennials in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 10. This wild rose looks best when allowed to grow in its natural form, but infrequent rose pruning can help keep it in bounds while still ensuring ample flowering.
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Ready Your Pruning Shears
Two types of shears are needed to prune a Lady Banks rose. Basic pruning loppers handle most pruning needs, but you will need smaller hand pruners or bypass pruning shears for shaping this climbing rose.
Wipe the shear blades with a cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol to sanitize them before you prune. This prevents spreading diseases to the plants. If you cut out diseased wood or are moving between plants, wipe the shears before making each cut. Some types of Lady Banks roses have a few thorny stems, so wear leather gardening gloves and long sleeves if you are trimming a thorned variety.
Timing Is Everything
Lady Banks roses flower on the older wood of 2- or 3-year-old canes, so they don't require annual pruning except to remove damaged wood. Pruning too frequently will remove the flowering canes so there are no blooms and only foliage. These roses only flower once a year in late spring or early summer. Prune Lady Banks immediately after this annual flowering, before the plant begins to set new buds for the following year. That means the pruning usually needs to be done by the beginning of July at the latest in most areas.
Thinning It Out
Thinning allows for air circulation within the rose plant, which improves flowering and minimizes disease concerns. Yellow and brown canes are completely dead, so remove these at ground level using the loppers. You can also remove the tallest and thickest canes at ground level to open up the center of the plant for air circulation. Pruning these out also lets in more light, so the smaller canes can leaf out and set flower buds. Also, remove any damaged canes, either cutting them off at ground level or cutting them back to the nearest outward facing bud or leaf on healthy wood.
Shaping Up a Lady Banks Rose
Light shaping every two years helps keep the sprawling, climbing canes of the Lady Banks rose under control, but you don't want to over-prune and lose the plant's natural form. Step back to get a sense of the plant's natural shaping. The goal when you prune a Lady Banks rose for shaping is to get the overgrown branches under control to fit that natural look.
Begin by cutting back any overgrown canes, especially those that extend over walkways, or are wrapping around structures or tree branches. Cut these branches back to a bud or leaf at the desired cane length using the bypass shears. Cut them to a standard height so they fit in with the rest of the branches. You can also prune back dull green canes to manage their height, but don't prune back the bright green canes because these are your future flowering stems.
After pruning, remove the clippings from the bed, and compost or dispose of them. Leaving plant debris in your flower garden can harbor pests and pathogens, which can affect the health of your flowers.