When to prune roses- top tips to keep your roses healthy

Love Your Garden: Alan Titchmarsh on growing roses in 2011

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Keeping roses healthy is important in order to promote regrowth and regulate the rate at which it does this. Pruning the thorny stalks and light blooms of the rose plant is the key to a vibrant, voluminous and neat-looking shrub but when should you be tending to your roses?

When to prune

Whether you have climbing roses or an English rose shrub growing in your garden, the best time to tend to most varieties of this classic English flower is in late winter or early spring – around February and March ready for their summer bloom.

It is important to check the variety of rose you have before going ahead and pruning as they require different methods of care, although the general rule of thumb is to prune after flowering.

Climbing rose and established climbing rose

Pruning your climbing rose is essential to maintain the structure of your plant and create a shapely coverage of the surface it climbs on.

An established rose is one that has flowered for two or more years and pruning this variety is key to making sure it continues to grow for many more.

It is recommended to prune the climbing rose when the first growth is beginning, which is usually between January and February but this can be done as late as March if you can’t find the time to get in the garden and prune beforehand.

English shrub rose

Making your rose thrive is one of the key objectives of pruning and is vital if you’re growing an English shrub rose.

English Roses are naturally vigorous growers and shrub varieties can become large and leggy if left unattended.

Pruning is most effective for this variety of rose when done in the late winter/early spring.

Top tips:

Deadhead your roses the summer after flowering to concentrate the plant’s energy on new growth by removing spent blooms and branches.

Older garden roses have the tendency to arch, so need adequate space. Shortening stems simply to restrict spread spoils their graceful shape so take care not to over-prune arching roses.

How to prune

The rose comes in many varieties and can be bushy, upright or elegantly arching and can be short or tall in height.

Pruning roses is easier than you may think as these English favourites require just a few simple tools to keep them in good stead.

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Use gloves when pruning roses to avoid thorn cuts or injury and keep secateurs sharp for clean cuts when pruning stems.

For large stems, use a saw or loppers.

Removing parts of the plant during the non-flowering season is the best way to prune and can be done differently depending on which variety of rose you are dealing with.

How to prune a shrub rose

If you’re growing a shrub rose that has a single flush of flowers, the Royal Horticultural Society advises that you prune your shrub in the summer, once flowering is completed.

They also recommend removing one or two branches from the centre of the plant if it is causing a build-up of older unproductive wood which overcrowds the rose.

A leggy shrub rose which looks bare at the base can be pruned to remove one or two stems to near ground level in order to encourage new growth from the base of the shrub.

Repeat-flowering shrub roses

Tame strong, new growth in the winter by pruning your English rose back to the previous season’s growth by 30 to 50 percent of their length.

Be sure to shorten strong side-shoots to just a couple of buds during the winter to encourage a rich growth when the rose flowers bloom in early summer.

Top tips:

  • Deadhead faded blooms in the summer to encourage new, vibrant petals to grow in their place.
  • Mature plants require light pruning each winter by removing dead stems and cutting live ones back to the base ready to flower in the summer.
  • During the spring feed all pruned roses with fertiliser and mulch with garden compost or manure.

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