The most basic type of pruning–called deadheading–has a number of benefits for the health of the rose and for you. Cutting off blooms encourages the plant to produce even more flowers.
When deadheading, always cut back to a spot just above a leaf with five leaflets that is growing toward the outside of the plant. If your rose is full-grown and strong, look for a spot about two to three sets of leaves below the flower. For young plants or those that aren’t as sturdy, choose a leaf that is higher. Using sharp pruning shears, angle the cut at 45 degrees from the outside of the cane above the leaf to the inside of the cane.
Out-and-out pruning lets you shape your plant for a desired look. It also helps keep roses healthy and provides you with plenty of blooms.
When pruning, wear protective clothing and gloves. You can also buy arm protectors that fit over your sleeves to protect you from scratches. A jacket of thick material that won’t snag but will allow easy movement is also good. You’ll want a pair of sharp bypass pruning shears; use a small pruning saw for large canes or dead wood.
Pruning times depend on the flowering times. For repeat bloomers, late winter, during the dormant season, is best. If your springs tend to alternate between chilly winter days and warmer spring-like days, prune either when the forsythia is in bloom or 30 days before the last expected killing frost. For roses that bloom only in spring, do your major pruning just after they bloom. You can remove old and diseased canes in winter, though.
Start by thinning, or removing entire shoots back to the base of the plant or to another, stronger cane. Thin out weak canes and dead wood. Cut out any branches that cross or that cut through the middle of the bush to encourage growth out. Once you’ve removed the branches you don’t want, cut back the remaining canes to encourage new growth and flowers.
Cut back hybrid teas and grandifloras by about a third (a little less for floribundas and polyanthas) in mild-winter regions and more heavily in cold-winter regions. For old garden roses and shrub roses, just cut back the tips above a bud that is facing in the direction you want the new stem to grow. Use an angled cut of about 45 degrees. Cut away from the bud; the low point of the cut should be just slightly higher than the bud itself. Miniatures and standards are pruned just as their parents are. If you’re cutting back canes that have been damaged by frost, be sure you cut back to healthy tissue; the center of the cane should be white.
To get rid of suckers–plants growing from the rootstock of a grafted or budded rose–grasp the sucker and pull it down and off the plant. Suckers that emerge from the ground should be pulled out from their source on the root of the plant.
Shearing is a good choice for hedges and large expanses of ground cover roses, but because it may slow down flower production, don’t use it on other types of roses. You can also cut ground covers back only as needed to remove diseased or old canes or those that are growing out of control.
Let climbers go unpruned for the first three years after you’ve planted and then thin to remove any damaged or diseased canes and the oldest canes on spring bloomers. Cut back to two or three buds all the remaining flowering side branches. Ramblers should be pruned after they flower by cutting back the ones that have flowered and have no new growth.