Prune roses in winter to encourage bigger and more flowers in spring

Monty Don shares tips for pruning roses

December is a time most gardeners can relax as most flowers have gone dormant, but there is one particular plant that must be pruned in the colder months to ensure it blooms next year. 

Roses should always be pruned in late winter, except for rambling roses, once their first growth is just resuming. It is unnecessary to prune them earlier as it can be more difficult to identify their healthy stems. 

It is important to prune roses to allow better air circulation and help reduce the risk of fungal diseases such as black spot, which is very difficult to get rid of once it is in your garden soil. 

However, one of the main reasons to prune roses is to encourage them to bloom bigger and more beautifully in the springtime, as roses pruned in the wintertime are more likely to produce more flowers. 

David Domoney, the celebrity gardener and expert horticulturist, has shared that while pruning roses “isn’t difficult” to do, there is an “important” gardening technique to it.

In a blog post, David explained: “Many people ask me where they should make the cut. As a general guide, if you want to completely remove a stem, cut through its base where it joins another stem or the main branch.

“If you are cutting back a stem without removing it, cut just above an outward-facing bud. This ensures that new growth starts from the end of the old stem.”

Make sure to always prune with a pair of sharp secateurs to make a clean cut and reduce the chances of damaging the plant. Roses pruned with dull or dirty pruning shears are more likely to weaken and be susceptible to diseases. 

Specific rose types will have different pruning requirements, so it is best to check the back label when buying roses or do further research to identify what type of roses you own.  

Hybrid tea roses, one of the most popular garden varieties, should be pruned hard in the later part of winter when it is starting to get warmer in around late February. 

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David wrote: “Cut hybrid tea roses back to around 30cm above ground level, cutting just above an outward-facing bud. Remove any dead or diseased stems completely, so you are left with a ‘cup’ shape.”

However, for shrub roses, it is important to be careful when pruning them as they flower on old woody growth and should never be pruned hard. 

David wrote: “Aim for a balance of old and new growth. Remove any dead or diseased growth, or any branches that are crossed over. Repeat flowering varieties should have their new growth pruned back by about a third, shortening sideshoots to two or three buds.

“If some stems have stopped flowering, or the plant has become leggy and bare at the base, take one or two older branches back to near ground level in late winter.” 

Climbing roses should also be pruned carefully as their stems may need to be left alone in order for the plant to support itself.

David wrote: “Aim to leave a strong framework of thick older stems firmly tied to supports. For the best shape, try and keep this symmetrical.

“When the plant has finished flowering, tie in some of the long shoots to be part of the framework. You can also train newer stems in the place of older, less productive ones, which can eventually be removed.”

If you have any smaller potted roses on your patio, they tend to be very easy to prune.  David wrote: “These are smaller roses that thrive in containers – perfect for patios.

“They need pruning as, for hybrid tea varieties, cutting them back to about 15cm from the soil. Make sure to remove any dead or weak stems.” 

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