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The thorny question of rose pruning

The whys and wherefores of rose pruning, and winter care.

Winter is rose pruning time, and rose pruning´s a subject that always leads to a lot of questions from home gardeners.

Yates explains why it's necessary and how go about it.

Why prune roses?

Because most roses flower on new wood, and pruning encourages the development of healthy new growth.

Which roses are pruned in winter?

Bush roses (shrub-sized or miniature) and standards that flower throughout spring, summer and autumn.

Which roses aren´t pruned in winter?

Roses that only bloom in spring — e.g., Banksia roses, or certain types of climbing roses. Spring-flowering bloomers are pruned immediately after flowering has finished. This gives the plant time to develop its new flowering growth.

Most climbing roses are pruned in mid summer, but newly planted climbers shouldn´t be pruned for the first two or three years. They need at least this amount of time to grow to flowering stage.

Guidelines For Winter Rose Pruning

  • Established roses can be cut back by at least half. Young, growing roses should be pruned with less vigour.

  • Remove any shoots that are obviously dead.

  • Remove spindly growth and crisscrossing branches.

  • Cut out any very old shoots. Remove these by sawing off at the base.

  • Make each cut just above an outward facing bud.

  • Always use clean, sharp secateurs, and a saw to make larger cuts.

  • If you live in a cold area, wait until August to prune.

  • If suckers are growing from the rootstock (i.e., from below the graft) it´s best to remove these by clearing away the soil at the base, exposing the section where the rootstock is shooting from the base, and pulling it off. Leave the section uncovered for a few hours until it dries and then replace the soil.

  • Clean up all the prunings and try to gather all the fallen leaves that are under the bush.


Last of all comes the insurance policy. This takes the form of a clean-up spray with, say, Yates Lime Sulphur. Lime Sulphur can burn rose leaves during their growing season but, if applied immediately after pruning (while the plants are still leafless), it can be used at twice the summertime strength.

Spray the Lime Sulphur solution over the entire rose plant and also onto the soil beneath the bush. This will help to get rid of any fungal disease (especially rose black spot) spores that are lurking in the soil, and will also clean up the white rose scale that´s often found clinging to the main stems and branches.


After pruning, fertilise with some organic Dynamic Lifter pellets and then, in a few weeks time, sprinkle some Gro-Plus for Roses around the base of each plant. Water in well.


Reproduced with permission from NZOOM Home and Garden content,
from the previous website of  TVNZ News

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the RNZIH

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Last updated: March 1, 2021