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Seattle Rose Society



Pruning cuts away the parts of a rose bush which experience has shown to be unproductive, thus throwing all the bush's strength into satisfactory shoots. Pruning improves appearance, stimulates growth, and controls the quality and quantity of bloom.

Four Pruners

Bushes are always improved and never killed by pruning. Unpruned roses bloom on small cane tips, go to seed, and become dormant. Poor or "incorrect" pruning is better than no pruning at all.

Properly pruned rose bushTall thin canes produce small blooms; fewer, thicker canes result in fewer, but larger and better quality blooms. Light pruning of most hybrid teas results in tall, spindly bushes; moderate or hard pruning is preferable. Moderate pruning removes 1/2 to 2/3 of the bush; hard pruning leaves only 3-4 canes, 8-12" long. Prune strong bushes moderately and weak growers severely. Roses which bloom on last year's growth, however, such as climbers and many Old Garden Roses, should be lightly pruned, or thinned only, removing old, unproductive canes.

Prune when buds are swelling or opening at the cane tips but are still dormant lower on the cane. Generally Feb. 22 until the middle of March is the optimum pruning time in the Seattle area.

Pruning Saw

Gauntlet Gloves

Use scissor-type, bypass shears when pruning. A keyhole saw with fine teeth will reduce tearing of the bark in tight areas, or on large canes. Loppers will crush or bruise canes, leading to infection.


Cut approximately 1/4" above a bud eye. Cutting closer will injure or kill the bud, and cutting farther away will leave a section of dead cane to attract insects and disease spores.


With modern roses, the pith color at the pruning cut should be a greenish white. Any brown coloration in the pith indicates a dead or dying cane; the cane should be pruned to a lower bud eye, clear to the crown, if necessary, in order to find live pith. Healthy looking canes should be pruned first, so that if the pith is dark and the canes must be removed, the smaller, older or crossing canes will still be available.

Pruning at Bud Eye

Pruning to an outside bud will force growth outward, opening the center of the bush to sunlight and air circulation. Pruning to an inside eye on sprawling varieties or those in a restricted space will force growth inward and keep them in check.

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