How to Prune, Select and Care for Your Roses [Definitive Beginner’s Guide]

There’s nothing as beautiful and diabolical as the simple rose. Rose bushes have been the mainstay of a lovely garden from time immemorial, but there’s a reason why only seasoned gardeners often approach. Difficult to prune and sometimes difficult to grow, roses require some patience and understanding. Here’s what you need to know about choosing, pruning, and caring for your roses.

Pink Roses in Garden
Pink Roses in Garden

Choosing Your Roses

Heady blooms, deep green leaves, and thorns, thorns, thorns—there are a lot of characteristics that are shared among many rose varieties. Of course, there are also thornless roses, for those who want their gardening to involve a little less danger. When choosing rose bushes, there are a few major factors that should be considered: the appearance of the blossoms, the colour of the flowers, the hardiness of the plant, and its general growth.

Here are some of the most popular rose varieties:

  • Bonica. Are you tired of your roses dying? Consider the Bonica. Bonica is one of the “indestructible” breeds of rose, and it’s still quite pleasant to look at with its heavy, extravagant petals. Bonica can be planted in full sun or partial shade.
  • Honey Perfume. If you want to wake up and smell the roses, you want Honey Perfume. A highly fragrant rose, the Honey Perfume doesn’t grow very tall, but it does throw a lot of scent. It has clusters of dense flowers that are extremely showy.
  • Orchid Romance. So named due to its pale pink, orchid-like colour, Orchid Romance is a relatively low maintenance rose species. It has beautiful blossoms with small, complex flowers, and a scent that reminds one of citrus. This double rose will have large, noticeable blossoms that make great additions to a vase.
  • Knock Out. Red, pink, and yellow flowers are available in the Knock Out variety. Knock Out is one of the lowest maintenance varieties of rose, but unfortunately it also doesn’t throw a lot of scent. If you love the beauty of roses but you have allergies, the Knock Out might be best.
  • Madame Issac Pereire. Choose the Madame if you want a heavy, romantic French rose. The Madame is a true rose that thrives in bright sun, and that provides excellent fragrance throughout.
  • Mister Lincoln. Small, deep red flowers make this tea rose hybrid a great choice for those who want to assemble their own homemade bouquets. This deep red rose has excellent colour and scent.
  • Mother of Pearl. If you want yourself a shrubbery, you want the Mother of Pearl. A classic shrub rose, the Mother of Pearl produces large, white flowers that are quintessential “roses.” It lives up to its name with its beautiful peach interior that turns into a deep, lovely cream.
  • New Dawn. A climbing rose, New Dawn comes with delicate-looking, full blooms. It’s one of the hardiest climbing roses available, and can grow in many environments.
  • Rainbow’s End. A miniature, sun-loving rose that grows only one to two feet tall, Rainbow’s End is a beautiful choice for container gardens. Rainbow’s End has flowers that are a warm golden inside with bright red edging.
  • Zephirine Drouhin. A thornless variety with delicate blossoms, the Zephirine is perfect for painless landscaping. These roses will grow in full sun or partial shade, and are a fairly resilient climbing variety. But don’t try to use it for a hedge!
pink roses in a garden
Pink Roses in a Garden

Depending on where you live, you may see vastly different varieties when you go to your local nursery. But you should ask questions about the hardiness of the varieties and any differences of their care.

Planting roses are just like planting any other bush or shrub. You will dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball, and a few inches deeper. Place the root ball into the hole, spread the roots, and then backfill with high-quality soil and a small amount of fertiliser like Richgro black marvel premium rose food. Water frequently as the plant is establishing itself.

You may also need to install garden stakes to keep your roses standing upright, especially standard roses. Drive 1-3 wooden stakes approximately the same height as the plant into the ground and use a webbing plant tie to support the plant. This is extremely important in windy areas.

Rose Blown Over In The Wind
Rose Blown Over In The Wind

Where to Buy

If you are looking to buy roses, we suggest you check out our friends at Treloar Roses. Treloar Roses have over 500 varieties of roses available that you can order online. Treloar Roses also offer delivery Australia wide.

Do you live in Hobart Tasmania? Check out our preferred local plant supplier Greenhill Nursery. They have a fantastic selection of Roses available.

Orange Rose
Orange Rose

Pruning Your Roses

Roses tend to have a bad reputation because many varieties required near constant pruning to remain healthy. Of course, decades ago people had more time to prune their roses. Luckily, modern roses don’t actually need as much pruning as former varieties. But they still do need some.

It can be quite intimidating pruning roses for the first time but fear not! It is much easier than you might think. Roses are usually very forgiving so if you do make a few mistakes, they will grow back 90% of the time. With this guide, along with some practice, you will become a pro in no time at all.

Let’s get into it.

Pink Rose
Pink Rose

When to Prune Roses

When you prune your roses really depends on your location. Typically, you would prune from June 1st to July 10th but it really depends on the last frost of the season. If you are in a warmer climate you can prune your roses as early as June but if you are in a colder climate it is safer to wait until early July. When considering whether to prune your roses, take into account the actual location of the rose plant as the plant may be susceptible to early morning frost due to the physical location of the rose plant. If you are not sure, you can ask your local gardener about when the ideal rose pruning time is for your area, but it’s generally when you would expect your last frost to occur.

Now, if you have a variety of rose like a Banksia rose you should not prune in June- July. These varieties of roses should be pruned when the flowering has stopped which is typically late spring/early summer. More information on Banksia Roses here.

White Banksia Rose

Deadheading Roses

During the summer, dead flowers can be cut back, this will promote new flowers to grow during the growing season, this technique is called deadheading.

To deadhead your rose simply identify a dead flower on the rose bush, from the top of the dead flower travel down the stem until you find a five-leaf junction (picture below). Now make a 45 degree cut on the stem just above the first five leaf junction. Be sure to make the cut away from the junction like you would make a cut above an outward face bud. Leave the remain leaves on the stem. This will promote new growth out of the junction and new flowers will form.

Deadheading your roses will ultimately lead to a healthier shrub and also a more attractive appearance. During autumn, the roses can be gently cut back if required.

How to Prune Roses, Step by Step

Pruning is the process of removing dead or damaged parts from the plant and preparing the plant to grow again. When you prune, you’re controlling the way the plant will grow. With roses, this is particularly important. Pruning is an art, and it really depends on how you want your plant to grow.

Step 1 – Remove 1/3 – 2/3 of the Growth off the top of your Rose Plant

To start, we want to remove the top portion of the plant so we can begin the actual pruning of the rose. This will allow easy access for us to remove the unwanted canes, crossing branches and deadwood.

Line depicting where to cut on the rose bush
Step 1 – Remove Bulk Of Material

Step 2 – Identify the Large Healthy Canes you Would Like to Keep

The reason we prune roses is not only to promote healthy new growth but also to keep a strong structure to support the weight of the roses when in full bloom. It also stops the plant from getting out of control. If the canes were left to keep on growing, it would snap the cane which would then invite disease and pests into the plant.

During this phase, we want to identify 3-5 strong canes (also known as framework branches) coming from the base of the plant. These canes should be healthy, green and thicker than a pencil. Try to choose canes that are evenly spaced around the base of the plant as this will minimise any issues down the track involving crossing branches, and promote good weight distribution throughout the growing season.

By choosing your main canes now and identifying the canes you would like to remove, it will save a lot of time accidentally over-pruning branches that you could have simply cut and removed at the base which would, in turn, have removed these branches with it.

Now that you have identified what canes you are going to keep, take a pair of sharp loppers or secateurs and cut the unwanted canes at the base of the plant. Once you have removed these canes, remove any dead or dying wood and crossing branches from the rose plant. This will assist in minimising any damage or disease spreading. If there are any suckers at the base of the rose plant, remove these too.

Step 3 – Pruning Your Main Canes

Now that you have the mass of the rose plant removed, you can now focus on pruning the main canes. Approximately 20cms from the base of the main canes, find an outward-facing bud node – this is where the new growth will come from. The reason behind finding an outward-facing bud is because we want to focus the new growth outwards away from the center of the plant. This will help with air circulation and minimise crossing branches during the growing season.

Before making the final cuts on your main canes, take into consideration any gaps that may need to be filled to maximise future main canes or to assist with weight distribution.

Now we can make the final cuts. Approximately 2-5cm above your outward-facing bud, make a 45-degree cut away from the bud. The reason we do this is so water doesn’t sit on top of the cut which can lead to cane rot. It is also to direct any water away from the bud. Remove any remaining deadwood or leaves from the rose plant as you go.

To remove the remaining leaves simply pinch the leaves where they meet the cane and slowly pull away and down from the cane. Apply more pressure away from the cane than doward pressure. This will ensure you don’t peel the outer layer of the cane away when you pull down, as this can damage the cane.

Step 4 – Fertilise and Mulch Your Roses

Once all of the pruning has been completed and the waste has been removed, apply an organic rose fertiliser, such as BLACK MARVEL PREMIUM ROSE FOOD to the base of your plant. Finish off by applying mulch. To do this, create a small well or bowl around the base of the plant, ensuring not to mound the mulch up against the cane. Placing the mulch too close to the base can cause cane rot. You can use an organic mulch or a sugar cane mulch.

And that’s it. You have pruned your roses!

Caring for Your Roses

Roses need pruning, frequent watering, and fertiliser. You should fertilise your roses every two to three weeks during their growing season. You should stop fertilising your roses about two months before you usually get a frost. Proper fertilisation is important for fast-growing, healthy roses, and thick growing blossoms.

Roses should be watered every two or three days when they have first been planted, and once a week after that. When roses are in bloom, notice whether the flowers are wilting. If the flowers begin to wilt, it’s time to start watering the roses again. Roses can be overwatered, however, so it’s important to pay attention to the amount of moisture in the soil.

Red rose blossom
Red Rose Blossom

Common Issues With Roses

Black Spot

Black spots on your leaves mean that a fungus has likely started to grow across your rose plant. Remove any areas of the bush that have been affected and then treat the rest with a fungicide. Black spot is a critical issue and can quickly spread.

rose-black-spot-disease
Rose Black Spot Disease

Rosy Rosette Disease

This is an untreatable disease in roses that is typified by red growth, thicker stems, and more thorns. When this disease takes hold, affected plants need to be removed. Wild plants often carry this disease, so you should remove any wild-growing plants close to your roses.

Rosy Rosette disease
Rosy Rosette Disease – Dirt Doctor

Rose Mosaic Disease

Yellow, wavy lines on roses may mean that it has Rose Mosaic disease. This disease often causes infected plants to weaken, and these plants need to be disposed of.

rose mosaic disease
Rose Mosaic Disease – PNW Handbooks

Rose Rust

Orange spots on leaves is due to rust, but not the type of rust you might think. Like black spot, this is a fungus. There are fungus-resistant varieties of rose, but once rust has struck, your only recourse is to manually remove it by removing each affected leaf. Try to provide better air circulation if fungus continues to grow.

Stem Canker

Stem Canker appears as brown spots that spread across the stems of your roses and eventually cause them to die back. Canker occurs when the plant is generally unhealthy, so make sure to manage black spot and other potential ailments.

stem canker on rose
Stem Canker on Rose – Missouri Botanical Garden

There’s a reason why roses are such a mainstay for any garden. They are attractive and fragrant, and they don’t have to be difficult to care for. They may be a little more demanding than many other shrubs and plants, but they can also be low maintenance if you choose the right variety. Consider which rose you get carefully and you’ll be able to find the right one for you.

Bush of White Roses
Bush of White Roses

Let us know what your favorite variety of roses are in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “How to Prune, Select and Care for Your Roses [Definitive Beginner’s Guide]”

  1. Thanks for sharing a step by step guide. Really helpful! I had no idea what to do with my unkept roses, but I now have more of an idea.
    I have been able to identify that my rose plant has stem canker and will be addressing this asap.
    A question about deadheading: do you remove ALL leaves or leave some? And do you gently tear or cut leaves to remove?
    Thanks so much!

    1. Harwood's Lawn Care

      Hi Elle, Thank you for your feedback!

      We have updated the deadheading section and the step 3 section of the guide to expand on these topics.

      I hope this helps. Let us know if we missed anything else.

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