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Timeline Through Landscape Design - ARCHIVES

Time to Prune Roses

Spring has sprung and I am back! I was on leave for quite some time but, I am happy to be back and blogging again.

Looks like it is time to prune my roses. In my area of northeastern Illinois the forsythia are in bloom so, it must be time to prune the roses. Many gardeners use this as a sign to remind them to prune roses. Late winter early spring is generally a great time to prune roses and many other woody plants. It is warm enough to avoid winter injury yet still cool enough to minimize the spread of insects and disease.

The example I have to share is pruning Knockout Roses which are a popular type of rose in the landscape. The breeders of Knockout Roses suggest that bushes will grow three time their size once cut back. Therefore if you cut your roses to one foot, they will be three feet by the end of the season. Knockout roses are considered a shrub rose and can be pruned using the one-third rule (See Photo 1).

The one-third method:


  • Remove one-third of the very oldest canes. This helps keep the plant from becoming an overgrown thicket of poor-flowering canes.
  • Replace these canes by identifying about one-third of the very youngest canes that grew the previous season.
  • Remove the remaining canes.


Important tips to remember when pruning roses:


  • Wear long clothing and thick gloves to prevent injury from thorns
  • Use a clean sharp pruners
  • Make cuts at a 45° angle (See Photo 2)
  • Cut ¼" above an outward facing bud


One handy tool I found to be useful are pruners that hold onto the stem after making the cut (See Photo 3 & 4). This allows you to place your cuttings directly into a bucket once the cut is made. Can you believe it? You never have to handle the thorny stems! If you ever pruned roses before, you know how painful these thorns can be.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to pruning roses. Remember that there are many species and types of roses. For more information on best pruning methods for each species please visit U of I Extension website on pruning roses.