How far should I cut back on rose bushes?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hi, Bruce in Kentucky: Roses are an old-fashioned favorite and some require more maintenance than others, but if you are pruning to control size or rejuvenate an older plant the best time do this is late winter/early spring before new growth begins. So, anytime between now and early spring is fine to cut back your roses. Pruning while they are dormant will make them less susceptible to winter injury and other potential problems. If your reason for pruning is to remove dead or diseased canes, this can be done anytime of the year; it is in the best interest to remove these canes as soon as you notice them to prevent disease spread. As a general rule, you do not want to remove more than one-third of the size of the rose during one season. If you are pruning an older neglected plant, you will want to prune one-third this year and then continue to take off another third during consecutive years to maintain the size you want. Remember to use a clean, sharp, and rust-free pair of pruners. Make your cuts flush to the nearest intersecting branch so there are no stubs and remove all crossing or rubbing canes.