Gardening courses 2024

Pruning Roses - the modern bush rose.

Pruning is something that a lot of people really worry about doing “right” and roses are no exception. The most important starting point when pruning a rose is defining the rose group which your rose falls into; for example, there are marked differences between how and when you prune a rambling rose, compared with that of a climbing rose.

With an aim of keeping it simple, this week’s post is going to concentrate on modern bush roses, which are pruned when dormant, between autumn and March.

What are “modern bush roses?”

Modern bush roses are highly cultivated roses, that have been developed to flower repeatedly from late spring, throughout the summer, and often into late autumn. They are compact plants in comparison to the shrub roses, lacking their very upright habit, so they are often the perfect choice for borders.  

Bush roses are split into two main groups; the large- flowered (hybrid tea) and the cluster flowered (floribunda) roses. Large flowered bush roses have one flower at the end of their stem where as cluster flowered roses have a group of flowers at the end of their stem.

 floribunda.jpg hybridtea.jpg

Cluster-Flowered (floribunda) rose                                Large-flowered (hybrid tea) rose

Principals of pruning

Bush roses flower best on strong new growth that is made during the current growing season. To encourage this growth, we cut the rose back hard. It can look very severe, but the most common cause of an unproductive bush rose is lack of pruning, not over pruning. The aim is to remove all unproductive and unhealthy shoots and to shorten what remains.

Large-flowered Bush roses.

These can be pruned as soon as they become dormant in autumn, but the ultimate time to prune is from mid-February to early March. If you are concerned about the plants becoming damaged by winter storms, you can reduce the stems by up to half their height in autumn and then finish the job of before spring is under way.


-          Remove all damaged, diseased and dead stems, cutting down to the base of the plant

-          Remove or shorten any stems which are crossing each other, or growing inwards, cutting just above a low, outward facing bud

-          Remove any spindly shoots, less than the thickness of a pencil.


-          Shorten the remaining stems to about 15- 25cm, cutting just above an outward facing bud.

-          With established plants (3 yrs. from planting), prune one in three of the oldest stems back to near ground level.

In Spring

-          Add a granular rose feed around the base of the plants and mulch with compost or wood chippings




Cut just above an outward facing bud, angling the cut away from the bud.

Cluster-flowered bush roses

These are pruned in a very similar way to the large-flowered roses. However, the remaining stems are not pruned back so drastically.


-          Remove all unwanted growth as per the large-flowered rose


-          Shorten the remaining stems to 25-30cm, cutting to an outward facing bud

In Spring

-          Add a granular rose feed around the base of the plants and mulch with compost or wood chippings