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Pruning old roses question

Pip15Pip15 Posts: 4


I have inherited these two old roses on our new house and guess I need to prune them?

Any advice on when and how would be appreciated - don’t want to kill them by doing the wrong thingimageimage

Last edited: 24 January 2018 20:30:49



  • Depending on the weather  would wait till late Feb or March, though it gets protection from the wall so you may get away with it now.  The normal reason given for not pruning too early is concern about frost damage to the exposed buds on the pruned branch. In terms of pruning take away any very thin weak or poorly placed or damaged  branches. Then take a good look  to see what you want where. Prune back to a bud that is going in the direction you want. More than anything it  looks as though it could do with a good feed and mulch.  See how they do this season but I have to say though long lived roses do not last for ever if it is really very old it may just be past it's best. If its a rose you like & want to keep then take hardwood cuttings to try to propagate a new one. If you replant in the same place you would have to dig out the soil in the bed & replace it to avoid what is known as replant disease. There is more good pruning advice on the GW website.

    AB Still learning

  • Pip15Pip15 Posts: 4

    Thank you Iain R

  • I started pruning my roses yesterday (because it was the 1st fine day for a long time but more rain to come). I was about to do the last one when I noticed that it had quite a few new buds (already!!). Dilemma... should I prune back the whole plant and lose the flowers or should I partially prune and maybe have some early flowers?

  • BorderlineBorderline Posts: 4,699

    Gerald wallis, it's always better to prune out old and long branches, even if you see new growth. Failing to prune your roses yearly will result in weak and 'leggy' shapes. Normally means, no leaves until mid-height, and also flowers mainly at the tops of the plant. As long as the weather is frost free, then you can prune. But, you still have time. I would wait till end of February to beginning of March. 

    Pip15, the climbing rose really needs cutting out on all branches that are accidentally growing behind the trellis. It's better to re-train the new branches to grow round the outer side of the trellis to minimise leaves rubbing against the wall. You can then tie the new growing stems in with a loose figure of eight shape to allow air to flow between stems and trellis.

    To start fresh, I recommend you prune down to the 4th row trellis. That way, you can re-train the shape on the outside. Always feed your plants in spring time. 

  • Thanks very much for the quick and clear reply. I usually cut them back quite hard a bit later, but there is no frost predicted for a while so I thought I'd take advantage of a sunny day.  I'll leave the last one till later. Gerald

  • Pip15Pip15 Posts: 4

    Thank you borderline

  • I just got my Feb copy of GW and there is an extensive article on Rose pruning.  I recall being told that in Regents park they prune all their roses right through the winter. Their argument is they have so many to do they start in November and work right through. They don't have time for the classic light trim in Autumn to stop wind rock & then the full prune in spring. Bear in mind this is central London with the heat island effect but they still get frost & (rarely) snow if the weather is cold enough. 

    AB Still learning

  • Mary370Mary370 Posts: 2,003

    Borderline............if pruned to fourth line of trellis, does that mean there will be no new growth below that line?  I have a couple of rose which I need to prune but am a total novice to pruning.  My roses would be similar to the above, but younger plants.

  • BorderlineBorderline Posts: 4,699

    Hi Mary370, usually that is what tends to happen. However, from time to time, a new shoot can start very low down but this is unpredictable. That is why, when pruning further down, you may sometimes need to look at the health of the stems and try to work out which stems will send out strong shoots. Pruning down very old and thick stems can cause them to stop growing sometimes, but that can force a new stem to grow from very low down too.

    If not sure, leave them to around 1.5 ft in height. Roses put on a lot of growth, so it's very important to lay thick layers of compost or manure after pruning. 

    I don't grow roses now, but when I did, I never added extra fertilisers, only a thick mulch of compost twice a year. Everyone has different methods. My mum always chops her roses down in late winter and tops up mulch three times in a year. You could never go wrong with generous layers. 

    It's not always advisable to prune so low down on near enough all branches, but since it's a new start, and many branches are caught accidentally behind the trellis, it's a good chance to start all over again. Also, on a narrow trellis like that, if you don't do this to at least half of the branches every year, you will get very few flowers and leaves lower down. I can't see how high the trellis reaches, but it may need contorting to bend over a window or door frame, so training throughout the growing season is just as important. After the initial training to cover the areas, it's just a case of thinning odd side branches and sometimes cutting back very weak or old branches much further down to start the re-training process again.

    Last edited: 26 January 2018 19:05:30

  • hogweedhogweed Posts: 4,053

    The growth on that rose looks very weak and spindly. Whether that is due to old age or whether just lack of care and attention, I don't know. Give it a good prune as advised and a good feed in the spring. I would recommend a good rose fertiliser for this plant to give it a good start. If it doesn't perform well this year, I would perhaps give it another year's grace and then howk it out if it still fails to perform. 

    'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement' - Helen Keller
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