Pruning rose bushes during the summer

I am a neurotically detail-oriented Virgo daughter of a must-have-things-visually-orderly Libra mother, so, of course, against the advice of every proper rose planting guide out there, I spent a few hours pruning our unwieldy and crispy rose bushes this past warm June weekend. While most of my effort went towards deadheading spent blooms, I also took it upon myself to give one of our yellow rose bushes a hard prune, removing faded blooms as well as dead wood, crossing branches, and awkward growth. 

When to cut back roses

While you can deadhead roses all throughout the growing season, you’re really only supposed to give them a hard prune during the cool winter months when your rose bush is dormant. Cutting back roses when it’s hot outside can release sap and weaken your plant’s disease-fighting mechanisms. But since our bush was becoming quite the eye sore with tall branches and crispy yellow-brown leaves, I went in with the big guns: our giant Fiskar loppers.

Hard pruned rose bush

How to trim rose shrubs

Following standard pruning technique, I did try to use clean pruners/loppers and cut at a 45-degree angle above sets of five leaves. Other than observing these general rules, everything else was fair game. I went in first with my regular pruners to cut spent blooms and small dead growth. Then, I tackled taller awkward, crossing branches with the loppers. 

The good news was, I didn’t try to cut off more than half of the bush, which could send it into shock. It actually took quite the effort to make clean cuts to about a third of the plant, even with giant loppers — I was working with some thick, tough stems! I also didn’t want to risk injuring myself, so I kept my hard pruning operation somewhat short and sweet. (After nicking myself a few times last summer, I learned the hard way to always wear gloves when cutting roses!)

Cut rose branches

I hard-pruned quite a few rose bushes during the dog days of July and August last year, and we’re still seeing prolific blooms this year. So I’m tentatively optimistic about this rose bush’s prospects, but it’s definitely a wait-and-see kind of situation. 

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