Spring Pruning



We have spent the last two weeks in a swirling cycle of “on again, off again” weather that has somewhat inhibited our efforts to complete our spring pruning of the rose garden. We are in the 60’s one day, and the 40’s the next. Steadfast in the knowledge that warmer days are fast approaching, we braved wind, rain and freezing temps to complete the task at hand.

I follow 3 D’s when pruning roses in spring

  • Remove DEAD canes
  • Remove DISEASED canes
  • Remove DAMAGED canes

I also look for and remove crossing canes that rub against one another and will ultimately damage one another.  Since modern repeat blooming roses bloom on new wood, I tend to prune them low, down to about 18-24 inches from the ground. As you can tell from the photos, our roses are already putting out new growth, so it was very easy to tell where to cut. If possible, you want to cut where the new growth is facing away from the center of the shrub. This new outward growth promotes good air circulation in the center of the shrub. This is an important factor in keeping down disease.

I do not prune my climbing roses at this time. I continue to allow them put out new growth. I don’t prune them until after the first cycle of bloom. Then I trim and shape as needed. This also applies to any once blooming roses I have in my garden.

We weed and remove any debris that may have fallen or blown into  our rose beds during the winter. Diseased leaves will overwinter in your garden and if you fail to remove them, it will cause you disease problems in the spring.  We apply a fresh layer of mulch during this time.  This new layer of protection will keep weeds down and help with moisture retention. We use mini pine bark nuggets. It beaks down quickly in the garden and adds to the mix of the soil.

I had the help of three great tools in the garden made pruning 125+ rose shrubs a lot easier

  1. A sharp pair of bypass pruners – Do Not use anvil type pruners. They can damage your roses. 
  2. A pair of gauntlet gloves – allows you to get in “up to your elbows” as needed. Wendy Tilley at TheRoseGardener.com has these at a great price. 
  3. A good set of loppers – Needed for removing the 3 D’s from your garden. Mine are actually a two handed pruner from Corona Tools USA 

By following these simple steps, help get my roses off to a good start for the bloom season that is surely ahead.

About Chris VanCleave - America's Favorite Rose Gardener

Christopher R. VanCleave – America’s Favorite Rose Gardener Nicknamed "The Redneck Rosarian”, Chris VanCleave is passionate about gardening and growing roses. He is an active member of the Birmingham chapter of the American Rose Society, serving two terms as President. In 2007, he created the Rose Chat Podcast which has reached over a half a million listeners with news and information on growing on growing the world’s most beloved flower, the rose. He was a contributor to the 2015 Southern Living Gardening Book, has appeared on P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home television show and was featured in the June 2015 issue of Southern Living Magazine. Locally, Chris serves as Chairman of the Helena Alabama Beautification Board where he has spearheaded efforts to create a sustainable landscape in one of the top one hundred places to live in the United States. His writing is seen at About.com and on his popular website; RedneckRosarian.com, where he chronicles his gardening adventures and explores an intrinsic mix of life, faith and gardening. An agent of change with over 20 years’ experience in process innovation, Mr. VanCleave is leading the charge to reinvigorate horticultural societies and helping them to reach their full potential in the social media age.
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15 Responses to Spring Pruning

  1. I have not pruned my clients’ Knockouts yet, and was feeling anxious about this ,but feel reassured by your post. Our spring has been awful. Gray and spitting snow.


  2. Pingback: Spring Pruning | Natural Soil Nutrients | Scoop.it

  3. Mark says:

    Wow, Chris, GREAT POST! The photos are a tremendous help, and LOVE those gauntlet gloves. I already pruned some of my hedge roses and my hands and arms are just now healing up. If I’d had good sense, I’d’ve used some gloves like those!


  4. We are having the same spring! I’m about three quarters through my pruning, but am going to try and finish up this weekend.
    I have a thorn lodged permanently in my left pointer finger. Gloves from now on!


  5. shemann says:

    great info Chris thanks!


  6. This post helps me feel more confident about my own rose pruning, especially the photos. Unfortunately I already pruned my climbers, a wild R. Setigera and a Darlow’s Enigma. Hopefully I won’t lose too many blooms.


  7. teamgloria says:

    oh you delicious rose-growing person!

    we shall return.



  8. Lona says:

    Your roses bushes are really leafing out Chris. Thanks for the tips.


  9. starproms says:

    You look so busy and absorbed. The roses look great. Must get myself some of those gloves. Keep pruning! We are still snowed in in England so mine will have to wait.


  10. Pat says:

    Hi Chris, I just recently found your website. Loving your posts…great to read about another Bama rose gardener’s experiences! Not sure why I’ve never thought of longer gloves. I’ve already finished my pruning, but will have to get some to have on hand.


  11. Pingback: Spring Pruning | Roses | Scoop.it

  12. Pingback: Spring Pruning | Life in the OC

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