How to Prune a Rugosa Rose Bush

Updated February 21, 2017

In the world of roses, rugosa are known as the workhorse of the garden. The rose is a variety of shrub rose that landscapers recommend for urban plantings because they are salt tolerant, disease resistant and cold hardy. This rose variety has wrinkled, leathery leaves. Cultivars of rugosa produce white, pink, yellow or magenta blooms from spring until fall. Shrub roses like rugosa should be pruned to remove weak growth, dead wood or damaged canes.

Prune your shrubs between late fall and early spring when the roses slip into their dormant period. Rugosa will recover best from pruning during this period.

Sharpen your shears before pruning rugosa roses by drawing a sharpening stone down the length of the blade. Making clean cuts with a sharp pair of shears will help curb infection and disease.

Mix a solution containing one part bleach and nine parts water. Soak a clean cloth in this solution and wipe your shears before pruning to clean them. This will help prevent the spread of diseases.

Pull on a pair of sturdy leather gloves before pruning your plants. Rugosa roses have thorns that can scratch or cause damage to your hands.

Remove dead, diseased or damaged rose canes by cutting the cane back to the nearest healthy growth. Make the cut at a 45-degree angle 1/4 inch above an outward-facing bud.

Inspect the centre of the wood that you have cut. This area, which is called the pith, should be white. If this area of wood is brown, it is dead. Continue to cut sections of the rose until you locate healthy, white pith.

Remove branches that grow inward toward the centre of the plant. This opens the plant up to improve circulation and allows sunlight to penetrate into the centre of the plant.

Locate crossing branches and remove the weakest of the two branches. Crossing branches will rub and damage one another.

Look below the bud union where the rose stems join the rose roots. Prune away any growth that appears below this bud union. This growth is known as sucker growth. It will pull energy from the plant and stunt its development.

Shape the plant by removing 1/3 of the oldest canes. This will also help rejuvenate the plant. Apply a water-soluble, nontoxic white craft glue to the cut surfaces of the canes to prevent cane borers from attacking them.

Things You'll Need

  • Bleach
  • Sharpening stone
  • Pruning shears
  • Clean cloth
  • Gloves
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About the Author

Tracy Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Arkansas.