How to Prune Tree Roses

Updated April 17, 2017

Tree roses come in a delightful array of colours, fragrances and types. Sometimes also known as standard roses, they are actually a graft of a particular rose variety onto a well-established trunk and rootstock, usually selected for their hardiness. Tree roses need extra care to maintain their shape and symmetry. Proper pruning of bush roses can result in a healthier bush with more abundant blooms.

Prune tree roses most aggressively during late winter/early spring, when the tree rose is dormant--the leaves have all dropped off, and there are no signs of growth. Remove all dead or diseased wood.

Remove any canes that are crossing and on top of each other, and prune out spindly twigs and branches out of the centre of the bush to ensure light and air can circulate. This also helps reduce the risk of disease.

Prune back “leggy” canes--those extending beyond the tree rose’s shape-back to a bud or bud eye. Keep the overall shape as symmetrical as possible so that the foliage will fill in evenly during growth and blooming. Clean up all debris and dispose of properly to avoid pests and disease wintering on the trimmings.

Watch out for and remove and suckers that appear from the trunk or around the root, which can happen throughout the season. Cut them away as close as possible to their base.

Prune gently during blooming and growing season, trimming back canes that get too leggy, to maintain the rose’s symmetry.

Prune for blossoms. If you want to stimulate blooms, cut the rose branch at a 5-leaflet cluster. Prune about a ¼ inch above where the leaf stem meets the branch--the new bud is tucked in there. The resulting branch will be shorter and bloom sooner.

Keep an eye out for die back (branches turn yellow or black, then die) or diseased wood. This can happen throughout the season, and should be promptly removed.


Don't spray water on the bush immediately after pruning; you may increase the risk of infection on the “cut” because it literally is open. Give the "cut" a few hours to seal over. When pruning, always prune at an angle to prevent standing water on the “open wound” of the branch. This helps it seal more quickly. Some gardeners like to seal the open cuts on shrubs and bushes to minimise infection. For an environmentally friendly and child-safe option, consider using water-based wood glue.


Rose thorn scratches are prone to becoming infected. Clean scratches with soap and water, and then apply a disinfectant or antibiotic ointment.

Things You'll Need

  • Lopping shears or pruning saw
  • Gardener’s gloves
  • Pruning shears
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About the Author

Claudia Newcorn is the owner of marketing & communications agency Acorn Enterprises. She has been a freelance writer and editor for over 10 years. She writes for both businesses and individuals. Her articles appear in print and online newspapers and magazines. She is the author of an award-winning fantasy book, "Crossover".