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How to Fix Leggy Roses

Updated February 21, 2017

"Leggy" is a gardening term used to describe any rose, or other plant, that has bare stems near the ground and bushy foliage and flowers at the top. This condition is caused by too much moisture, lack of sunlight or other cultural problems. Pruning fixes leggy rose bushes by encouraging the lower portions of the stems to develop more leaves. While pruning temporarily reduces flowering, it creates a more sturdy plant.

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  1. Wait until you see the first green leaves on the rose in the early spring, which means it is coming out of dormancy. In the Southern states this may be as early as February, while in Northern states it occurs much later. Do not prune if frost threatens, since it may kill the rose.

  2. Put on gardening gloves to protect your hands from the rose thorns and wear long sleeves as well.

  3. Cut off all of the vertical rose canes by one-third using hand pruners. This causes the lower portions of the stems to create additional foliage. If you have hybrid tea roses, prune the horizontal stems back by one-third instead of the vertical stems.

  4. Wait until the late summer when the rose bush has stopped blooming for the year. Examine the base of the bush to see which of the vertical canes still have no stems or foliage within 1 to 2 feet of the ground.

  5. Grasp any cane that is still leggy and cut it off approximately 1 inch above the ground.

  6. Repeat the process to prune off one or two other leggy canes in the same manner.

  7. Tip

    The second pruning may prevent additional blooms from developing in the summer but will develop additional foliage the following spring.

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Things You'll Need

  • Garden gloves
  • Long sleeves
  • Hand pruners

About the Author

Kimberly Johnson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in various online publications including eHow, Suite101 and Examiner. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and began writing professionally in 2001.

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