When is it too late to prune roses? Expert advice from a professional gardener

Timing is crucial when pruning roses, and doing so at the right moment will produce a healthy plant and a profusion of blooms

Rose pruning with metal secateurs
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Pruning roses is a time-critical gardening job. Trimming at the right time will result in good growth and prolific blooming, whereas cutting at the wrong time can damage your rose and lead to a disappointing floral display. 

Roses are often considered the stars of the flower garden, producing lustrous flowers and heady perfumes throughout spring and summer. Understanding the correct approach to rose care and growing, and knowing when to prune roses is vital for ensuring that your roses bloom to their full potential. 

As a professional gardener, I worked in many private gardens in both the UK and Italy, with experience in pruning large climbing roses that graced pergola walkways and high walls, as well as established shrub and bush roses growing in garden borders. Here, I answer the question, when is it too late to prune roses? 

Rose blooming with pink-red flowers

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When is it too late to prune roses?

Knowing the correct time in the year to prune roses is important for gardeners to maximize blooms. While pruning times will vary depending on location and the type of rose, there are some simple rules to follow as a guide. 

When is the ideal time to prune shrub roses?

Rose pruning in winter with secateurs

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The ideal time to prune shrub roses is during late winter or early spring, depending on the species of rose and where you live. Pruning times will thus vary from person to person and may occur anytime from February to early April. 

The trick is finding just the right moment to get the pruning shears out. The ideal time is after the last frost but just as the new rose buds are beginning to swell. While it is hard to predict the weather, a quick inspection of rose stems will help to guide you. 

While it may feel too late, pruning in early April is often the most suitable time. Gardeners who reside in warmer regions, such as US hardiness zone 8, will find this confusing, as they can complete rose pruning much earlier than those in cooler, northern zones.

While pruning your shrub rose too late can impact negatively on growth, it is also problematic to prune too early. Remember that pruning stimulates new growth, which is good news so long as all risk of frost has passed. If you prune too early, the new growth that is produced will be particularly vulnerable to snow and frost, and if damaged, would need to be cut out. 

When is the ideal time to prune climbing roses?

Climbing rose on a trellis

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The ideal time to prune climbing roses is from late fall to mid-winter, much earlier than when you typically prune shrub roses. There are many rose varieties, so I recommend doing your research to identify the right timing for the specific rose that is growing in your yard. 

Climbing roses typically respond better to pruning during this window, and in pruning at this time you will be able to identify which stems are performing well, and which should be trimmed back or removed. It is not recommended to prune climbing roses during early spring, other than removing any dead wood. 

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What to do if you forget to prune your rose?

Pruning roses in late winter with a pair of pruning shears

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If you forget to prune your shrub rose and it is too late in spring, the best thing you can do is to delay your pruning until early summer. 

You can tidy up your shrub rose, by cutting any thin stems or weak growth, and removing any dead or damaged stems that appear brown or black. It is best to leave any healthy green growth, tying in these new stems if they need support. 

Following this approach, you can enjoy the spring flowering of your shrub rose, and prune after blooming has finished, usually around the start of summer. If pruning is completed early enough in summer, around June, your rose will have plenty of time to produce lots of new growth that can harden off before winter. 

Climbing roses are not pruned in the summer months, although if necessary, you can do some light trimming after flowering. For any significant pruning, it is best to hold off and wait until the fall. 


When should I prune climbing roses? 

When thinking about how to prune climbing roses, it is best to do so in late fall or early winter. Doing so at this time allows gardeners to inspect the climbing rose and remove any stems that are not growing well, trimming down to the base, while leaving 3 or more central stems with healthy, vigorous growth. 

When is the right time to deadhead a rose?

For those wondering when to deadhead roses, the answer is a simple one. You should deadhead roses at all times through the growing season to encourage repeat blooming. In doing so, you are preventing the rose from expending energy on producing fruits and seeds, thereby encouraging the rose to produce more flowers. Stop deadheading from September, from which time you want to allow the spent flowers to develop into rose hips.

Correct rose pruning and knowing when it is too late to prune roses is important in preparation for the growing season ahead. There are many other plants to prune in spring, such as woody herbs and flowering shrubs, which will also benefit from maintenance at the start of the year. 

Thomas Rutter
Content Editor

Thomas is a Content Editor within the Gardens Team at Homes and Gardens. He has worked as a professional gardener in gardens across the UK and in Italy, specialising in productive gardening, growing food and flowers. Trained in Horticulture at the Garden Museum, London, he has written on gardening and garden history for various publications in the UK.