Deadheading and Pruning Roses

Rose Care

Q: When and how should I deadhead and prune my roses?

A: Deadheading—the removal of spent flowers—is a form of pruning. Before making pruning decisions about your roses, it is best to determine the type of rose, and how and when it blooms. Roses are divided into different types based on common characteristics.

Pruning cuts should be made on a 45-degree angle, ¼ inch above an outward-facing bud or five-leaf axil. Dead, diseased, spindly, or crossing branches can be removed at any time.

Spent flowers on hybrid tea, floribunda, and grandiflora roses should be removed regularly to encourage rebloom. Deadheading should not be done after Labor Day to avoid encouraging new growth that may be damaged by early cold temperatures and to allow the plant to produce hips (fruits of roses that contain seeds). Many roses—especially old garden roses—produce large hips, which provide good winter interest.   

Most shrub roses require no pruning except to reduce their height, if desired. Shrub roses such as the ‘Knock Out’ series are self-cleaning and will rebloom continually throughout the growing season with no deadheading necessary. They can be lightly pruned in early spring as the plants begin to leaf out in order to regulate their height and to remove winter-damaged cane tips.

Climbing and rambling roses are generally pruned to train them to grow on support structures or to reduce their height. Rambling roses can also be allowed to sprawl naturally with no pruning required except to control size. If pruning is necessary on climbers or ramblers that only bloom once, it should be done immediately after flowering, because blooms are produced on old wood.

Please contact Plant Information Service at (847) 835-0972 or plantinfo@chicagobotanic.org for additional information.