Rose pruning ensures that plants grow vigorously and flower well each year. If left unpruned, bush roses such as hybrid teas (large-flowered) and floribundas (cluster-flowered) can become a tangled mess of branches with very few flowers. Although often considered complicated, rose pruning is not difficult if you follow this guide. Such roses fall into RHS Plant Selector pruning groups 15 and 16.
This method is suitable for all bush roses, whether they are hybrid teas or floribundas. If you have a bush rose, and don’t know what type it is, the best way to tell is by looking at the flowering habit.
Both types are repeat-flowering. Hybrid tea roses, (also called large-flowered roses) usually have only one flower per stem and tend to flower in three flushes from summer to late autumn. Floribundas (also called cluster-flowered roses) have many flowers per stem and tend to repeat-flower continuously from summer to late autumn.
If you inherit an overgrown rose and don’t know what type it is (and don’t want to wait until summer when it flowers), it is best to prune as for a hybrid tea.
When to prune floribund and hybrid tea roses
Roses can be pruned during late winter when growth is just resuming, usually in mid-February in the south, but in northern and colder areas wait until March.
How to prune
Floribunda roses (cluster-flowered) and hybrid teas (large-flowered) are pruned following largely similar techniques. The only difference is that floribunda stems are left longer with more buds on them to form the characteristic mass of flowers while hybrid teas are pruned low to promote vigorous new shoots.
To start with, cut out dead, diseased, rubbing and crossing stems. If the bush is crowded cut out some old shoots completely to keep the centre open.
Then proceed as for hybrid tea or floribunda roses, as follows:
Hybrid tea (large-flowered)
- Shorten back the strongest remaining shoots to four to six buds 10-15cm (4-6in) from the base, to the point where last year’s growth began
- Shorten back less vigorous shoots to two to four buds 5-10cm (2-4in) from the base
- At Wisley the aim is to cut out all three year old wood, leaving only younger more vigorous growths, which produce better flowers
- Cut back the strongest remaining shoots down to within 25-30cm (10in-1ft) of soil level
- Prune back less vigorous shoots more severely
- Occasionally some older stems can be pruned hard back to a few inches from soil level. This encourages stronger growth from the base
Guidance on pruning other types of roses can be found on separate pages;