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How to Cut Back Overgrown Rose Bushes in 4 Simple Steps

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Who Doesn’t Love to Have Those Roses

I admit I have been a little overzealous in my love for the rose flower. I have tended to over a dozen varieties of rose plants in my pots and yard. I now have a bed of roses of about 15 varieties.

However, once upon a time, due to my hectic work schedule, my plants got neglected. Some of my rose plants died due to black spots, while some others due to powdery mildew. From what was left of my garden, I faced a huge problem of overgrown rose bushes.

Most of you all who have roses in gardens know what it is like to have overgrown bushes! They make for such an unpleasant sight! Do you feel the need to ask fellow gardeners about the right way to cut back thick rose bushes?

Probably, some of you may not be facing this problem yet. However, there comes a time when your garden can be a mess.

Over the years, I have learned the right way to prune rose bushes. I would now like to share my experience on “How to Cut Back Overgrown Rose Bushes

How to Cut Back Overgrown Rose Bushes
via Pixabay

Tools and Safeguards Required to Trim Those Colourful Plants

In order to make gardening a safe and enjoyable activity, it is essential to take all the necessary precautions. When you have decided to go for the trimming of your precious plants, you will need some tools to get started.

Also, you will have to be dressed in suitable attire when on the job. Some of the tools and accessories you will need are:

Bypass Pruning Shears

These shears are useful to give sharp, clean cuts to your overgrown rose plant. Use the curved blade on the underside of the cane for a cleaner cut. You will have to invest in a good pair if you are going to tend your garden. Also, keep them sharp. Some shears have replaceable blades too.

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Bypass Loppers

This long-handled and long-bladed tool is handy for cutting thick canes. Loppers come in many sizes, and you will need a good pair of loppers to cut mature or climbing roses.

Pruning Saw

For the thicker branches or canes and live trees and shrubs, use a pruning saw. There are pruning saws intended for a particular type of branch or stem. They are ideal for cutting canes that are thicker than 1.5 inches.

Hydrogen Peroxide

You will need this to disinfect the blades of your tools before you begin cutting. So, dip your equipment in this before you start your pruning.

In addition to the above, you will need:

Long-Sleeved Shirt and Pants

You will be working with thorns. So it is of utmost importance to have an appropriate gardening attire on. Also, there could be tiny insects lurking in the thick bushes.

Hence, to avoid being pricked by thorns, being bitten, or being injured by the instruments, be fully-clothed. You may even consider wearing heavy-duty shirts and pants that will prevent the thorns from piercing and scraping your skin.

Heavy Gloves

For this type of activity, you will need thick gloves. You not only have to protect yourself from the thorns and the insects, but also from any injury to your hands.

Besides, it will give you a good grip too. Gloves made of coated or leather material will do. However, choose special rose gloves for planting, pruning, or tending roses.

This type of glove is made of heavy canvas or leather and is styled like gauntlets. These gloves cover the wrist and forearm from accidental scratches.


Apart from injuries to your body when gardening, your eyes could be prone to injuries too. Any damage or infection to the eye will be more painful and expensive also.

Besides working with thorns, you will need to protect your eyes from gardening chemicals, harsh sun, and foreign bodies. Use prescription or non-prescription safety glasses.

They are designed to protect your eyes as they have thick frames and stronger lenses. You may not need splash goggles, the type required when working with gardening chemicals. However, if you have sprayed any chemicals, do use them.

Thick-Soled Footwear

To protect your feet from getting pricked by thorns, a good pair of thick-soled footwear is a must.

Wood glue/Nail polish

You will need wood glue to seal the canes you cut. Alternatively, you can use nail polish for the purpose.

Rose Plant Food

This is any balanced fertilizer with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in it. While the nitrogen in the plant food helps the plant in its growth, phosphorus is good for the roots. The entire plant for its growth requires potassium in the rose food.

How to Cut Back Overgrown Rose Bushes?

Roses are known to be challenging to grow. Follow the steps mentioned below to give a well-maintained look to your rose plants.

1. Pruning

This is THE most important, THE most painful and THE most elaborate step too. That is because you will have to cut even some overgrown healthy stems and leaves of the plant.

Please be assured that pruning will not kill your rose plant. Pruning makes the plant healthy and gives flowers throughout the season while controlling its growth.

Inspect and remove remaining leaves

Have a good look at your rose plant. Your rose plant will be intertwined on the ground. There will be a lot of growth at the base, and there will be canes with fuzzy tips than buds. After removing the leaves, you can see the structure of the bush.


A very crucial part. This the real pruning part. Begin by cutting the outside of the bush with hand pruners to get to the center of the plant. Roses open at ground level for sunlight. To enable your plant to get sunlight, cut the dead or dried wood will be brown. Or cut a cane and check whether it is green or brown.

If its green, it is alive. Cut it as close to the base as possible. Then cut the crossing branches which can rub, cause damage and encourage diseases.

While you are at it, make sure you leave the outward- and upward-reaching canes. Allow a third of the remaining strong canes to stay. Canes of the size of the diameter of the pencil can stay.

When cutting, make sure you cut each stem about ¼ inch on top of the leaf bud facing outwards. Make a 45- degree angle by cutting it slant-wise away from the bud.

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Remove other thin twigs, twigs thinner than the pencil as they will produce very few blooms.

Remove all the dead cane. For this, you will have to use your pruning saw. Their black or reddish-black appearance can identify these dead canes. They can be yellow or splotchy, with almost no green.

Remove the diseased canes.

Remove any sucker growth below the graft. Any new vertical growth extending from the main cane is a sucker growth. Suckers will not bear flowers at all, or if they do, they will not be of good quality.

Prune new growth into the shape that you want your plant to take. Shape your rose plant like a vase.

2. Sealing the Growth with Glue

Though this is an optional step, we choose to mention it here in case you need it. You may want to seal the stem in case there are cases of rose borers in your area.

Rose borers develop from the eggs of several types of wasps or beetles laid on fresh cuts. The growing larvae eat their way into the pith at the center of the cane. This causes the leaves to wilt and the cane to die.

To prevent this, apply wood glue to the exposed stem to seal them and prevent wood borers from getting into them. This will also prevent them from rot and acquiring any fungal disease. You can use the easily-available nail polish to seal the fresh wound too.

3. Clean Up The Foliage

After you are done with all the cutting, you will have made a heap of foliage. Discard the canes and leaves by burning them. This will prevent the festering of any plant disease. Do not use it as compost.

4. Apply Rose Plant Food

After you have cleared the plant of old, diseased, and dead cane, the plant has to be fed the right food. Roses are ‘huge eaters,’ requiring proper nutrition.

Fertilizing the plants gives them all the nutrients essential for their growth. Use good quality rose food at the base of the plant.

A slow-release fertilizer that releases nutrients slowly over a long time to keep your plant well-fed is ideal. Rose plants need fertilizers with a mix of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.


These are some of the tips that you may find useful when you are contemplating a pruning exercise.

  • The best time to cut back overgrown rose bushes in spring. This is the time when the buds start to swell on the rose plants. By spring, the bumps on the canes will be huge and reddish. Time your pruning before the buds open.
  • Alternatively, you know it is time to prune roses when the forsythia blooms
  • In the summer, anytime is good to cut the dead flowers. This will ensure more blooms and, thus, a pleasing shrub.
  • After the first frost, trim longer stems to prevent them from snapping.
  • Avoid keeping rose bushes top-heavy, lest they get uprooted with strong gusts.
  • If your rose is a one-time bloomer, prune after they bloom.
  • But be careful not to prune old wood, for they bloom on old wood.
  • Hybrid teas need more pruning than climbers of floribundas. While miniatures need to be pruned a few inches above the ground and need to be divided every two years.
  • Most importantly, avoid pruning too much for it will stoke new growth, and this growth could be stymied by the freezing weather.


You can say I have been able to put up this article after a few years of self-learning. We have attempted to put together this article from my personal experience.

I have looked up a million resources to get cutting of overgrown rose bushes right. It has been an enjoyable learning journey, though. We did not want people with similar queries to go through a grueling time looking for answers.

We hope that we have solved your queries satisfactorily. We are sure by following this article you will get good results.

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