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Withered roses are not a pretty sight. The number of flowers steadily decreases while the shoots grow longer and weaker. To save the plants, a radical pruning is necessary.

In a nutshell

  • The time to cut the roses is a frost-free, dry day in mid-February with extensive cloud cover
  • the tool used should be disinfected and sharp
  • pruning is carried out depending on the corresponding class of roses


Withered roses need an intensive pruning so that they can shine again in the garden. Important for this is the right time for the rose cut, which contributes a lot to the vitality of the plants. For example, if you cut in autumn, the weakened plants are unnecessarily exposed to the harsh winter cold, which they do not always survive. At the same time, you have to consider the timing depending on § 39 (General Protection of Wild Animals and Plants) of the Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG). The fifth section stipulates that shrubs such as Rosa may only be pruned radically over the following period: September 30th to March 1st. Depending on these regulations, the following pruning time for bare roses has been established:

  • mid to late February
  • Frost free
  • no sun exposure
  • dry

Notice: You can also use the flowering of the forsythia (Forsythia intermedia) as a guide when it comes to timing. This indicates when the radical pruning is recommended for bald roses.


One of the most important points when pruning roses is the tools you choose. Withered roses should only be pruned with appropriate tools to prevent wounds from developing. The following list goes into these including the other cutting utensils:

  • bypass scissors
  • Pruning shears or pruning saw (ideally with Japanese teeth)
  • long work or garden gloves (prick-proof)
  • Ladder (for climbing roses)
  • solid clothing
  • safety goggles

Be sure to use quality tools. This allows you to easily cut larger roses without the scissors or saw failing. If your roses are bald, you have to expect that they will develop numerous, robust spikes. These can lead to a variety of injuries if you do not wear appropriate protective clothing. Depending on the shape of the rose, you may even have to reach into the bush, which should never be done without gloves, a long-sleeved top, and safety goggles.

Tip: Be sure to disinfect and sharpen the tool before use to prevent bacteria, viruses or fungi from getting into the wounds.

Cutting the roses is one of the most difficult tasks and requires sensitivity.

Cut back dead roses

There are numerous types of roses that are bald and without lush flowers that require a radical pruning for rejuvenation. Compared to the other classes of roses, the instructions presented in this section lend themselves to several. This includes:

  • Noble roses
  • shrub roses
  • small shrub roses
  • bed roses
  • wild roses

They are all cut the same way:

  • work from the outside in
  • never remove green shoots
  • bare wood is brown and dry
  • remove dead shoots and branches
  • Use a saw or scissors depending on the thickness of the branch
  • Cut directly above grafting point

While you completely remove the bare branches and twigs, cut the rest back to a length of 25 to 40 centimeters. Always cut slightly above a bud or eye that is pointing outwards. In this way, the entire rose can be radically trimmed. In addition, make sure that you do not remove any fresh shoots. Only with this can the roses take on their original form before they are bald. Likewise, you must not cut directly into the grafting site, as this can permanently damage the growth. Finally, don't forget to remove any conspicuous wild shoots growing out of the ground below the base of the shrub. They do not bear flowers and use up the plant's energy reserves.

Cut back ground cover

Bald roses are not uncommon, even with the compact ground cover species. The radical cut is the fastest for the dwarfs and can be carried out without any problems. Cut off all branches and shoots that you can see on the plant, working from the outside in. Depending on their size, they are shortened by half, for which bypass scissors are ideal. You don't have to be precise with the ground covers.

Notice: Cut back dead dwarf roses in the same way. The varieties then sprout much more densely, which has a positive effect on the look and abundance of flowers in the coming season.

Cut back climbing roses

If your climbing roses are bare, you have a lot of work ahead of you. The sheer mass of clippings that rambler roses produce over the years, for example, requires extensive pruning measures. Especially with the species within this class you should not forget the protective clothing, as they grow very densely and individual shoots are not always easy to reach. You should also not forget your ladder to get to the difficult parts of the climbing rose. The following instructions will show you how to cut back:

  • Detach branches and shoots from the climbing aid
  • appraise
  • remove dead wood
  • Cutting height: 10 to 50 cm above the ground

Again, you should leave the young shoots. They allow the rose to sprout quickly. Do not be surprised. Climbing roses do not bloom until the second year after pruning. So you have to be patient.

frequently asked Questions

How should the clippings be disposed of?

If a rose becomes bald, it can be a carrier of viruses, bacteria and fungi. Even pests are not uncommon. For this reason you should never dispose of cuttings in the compost as this increases the risk of infesting other plants in your garden. Ideally, it is disposed of with the residual waste or handed over to the recycling center as green waste. Up to a certain amount, the leftovers are free of charge.

What is the radical cut good for besides rejuvenation?

The roses can easily be shaped after cutting. Since they are no longer bald, they can be trained to the desired shape. The new shoots are much easier to shape than the bare branches. The shaping of climbing roses after radical pruning is particularly effective.

Do all types of roses have to be cut annually after the radical pruning?

No, there are some species that do not need an annual cut and should only be thinned out a little to check. These include exclusively the native wild roses, for example the potato rose (Rosa rugosa), vinegar rose (Rosa gallica) or dog rose (Rosa canina). Due to their robust nature, they do not shed as quickly, which means that you do not have to use scissors as often.

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