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Pruning a leggy rose bush

Val Bourne / 24 July 2018

Gardening expert Val Bourne advises on how to prune a leggy rose to encourage bushier growth.

Bushy rose
Pruning a rose bush correctly is key to encouraging bushy growth


My rose bush is tall and leggy, with barely any side shoots. How should I prune it to encourage bushier growth?


Rose pruning regenerates roses and keeps them vigorous and compact, so this rose probably needs a good prune. It needs be done ever year when the rose is dormant. Choose a clement day in January or February and use sharp secateurs such as Felco number 6. Different types of roses are pruned in different ways. You can take the stems of hybrid tea roses down to 6 inches in height. Floribundas are pruned to 18 inches and shrub roses, including David Austin's English roses, have one third of their stem removed. Take out the three D’s, diseased, dying and damaged wood, at the same time. Brown stems are easy to spot in winter. Open the rosebush up to form a cup shape, leaving 5 to 6 stems intact so that air can flow through the middle. This lessens the chance of fungal disease. Once the leaves begin to appear in April, feed your rose. Vitax Q4 is excellent and easier to apply than well-rotted manure.

If it's still leggy and sparse next year, it may be a poor variety, or it may be a growing in too much shade. Dig up your rose in either case and plant a new rose in a different position. Opt for a bare root rose, because these are cheaper and easier to establish. If you're not sure what to plant contact a good rose grower such as Peter Beales ( and ask them for advice. Modern roses are often healthier than old-fashioned heritage varieties, so do take their advice.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.