Issue: August 25, 2007

Pruning roses in summer

My roses have grown well this summer.In fact, they have grown too well. Some branches have grown enough to be a nuisance to people walking on the sidewalk. I don't want them to scratch people, but I also don't want to hurt the roses. Is it safe to prune these long branches in the summer?

Kay K.


Yes, you can prune the offending branches even in the summer. It is true that the best time to prune many plants is during their dormant season, but to protect public safety (and your friends as they approach your home), you should remove the branches now. This holds true for tree branches blocking the view of traffic or interfering with people walking on public sidewalks.

In the case of your roses, you can prune the branches back just enough to clear the sidewalk, but when the branches begin to grow again, you will still have a problem. It is better to cut the branches back enough to prevent problems from any additional growth that develops this year. However, remember that by carefully selecting the location to which you prune it, you can direct growth away from the sidewalk and may not need to cut as much as you thought. If you choose to cut back to a bud on the side of the rose branch away from the sidewalk, or in a position such that it will grow parallel to the sidewalk, you can minimize the size of the branch you cut. It is best if summer pruning is not as severe as dormant season pruning.

You may be able to avoid this problem in the future if you remember that cutting rose blossoms for indoor use or removing the old blossoms as they fade (dead-heading), is a great opportunity for summer pruning. The branches growing too close to the sidewalk can be the source of those coveted long-stemmed roses for indoor use. When dead-heading, consider the direction in which new growth will develop and cut back to a bud that will grow in a direction that does not interfere with sidewalk traffic. You should normally choose to prune so that growth develops in a non-crowded direction to avoid damage as branches cross and rub against each other. This should remain a consideration, but the direction of new growth relative to the sidewalk should also be considered.

So, prune your roses as needed now and enjoy the new flowers that will develop in the late summer and fall.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

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