Pruning Roses in Summer

August 28, 2021

Reprint by Dr. Curtis Smith from SWYG - Aug. 25, 2007. Intro by Dr. Marisa Thompson.

This time of year, we receive many questions about whether or not it's safe to prune landscape plants.

I found this column written by former NMSU Extension Horticulture Specialist Dr. Curtis Smith in August 2007 by searching the NMSU Southwest Yard & Garden Search Archives. For more details, try searching "pruning roses." And to access a column from last August addressing the same question for trees, search "prune landscape trees now."

For hands-on learning, reach out to a local rose society or garden club to see what activities they may have planned in a rose garden near you. The Albuquerque Rose Society offers "Deadheading Tuesdays" in the beautiful Albuquerque Rose Garden at Tony Hillerman Library until mid-September and other activities throughout the year.

Image of a peach rose.
This beautiful rose bush at the NMSU Agricultural Science Center Learning Garden is full of buds, but a few of the stems have gotten leggy and can be pruned back now to encourage new buds to bloom before the season’s end. First frost is expected in mid-October. Photo credits Marisa Thompson

Question:

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., Albuquerque

Answer:

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.

Image of another peach rose.


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 issues from any additional growth that develops this year. However, remember that by carefully selecting the pruning site, 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.

Image of yet another peach rose.
This long stem could have been pruned lower when deadheading, but I wanted to wait for the other buds to open completely. Photo credit Marisa Thompson

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: desertblooms@nmsu.edu, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.

Links:

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

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at desertblooms@nmsu.edu, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook page.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!