When is it too late to prune roses? Here's what the experts say

Because, yes, there is a right and a wrong time of year when it comes to pruning roses

Roses covered in winter snow
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Everyone knows that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, thanks to William Shakespeare, but a rose pruned at the wrong time of year? Well, doing so can cause issues – including a far slower growth time for new buds and flowers. 

This in turn means that, yes, if you set to work with your pruning shears when it's too late to prune roses, they genuinely might not smell as sweet (what would the Bard have made of that, eh?).

As such, while it's all well and good knowing how to prune roses for big, abundant blooms come springtime, it's every bit as important to know when to set to work, too.

When is it too late to prune roses? 

'Pruning during winter is crucial,' asserts the CEO of Paving Shopper, Steven Bell.

'It's not just about maintaining plant health; it's about preparing for the upcoming spring – but remember that pruning roses is something of an art form, best done when they're just waking up from their winter nap.'

Before you add this task to your list of winter gardening ideas, then, it's vital you take a moment to determine the cut-off point for cutting your roses back.

What you'll need

A red rose covered in snow during the winter

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Now that you've gathered all of your tools to hand, it's time to take a gander at your calendar – or, rather, your roses in general.

When is too late to prune roses?

Not to be mistaken for deadheading roses (this refers solely to removing dead flowers), pruning is focused entirely on cutting back all dead, diseased, dying and weak shoots.

As such, the 'best time to prune roses is generally in late winter or early spring, before new growth begins,' advises Morris Hankinson, director of Hopes Grove Nurseries.

Morris Hankinson of Hopes Grove Nurseries
Morris Hankinson

Morris Hankinson is the founder and managing director of Hopes Grove Nurseries Ltd, the UK’s only specialist grower-retailer of hedging plants, which he established after graduating with a Commercial Horticulture Degree from Writtle College, Essex in 1992.

You're basically aiming to set to work just before the dormant season ends which means that, as Morris explains, any signs of new growth will absolutely mean it is too late to prune roses.

'Pruning too late in the year can stimulate new growth that will likely be susceptible to late frosts,' he says, noting that any frost damage to these tender green shoots will mean that your rose's branches will need to be pruned back again. 

'And pruning at that stage can stress them out and might lead to fewer blooms,' agrees Steven. 

A person pruning a rose bush in the spring

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ideally, then, Morris says it's best to prune before the leaf buds start to swell but after the coldest part of winter has passed. 

'This is usually late February to early March, but it can vary based on the specific type of roses you have and your area,' he says, noting that it's usually best for northern and colder areas to wait until the latter.

And, 'if you catch your roses already bursting into life with new growth and buds, it's better to wait until next season entirely,' advises Steven.


How late can you prune roses UK?

It's not so much a case of when is too late to prune roses; it's more a matter of when it's too early. As such, you should aim to prune roses during late winter when growth is just resuming.

This usually works out to be around mid-February in the south, according to the experts, but in March for northern and colder areas. If you miss this window of opportunity, though, save your pruning efforts for after your rose's flowering period is completed.

When should I deadhead roses?

To encourage repeat flowering, it's important to remove any spent or faded roses that have gone over. Typically, then, the best time to do this is when your rose has finished its blooming phase and its petals are starting to wilt or drop.

There is, however, an exception to this rule: if your rose is one that produces hips, it's better to leave faded flowers. Deadheading prevents seed formation, which in turn encourages the plant to channel its energy into producing hips.

So, there we have it: you now have all the tools at your disposal to determine when it is too late to prune roses, which means you should be well on the way to the big blousy blooms of your dreams.

Just be sure to wear a strong pair of thorn-proof gloves and to wrap up warm when you set to work, too: it's cold out there!

Kayleigh Dray
Acting Content Editor

Kayleigh Dray became Ideal Home’s Acting Content Editor in the spring of 2023, and is very excited to get to work. She joins the team after a decade-long career working as a journalist and editor across a number of leading lifestyle brands, both in-house and as a freelancer.