When to prune roses – why experts warn against pruning in the autumn months

Gardening pros reveal what’s the perfect time and when it’s too late to prune roses

Red rose flower
(Image credit: Getty Images/m-kojot)

You’d be hard pressed to find an English garden with no roses in it. The national flower is the must-have of every self-respecting gardener it appears. But to do this favoured plant justice, one needs to learn how to properly take care of it - and knowing when to prune roses can make or break your plant.

The timing is key, as is the technique of how to prune roses. And there certainly are wrong times to prune a rose. And unfortunately, autumn is largely one of those times. So if you’re thinking of giving your plant a prune right about now, then put down those pruning shears or secateurs and read this expert guide to when to prune roses first.

When should I prune roses?

House with a front garden with a rose bush

(Image credit: Future PLC/Kasia Fiszer)

Firstly, don’t confuse pruning for deadheading roses. While the former is the process of removing any part of the plant, the latter refers to removing solely the spent blooms from the plant. 

But it’s not just about how to prune your roses. It’s very much about when, too, as pruning at the wrong time ‘can negatively affect your roses and cause further growing issues,’ says Steve Chilton, gardening expert from LeisureBench.

Steve Chilton portrait
Steve Chilton

Steve Chilton is a passionate and knowledgeable garden expert with several years of experience within the field. As the director of LeisureBench, an industry-leading garden furniture company, Steve has developed strong expertise for all things nature and plants. Steve is a keen educator and loves to share this knowledge with others. He strives to simplify complex garden practices and encourage eco-friendly gardening.

A yellow rose flower

(Image credit: Getty Images/PatrikStedrak)

And nobody’s ideal garden includes such an image. What we want are healthy and full rose blossoms. So what is the best time then? Similarly to when to prune hydrangeas and when to prune forsythia, roses should be left alone before and during the winter months when they’re dormant.

‘Generally, the best time to prune roses is at the beginning of spring, or at the end of winter. This is because these are the times where new growth starts, so your roses will be more reactive,’ Steve explains. 

Red rose flower

(Image credit: Getty Images/Kasemsan Chamrasamee)

FAQ

Should roses be cut back in autumn?

Autumn is not a recommended time of the year for pruning roses for several reasons.

‘It is not recommended to hard prune them during the autumn as the tips can then become damaged by frost and diminish the bloom time,’ says Jack Sutcliffe, co-founder of shed manufacturer, Power Sheds.

Petar Ivanov, gardening expert at Fantastic Gardeners, continues, ‘Pruning in autumn can also create fresh wounds on the plant and with the increased humidity in the fall, there's a higher risk of spreading disease to the plant. Fungal diseases, in particular, may take advantage of such open wounds and potentially cause problems during the winter months.’

‘Roses need a period of dormancy to rest and rejuvenate. Pruning in autumn can disrupt this natural process and may affect the overall health and strength of the plant.’

Pink rose flowers

(Image credit: Getty Images/Dmitry Potashkin)

When is it too late to prune roses?

Early autumn should be the absolute latest you light prune your rose plant. While the best time for hard pruning is early spring or late winter. 

‘The general rule of thumb is to avoid pruning too close to the time when the first hard frost falls in your area,’ Petar advises. ‘For example, it's generally not recommended to prune roses heavily in late fall because it can stimulate new growth that may not have sufficient time to harden off before winter.’ 

‘Late fall is a time for the rose to start slowing down and preparing for dormancy. Besides that, also avoid pruning during the winter months when the plant is dormant, which can make the rose more susceptible to cold damage.’

Petar Ivanov portrait
Petar Ivanov

Petar Ivanov is one of the company's top-performing experts and manages over six teams of gardeners, delivering stunning landscape results and fostering a deep connection with nature through his work.

If you stick to this very specific window of opportunity to prune your roses, then you’re set for success. Just please, don’t do anything silly that might result in a damaged rose plant. If you happen to miss the pruning window, it’s usually safer to wait for the next appropriate season to arrive. 

Sara Hesikova
News Writer

Sara Hesikova has been Ideal Home’s News Writer since July 2023, bringing the Ideal Home’s readership breaking news stories from the world of home and interiors. Graduating from London College of Fashion with a bachelor’s degree in fashion journalism in 2016, she got her start in niche fashion and lifestyle magazines like Glass and Alvar as a writer and editor before making the leap into interiors. She feels the two are intrinsically connected - if someone puts an effort into what they wear, they most likely also care about what they surround themselves with.