Roses only bloom profusely if they are pruned regularly. Do you have an old, senile rose in your garden and want to save it? We’ll show you how to rejuvenate them with a plucky pruning.


However, before you reach for the scissors, you should take a close look at the rose in question. Certain characteristics give you a good indication of how best to cut this individual specimen. Pay particular attention to these signs:

  • dead shoots
  • existing buds
  • Breeding place
  • Shoots above grafting point
  • existing shoots below the grafting point
  • Type of rose or flowering behavior

The grafting point is a bulge that should be just above the surface of the soil. Some old roses do not have them (anymore), for which there can be various reasons:

  • It is an ungrafted rose.
  • The rose threw off the grafted part a long time ago.

If, on the other hand, your rose has a grafting point from which shoots sprout below the thickening, you should cut them off exactly where they sprout – usually in the ground. These are wild shoots that endanger the tea rose. Shoots above the grafting point are noble shoots and may remain.

Tip: Not sure if a rose shoot has actually died? Then do the scratch test: Carefully scrape off some bark in several places: if the wood underneath is green, the shoot is alive. If, on the other hand, it is brown and dry, it has died and is completely removed.

Flowering behavior and pruning of roses

The type of rose and its flowering behavior also give you important information about when and how best to prune your old rose. Does your specimen usually flower several times a year, ie does it always produce new flowers? Or is it a once-blooming rose that only blossoms once and then fades? This distinction is important because:

  • You can radically cut down roses that bloom more than once.
  • They blossom on the new wood and sprout again and again.
  • Once-blooming varieties should not be completely pruned.
  • You may only thin out these species.
Note: You do not need to know exactly what type of rose it is. Their flowering behavior gives you the relevant information for the rejuvenation cut to be made. However, most species and varieties flower repeatedly, since those that flower once are now rare. This behavior often occurs among the historical roses.

cutting time

If you want to successfully rejuvenate roses, you must not cut them at any time of the year. Early spring is best, around the time the forsythia blooms. The bright yellow splendor is the starting signal for you to start pruning. At this point, the trees are not yet sprouting, but they are already in the starting blocks to develop new plant material and new buds. A rejuvenation pruning at this time of the year means that new, strong shoots and many vital eyes quickly develop. On the day of the rejuvenation cut, the weather is optimal

  • frost-free and mild
  • no frost in sight any time soon
  • dry

It’s best not to prune your roses when it’s raining, as this allows fungal spores carried by water droplets to enter the freshly cut wounds and infect the plant with disease.

Note: The gardener understands the term ‘eyes’ to mean the small elevations on the wood from which the new shoots sprout. Many fresh shoots, in turn, also mean many leaf and flower buds.

Appropriate tools

If you want to rejuvenate an old rose, standard rose scissors are not sufficient for this project. Finally, you have to cut away heavily woody, dry and often thick branches and twigs, which small garden shears cannot cope with. In addition, many old roses are not only gnarled, intertwined and tangled, but also prickly – in addition to the right pruning tool, you should definitely wear long, sturdy clothing and gardening or work gloves. It is also advisable to wear protective goggles.

These tools are suitable for cutting:

  • a pair of pruning shears or secateurs with a bypass mechanism
  • a pair of pruning shears with long handles and a narrow tip
  • a folding saw with a pointed blade

The cutting tools must be well sharpened so that the rose shoots are not crushed. Bruising means reduced sap flow and thus hinders the growth and development of the wood. It is also important to disinfect scissors and saws (e.g. with a suitable agent from the pharmacy), as contaminated devices transmit diseases, primarily of a fungal and bacterial nature.

taper cut

Once all the preparations have been made, you can finally get down to the actual work. Always proceed step by step and from the outside in – not that you accidentally remove young shoots hidden in the senile undergrowth.

Bedding, shrub and hybrid roses

These types of roses all flower on young wood, which is why you can easily cut them down radically to rejuvenate them and thus take the opportunity for a new growth. While this may be heartbreaking at first, rest assured that the rose will recover very quickly and develop many new shoots. Cut off any existing shoots just above the graft site or the ground (for ungrafted roses) and fertilize the so drastically pruned specimen heavily. Compost or stable manure is particularly suitable for this.

Once the old rose has sprouted, take a close look at the new shoots and choose the strongest for the new structure:

  • Shrub roses and bed roses need up to five strong main shoots
  • Hybrid teas three to four
  • Cut off surplus young shoots directly at the base

It is important never to cut into the grafting area. If you don’t want to proceed quite so radically, we recommend this procedure:

  • Cut off dead shoots just above the grafting site (or the ground).
  • Shorten the remaining shoots to a length of between 20 and 40 centimetres
  • always just cutting at all of an outward-pointing eye
  • Derive branched shoots, ie remove older side shoots and thus promote younger ones
Tip: If you cannot see any eyes or buds on your rose, cut the shoots to the desired length and observe the plant. It will sprout somewhere, so simply remove any protruding pieces of branch later.

groundcover roses

You can also radically shorten the robust ground cover roses, which works best with hedge trimmers. Cut all the shoots to a length of between 15 and 30 centimetres, working from the outside inwards. Remove cut shoots immediately to keep track.

climbing roses

Pruning an old climbing rose is a little more complicated, depending on the height and size of the plant. Climbing roses are spreading climbers that can form meter-long tendrils and use them to literally cling to the climbing aid. When rejuvenating such a specimen, it is best to proceed as follows:

  • wear long, sturdy clothing and protective gloves
  • Cut off deadwood directly above the grafting point or close to the ground
  • Cut off old, branched branches to about knee height
  • always cut as close as possible to one eye
  • leave young (one to three year old) tendrils
  • here only cut back the branches except for two eyes
  • Do not cut back long, unbranched shoots at all
  • this is where most of the flowers form

The pruning measures are easier if you carefully detach the tendrils of the rose and only cut them afterwards. Then tie the shoots back to the trellis in an orderly fashion.

frequently asked Questions

If you prune your roses at the wrong time of year – for example in May instead of March – then they will develop new shoots and flowers later. It grows weaker this year, so you will have to wait longer for the desired result of rejuvenation.

After pruning, one is tempted to dispose of the cuttings on the compost. However, you should not do this, because old rose bushes in particular can carry fungal or bacterial pathogens. If you now dispose of them in the compost, fungal spores and the like will remain in the rotted material. If the infected compost is spread in the garden, you can infect other plants. It is better to dispose of the clippings with household waste or as green waste at the recycling center.

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