Gardening Editor Ruth Hayes prepares her roses for this summer's display

Cut back roses to about knee-height

Cut back roses to about knee-height

March is traditionally the time when gardeners prepare their rose bushes for this summer’s flowers.

You should have already cut them back by a third in autumn, but if you didn’t, don’t worry. You have from now until mid-April to give them their late-winter trim.

Cut them back to knee-height, as this will help them withstand spring storms and reduce the amount of wind-rock, which can loosen their roots’ hold on the soil.

You should also check them over and remove any unwanted growth that can cause future problems or allow them to grow in an unattractive shape.

Cut away any dead, damaged or spindly branches. Cut them right back at ground level if the entire branch is dead or diseased, or cut stems back to healthy growth if only the ends are suspect.

The ideal shape for a bush rose is an open goblet. This helps display the blooms to their best effect and also helps keep the plant healthy as an uncongested centre allows air to circulate and reduce fungal problems.

To create this shape, remove inward-growing shoots that can become congested if allowed to keep growing.

If you have used late winter to plant new stocks of roses, either bare-root or container-grown plants, they need to be cut back hard immediately to encourage strong new growth later in spring.

Mulch around your roses after pruning

Mulch around your roses after pruning

After pruning, mulch around the base of the plant with well-rotted organic matter, covering the root area.

Don’t feed plants yet, as frosts are still likely for several more weeks and they will kill off delicate new growth.


Top tip

Before pruning, clear away any fallen leaves remaining around your roses to remove the hosts of fungal disease spores.


Caring for your roses

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Remove completely dead branches at their bases. Cut back areas of dead, damaged or spindly growth to healthy wood.

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Remove inward-facing shoots as they will cause the plant to look congested and disrupt airflow around the plant.

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Cut back main stems to just above an outward-facing healthy bud. Cut on a slant so moisture doesn’t collect on the wound.


Don’t prune rambling roses until they have flowered, but do tie back any loose shoots blown about by winter storms.


Uses of a molehill

Loamy soil can be used for borders and growing seeds

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  • A mole passed through the back garden during the winter, leaving behind a few telltale hummocks of bare earth.
  • I’m not particularly bothered by our velvet-coated visitor, especially as he has left us with some lovely loamy soil to use.
  • I removed the earth from the molehill and put some on the flower borders and mixed the rest with home-made compost and sharp sand to make my own seed compost.
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  • I then re-seeded the bare patch of earth on the lawn after raking it flat.