Although cutting roses is a form of natural pruning, for proper growth and longest life, you'll need to prune your rose plants annually.
Too often, gardeners regard pruning as major surgery when in reality it is no more complex than giving your plants a good haircut. In addition to helping your plant sprout new growth, pruning redirects old growth and helps to keep your rose plants healthy by admitting both light and air into the body of your plant. Removing dead and diseased wood, allows the plant to put its energy into developing new, healthy rose canes.
The best time to prune most roses is early spring after all danger of frost has passed but before spring sap begins to flow and buds emerge. However, long caned varieties may need additional pruning in the fall to protect them from wind and weather damage over winter. Prune ramblers and some climbing rose varieties just once a year in late summer or early fall, after they have finished blooming for the season.
Begin pruning roses by removing all dead, diseased, or damaged wood. Make clean cuts at the base of the plant. If you're in doubt as to whether a cane is healthy, make a cut and look at the inside of the cane. Healthy canes and stems have green-white outsides and white centers. Dead canes have brown outsides and brownish middles.
Second, cut away any "twiggy" growth or stems that crisscross. However, when pruning criss-cross stems, you may desire to keep the stronger of the two stems.
Next, remove any suckers. Suckers sprout from the rootstock of the plant instead of the graft union. A difference in leaf size and color usually makes suckers easily recognizable.
Finally, you are ready to cut your rose plant to size! Choose from one of two common rose pruning methods to complete your task.
Hard pruning is most appropriate for new plantings, weak plants, and neglected rose beds. When hard pruning roses, cut each stem back to only three to five inches long. Although severe, hard pruning builds a strong root system in your rose plant and stimulates growth of new, strong rose canes directly from the graft union.
Moderately prune roses by cutting canes to half or two-thirds their height. Plants that are hard pruned bloom later in the season and typically produce fewer, but larger blooms than moderately pruned plants.