Pruning Rosa Rugosa roses

Rosa rugosa group of roses are some of the hardest, toughest roses that we can grow here in the uk. They take north, south, east and west facing sites. Most soil types apart from very waterlogged soils, indeed, they will grow quite happily in pure sand on the high tide mark on the beach!

They are also one of the easiest to prune. They ‘can’ be done with a hedge cutter or shears or almost as a hybrid tea, trimming them down to 1ft in height. You can just leave them alone to get on with it

But I prefer to treat them like a shrub roses and build a light frame work within the plant. This isn’t a supporting framework but one to encourage more flowers on the plant.

Tools and equipment are pretty simple just pruning saw and secateurs. I flavour a folding Silky pruning saw and a pair of Niwaki secateurs. A pair of gloves can be handy and the goldleaf gloves are the toughest around and ideal for the long thin thorns that all rugosa roses have

First thing is to look at what the plant did last year, some of the new growth it put are marked up above

With the new shoots from the base of the plant, I tend to reduce them down by 50%. Why 50%? With rugosa roses there’s not a big frame work required and these stems are normally removed after 3yrs instead of 6yrs with a shrub rose. Why after 3 years? Normally by this time they lose some of their vigour and they start looking a bit messy. As they don’t have a supporting role, they can be removed. The rose in the picture above, is growing towards a lawn in a narrow border. So with this one, I have pruned to an inward facing bud so it grows away from the lawn

Next I start on the branched frame work stems. Rugosas sometimes have two buds that break in the same place so I like to remove them and so thin them out down to the next shoot

Then I prune this stem down to 6 buds. Why six buds? Well if you look at any pruning cut you have made in the past, it is always the top 2-3 buds that break. Pruning down to 6 allows a spare one or two in case of frost damage and it also encourages stronger new stems that won’t flop. I prefer to count buds as different roses can have the different amount of buds per any measurement, counting the buds is a easier way to get uniform amount of buds.

The finished frame work should look like the above. This is just 2 growing years old

Lastly I remove the weaker, dead and older stems from ground level. I leave this to last with these roses because they are so prickly, it’s easier to do this once the top growth is removed. I make the decision what I am going to remove at the end, before I start pruning it


2 Comments Add yours

  1. tonytomeo says:

    Rugosa roses are not my favorite, but like I just mentioned earlier today, at least they are not carpet roses! If I could, I would replace the carpet roses with rugosa roses (or something completely different). There are only a few hybrid tea and floribunda roses here, but they are not as practical in the landscapes as rugosa roses would be.

  2. David S. says:

    I love Rugosas.They are so easy to grow and are the ‘go to’ plant for those difficult locations. Much maligned and always undervalued, the simplicity of the single varieties, such as ‘alba’ and ‘rubra’ with their silky petals and wonderful crimson heps add charm to any site. If properly pruned and shaped. as per Tom’s instructions, and allowed to develop into sturdy shrubs, they will prove an asset to any garden. Bomb proof to!
    They deserve more than the labels ‘good for hedging’ and ‘robust and reliable’. Search out the variety ‘Delicata’. What a little gem!

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