Skip to Content

How to Trim Rose Bushes: 3 Stunning Ways to Style Your Plants

For some gardeners, having simple rose bushes in their garden isn’t enough. They want to go to the next level. Maybe that’s you, but you’ve found yourself wondering, “What’s next?”

Whether you’re looking for a solid wall of rose bushes or eye-catching pieces throughout your garden, it’s important to know how to trim rose bushes to achieve the look you’re going for.

How to Trim Rose Bushes

Read on to find the difference between trimming and pruning and the basics you need to learn how to trim rose bushes into three classic looks.

Difference Between Trimming and Pruning

Trimming rose bushes

While a quick google search of “how to trim rose bushes” will give you plenty of articles all about pruning, trimming and pruning serve two completely different functions.

Pruning

At its core, you prune a plant to make it healthier. Pruning allows you to cut away any diseased or dying branches and force more blooms. 

At the end of the season, you can also use pruning to winterize your rose bushes to be able to withstand the colder temperatures and harsh winter winds.

Thankfully, pruning roses isn’t difficult. If you need help with pruning, including a list of everything you need and step-by-step instructions, check out The Complete Guide to Pruning Roses in 5 Simple Steps.

Trimming

When thinking about how to trim rose bushes, you’re really thinking about how to make rose bushes look the way you want them to look. Trimming is more about appearance and shape than it is the health of the rose bush itself.

If you’ve gotten your rose bushes to a place of health, but you have a specific look or design in mind, you’re going to need to trim your rose bushes to get there.

It doesn’t have anything to do about the health of the branch you’re trimming or trying to get the plant to produce more flowers, it’s all about using your landscaping to create the yard of your dreams.

How to Trim Rose Bushes

There are several different ways of learning how to trim rose bushes. Each way gives a unique feel to the space they’re in and there are certain roses better suited for different uses. You won’t be able to make a hedge out of a climbing rose, but you also won’t be able to make a shrub rose learn to climb. 

Read on to find out how to trim rose bushes and good rose options for each style of trimming.

Hedges

Rose bush hedge

Hedges are traditionally used to define borders or to give a sense of privacy. They’re usually some sort of green shrub that may or may not have some flowers once a year.

Instead of settling for something mundane and boring, why not plant a hedge made of roses? That way, you’re still defining your space and gaining a sense of privacy, but also making your yard a hundred times more beautiful in the process.

How To Trim Rose Bushes To Act as Hedges

Step 1: Plan

Once you’ve decided to use roses as hedges, it’s time to plan. You’ve got to choose the variety and color of roses because that will greatly impact what your hedge looks like.

We’ll get to good variety options in a moment, but choosing color is important. You could choose one variety of rose bush and have a beautiful hedge, but if you’re taking the time to learn how to trim rose bushes, you might want to take it a step further.

You could choose to alternate colors to give some dimension. Or you could take it a step further and create a gradient effect by gradually transitioning colors from something like deep red to light pink.

Step 2: Plant

The next step is to plant them the correct distance apart. Most rose planting guides will tell you to leave plenty of space between rose bushes, but that’s not the case with hedges. In order to have a solid “wall” of bushes, they need to be planted closer together so there is overlap. Plant them about two feet apart. 

Step 3: Trim

Thankfully, as your hedges grow, the answer to how to trim rose bushes is actually very simple. You could get out your hand trimmers and go branch by branch, but the quickest and most efficient way is going to be using an electric hedge trimmer.

The exact shape you decide on how to trim rose bushes is up to you, but a hedge trimmer will make quick work of it. The most natural-looking shape is going to be sort of a rounded half-circle. That shape is as simple as trimming off any branches or flowers that stick out too much.

You could get fancier and try to make more of a squared-off shape, but that will take more time, effort, and consistency.

Good Rose Option

For tall, robust, and hardy rose bush hedges, you can’t go wrong with Knock Out roses. They’ll grow to be anywhere between four to ten feet tall, meaning they can offer you loads of privacy if you’re willing to trim them on a ladder!

Another great option to learn how to trim rose bush hedges is Apricot Drift roses, especially if you’re looking for something very low to the ground, just to add some definition to a space.

If you’re looking for a wow factor in your hedges, English roses are the roses for you. These bushes will produce large, gorgeous flowers that look like something out of Downton Abbey.  

Topiaries

Rose trimming

When I think of rose topiaries, I can’t help but think of the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland and start humming “Painting the roses red! We’re painting the roses red!”

While they’re prominently featured in that scene of an animated Disney movie, rose topiaries are very much a real thing and something you can grow and learn how to trim rose bushes to be a beautiful, ornamental centerpiece to your garden.

How to Trim Rose Bushes into Topiaries

Step 1: Plan

The base of most topiaries starts with a wire structure. You can purchase a prefabricated topiary form, or you can make your own out of chicken wire and zip ties.

Whichever route you take, remember that the final product will end up being larger than the form it’s growing around. If you have a specific size in mind, get or make a form a little smaller to achieve the desired outcome.

Step 2: Trim

When you’re ready to start, begin by trimming off any large, lower branches that won’t fit inside your topiary form. Your goal is basically to force your bush to look like a tree.

Since it won’t happen naturally, your plant needs your help to make it happen. In the beginning, as it’s growing and strengthening, your bush may also need some additional support of a stake in the ground that it can be loosely tied to.

Once you’ve got your bush trimmed to look more like a tree, it’s time to place the topiary form on top, making sure it’s just slightly bigger than the rose bush that’s left.

Step 3: Upkeep

Now that the plant is staked for support and has the topiary form on top, it’s time to water and feed your rose bush as normal

As new branches grow, weave them through the form, taking care to face any blooms outward so that they will continue to grow out of the form, eventually covering it completely.

As the bush grows, continue to trim off branches that won’t fit in the topiary. When it becomes full and starts to completely cover the topiary form, you can simply just trim off branches and blooms as needed to make it a uniform shape.

Good Rose Option

Any rose with the tendency to grow in a compact bush will work wonderfully as a topiary. A few options to consider are:

Red Drift Rose

Abraham Darby Rose

Knock Out Rose

Climbing Roses

Climbing roses

When thinking about how to trim rose bushes, a wall of roses may not have come to your mind, but it’s actually really important to know how to trim and train climbing roses in order for them to flourish.

How to Trim Rose Bushes that Climb

Step 1: Plan

First thing’s first. What are your roses going to climb? This can be something you purchase, like a trellis or an arbor, or it could even be a wall of a building.

Once you’ve decided and have the rose bush planted, it’s time to start training.

Step 2: Train

Start by taking a close look at your plant and choosing the strongest, most vigorous canes, or branches, at the base of your plant. Gently weave them into your structure and loosely tie them with some gardening twine.

As your plant grows, continue to weave and secure branches and blooms.

Step 3: Trim

Knowing how to trim rose bushes comes into play as the bush continues to grow, which is quick, because climbing roses are notoriously vigorous growers.

Every few months, stand back and take notice of any growth that’s refusing to be weaved in. Simply trim those canes off at the main branch to keep it all looking in tip-top shape.

For an in-depth look at working with climbing roses, check out How to Train Climbing Roses in 6 Easy Steps.

Good Rose Option

Here are some climbing roses to take a closer look at:

Iceberg Roses

Peace Roses

Wrapping Up How to Trim Rose Bushes

Knowing how to trim rose bushes will take your garden a step further than simply knowing how and when to prune off dead or diseased branches. Trimming your rose bushes will allow you to take your gardening to the next level and help you create the landscaping of your dreams. 

Want to know more about roses? Browse our Rose Section to learn more!