Should you cut faded roses? Basically, the answer is yes, because many varieties bloom several times during the gardening season. However, there are exceptions.
Let’s start with a basic and important distinction of roses: there are roses that bloom once in early summer and roses that have three or even four bloomings in one season. Most wild roses, many historic rose classes such as Gallica roses, Alba roses, Damascus roses, or Provence roses, as well as the very tall Rambler roses, bloom only once between May and July. Even if faded flowers are cut out here, this does not stimulate the plants to form new flowers later in the year. Cutting out is recommended for sterile, usually heavily double-flowered varieties for aesthetic reasons. If the roses are loosely filled and capable of forming rose hips, it is nicer to leave the fading inflorescences and look forward to the fruit decoration in late summer and autumn. By the way, you will delight not only pollinating insects, but also hungry birds.
The vast majority of roses in our gardens bloom several times. These are so-called “multiple-flowering roses”, which were developed and perfected by breeders from the 19th century onwards. The sooner you remove the bloom from these roses, the faster, more reliable and more abundant will be the subsequent flowering.
Cutting faded roses
Summer cutting is not pruning
Cutting out faded roses during the summer and autumn should not be confused with pruning roses at the beginning of the season. The aim of the steady summer and autumn measure, also called “dead-heading”, is to prevent pollinated rose flowers from forming fruits, and the energy of the plant goes into rose hips instead of flowers.
If you want to have permanent flowers, you can not avoid shortening the shoots with faded. Removing faded flowers is also advisable for varieties that do not produce rose hips, for example because their flowers are too full to be pollinated or because they are sterile due to their genetics. They may sprout again on their own, but without pruning this happens comparatively slowly and often in the wrong places.
How to cut faded roses?
When the first flowers wilt, set the scissors so that with the flower or flower cluster also cut off, in principle, two fully developed leaves that are at least five-lobed, single or three-lobed leaves do not matter. If only the flowers are cut, the upper shoot regions are usually too weak to form beautiful flowers and support them upright. Ideally, the top leaf that is left standing should point outward from the center of the plant. The shoot that develops from the shoots of the leaf axil there then gets an optimal amount of light and air.
There is no harm in cutting off one or two more leaves for this purpose. More than four fully developed leaves should not be removed, however, as this would weaken the rose plants too much. Depending on the vigor of the variety and weather conditions, you can expect new flower shoots within three to five weeks.
Rose varieties that bloom again on their own
There are also varieties of roses that bloom more often without the need for attentive pruning. Most often these are small shrub roses, ground cover roses or bedding roses. They are so vital that even at the bud stage of a shoot, new shoots can be seen on the side. However, even if these varieties actually do bloom again on their own these subsequent florets are weaker than when they are cut out correctly. Such varieties are very popular in public green spaces, because they cope well with a delay in maintenance. In the home garden, however, it still pays to treat them perfectly. You will see that these bundles of vigor outshine other varieties by their abundance of flowers.
In the meantime, there are numerous quite tall-growing or climbing rose varieties on the market that produce loosely double or single flowers. These are pollinated by industrious insects and set fruit quickly. There is an extra tip for such varieties: cut off all flower clusters of the first flowering flush as described. Then the plant sprouts and blooms again abundantly in August. If the withered flowers remain, the rose hips will reliably ripen, which are a special decoration in autumn. So you have a choice for the fall: rose hips, or a third flowering, if the August flower is also removed after wilting.
Faded rose blossoms: cutting for aesthetics.
It’s a matter of taste whether or not to tolerate faded rose blossoms in the garden. However, rose blossoms do not die as picturesque as, for example, the flowers of hydrangeas. In this respect, cutting out faded flowers also has the effect of making the rose bed look neat, and even if there is a small break in flowering, the clearly visible newly growing shoots increase the anticipation of the next flowers. If flowers remain, thin petals can pop together in rainy weather to form unsightly brown clumps or stick to the foliage. These are open gates for fungal infestation. This is another reason why summer pruning is highly recommended.