Rose pruning: groundcover roses

Rose pruning ensures that plants grow vigorously and flower well each year. Most groundcover roses, whether shrubby or rambler types, require only light pruning. Many flower just once in summer and will bloom for years with little formal pruning. These roses fall into RHS Pruning group 19.

Pruning a ground cover rose.
Pruning a ground cover rose.

Quick facts

Suitable for: All groundcover roses
Timing: After flowering and in late winter
Difficulty: Easy

When to prune groundcover roses

Roses can be pruned during late winter when growth is just resuming, usually mid-February in the south, but in northern and colder areas wait until March. 

Groundcover roses tend to flower profusely, which does make

deadheading quite a job. But, it is beneficial to the plant if you can deadhead after flowering.

How to prune groundcover roses

Start by removing all dead, diseased, damaged, weak and spindly shoots. Then, depending on the type of groundcover rose, proceed as follows:

Shrub-type groundcover roses

These small shrubs need little or no routine pruning, but when they outgrow their situation, the following steps can be taken:

  • Hard prune any wayward upright growths to within their allotted space
  • Reduce strong shoots by about one-third
  • Shorten sideshoots back to two or three buds
  • When they become too large and congested they can be renovated by pruning to near ground level, 10cm (4in), from the base in late winter

Spreading rambler groundcover roses

The long flexible stems of these roses root as they spread along the ground and may reach 3m (10ft) or more in length, with the side shoots producing a mound of flowers and foliage.

  • Shorten the sideshoots in summer (after flowering) to prevent the rose becoming too large
  • If they do become too large and congested they can be renovated as for shrub type groundcover roses

To prune other types of roses, see our advice topics below;


Other than cutting off a useful stem by mistake (they usually regrow), there are few problems. However, you may notice the following pests or diseases while pruning; rose aphids, rose large sawfly, rose leaf rolling sawfly, rose black spot, rose dieback, rose powdery mildew and rose rust.

Blindness (lack of flowers) can also be a problem in roses.

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