How to Deadhead a Rosebush

What You'll Need
Puncture-resistant gloves
Bypass pruners
White glue (optional)

Roses are timeless classics, well known for their brilliant blooms and, of course, their thorns. After the spring bloom occurs, a gardener has a serious job to do to get a rosebush ready for the next blooming season. Without any help, the rosebush may produce fewer blooms, smaller blooms, or no blooms at all the next year. But all a rosebush really needs is a little attention and some trimming to keep the roses successfully blossoming from year to year.

What Is Deadheading?

Deadheading rosebushes is a simple task that can make a world of difference in your garden. Essentially, deadheading is removing the dying blooms so that others will grow in their place the following spring. Note that this is a different process than simply pruning the plant. When deadheading, you're only taking a small portion of the shoot. Pruning cuts closer to the bottom of the plant to keep it maintained and shapely. You definitely don’t want to cut your rosebush haphazardly because every leaf you trim away takes away nourishment. The leaves are the source of food for the plant.

What Happens if You Don't Deadhead?

Dead white roses on a bush.

If you neglect deadheading your rosebushes, the energy will continue being pushed to the tips of the stems and the dead blooms. When this happens, you also lose the energy to the other parts of the plant, which can be deadly for your rosebush. The goal is to conserve as much energy for blooming as possible.

Deadheading is also a good practice to keep your rosebush more compact and controlled. A tamed rosebush will get plenty of sunlight and water to its base, keeping it healthy. Diseases and pests may even be avoided by deadheading. Bugs will have fewer places to hide on a rosebush if you properly maintain it. This simple trimming can also improve air circulation, reducing the chances of fungal diseases taking over your garden.

Simply put, deadheading is essential to a thriving rose garden. If you've never deadheaded roses before, here's a simple tutorial to get you started.

How to Deadhead a Rosebush

A pair of gloved hands cutting a rose from a bush with shears.

Step 1

First, pull on your puncture-resistant gloves to keep thorns from pricking your fingers. You may want to choose gloves that go further up your arms rather than traditional gardening gloves that stop at your wrist. This way, your hands and forearms won’t get scratched.

Step 2

Find a bloom that is nearly wilted or has shriveled up and died completely. This is a stem you should deadhead.

Step 3

From the dead rose downward, scan along the stem for the first group of five leaves in a cluster. This group of leaves is called a leaflet. If the leaflet is pointing away from the middle of the plant, it will serve as a good place to cut.

If the leaflet is pointing toward the middle of the plant, you need to continue down the rest of the stem until you find another cluster of five that is pointing outward. The new rose will grow in the direction of your cut, so choose wisely. You want the middle of the plant to be as clear as possible so the sun and water can get to the base of the bush.

Step 4

A quarter inch above the five-leaf cluster, use your bypass pruners to make an angled cut toward the center of your bush. The angled cut will prevent bacteria and fungi from growing on the stem because the water will easily run off of it.

Step 5

Another precaution you can take is to use your white glue to seal off the end of your cut. Gluing the stems lowers the risk of disease and prevents insects from harming your rosebush. Ultimately, this is an optional step.

Step 6

Continue the process with each of your dead or dying rose blooms. You may need to check on your rosebush weekly to see if there's any newly dead blooms that need to be removed.