Pruning in winter is ‘essential’ for garden plants to ‘thrive’

Gardeners' World: Monty Don provides advice on pruning roses

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Pruning removes dead and drying branches and stubs, promoting healthy growth and improving the plant’s structure. Winter is an ideal time to prune because some plants in the garden will be lying dormant, and it’ll be easier for them to get over the cut. Gardening experts have shared what to prune now as well as the best way to do the crucial job.


According to the experts at David Austin, pruning is “essential” if you want your rose to “thrive”. English roses can be quite vigorous if left, so it is best to give it a haircut.

The rose experts said this should be down between January and February when the first growth is beginning. While it may be ok to prune earlier, it can be hard to identify the stems which need cutting off.

To prune roses, the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) said to cut back by the required amount, shaping the flower as you go. In the process, remove any dead, diseased and damaged stems, disposing of any foliage that remains.

Not all roses should be pruned now though, only shrub roses, climbing roses, hybrid teas and floribundas. Other varieties such as rambling roses can be pruned in late summer.

Gardeners can also plant bare root roses now because they will be dormant. They should be planted in a large enough spot with plenty of sunshine and away from other plants like trees and hedges.

Bare root roses should be planted as soon as they are received, or if ground conditioners are unsuitable, unpacked and kept in a container of slightly moist compost and planted as soon as conditions allow.


Clematis need to be pruned to prevent them becoming tangled and regular pruning encourages strong growth and flowering. 

Similar to other plants, start by removing any dead, damaged or diseased stems, cutting at an angle with a sharp pair of secateurs. 

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The RHS said there are three pruning groups this plant falls into. The experts explained: “Pruning group one: Prune mid-to late spring, after flowering and once the risk of frost has passed.

“Pruning group two: Prune in February and after the first flush of flowers in early summer. Pruning group three: Prune in February.

“If you are unsure or forget which group your clematis fall into, observe the flowering time on your plant and use the following simple guide.”

If your clematis flowers before early summer, or around June, do not prune, but if it flowers from late June onwards, prune in late winter.

Apple and pear trees

Although pruning a tree such as an apple or pear tree may seem daunting, it is quite easy to cut the tree back to a well-shaped, productive tree.

The RHS said: “Aim to take between 10 to 20 percent of the overall canopy off in any one winter. 

“Work around the tree evenly and keep an eye on your pruning pile – if it’s looking a little big, stop. You can always go back next year and do some more.

“The more you prune, the stronger the regrowth. If you have pruned too hard, your tree is likely to produce vigorous upright branches called watershoots. This isn’t ideal as they crowd the crown.

“Your aim is to take out a bit of old wood each winter, to stimulate new. But the majority of the fruiting wood should be quite young – one to four years old, which is the wood that fruits best.

“Also aim to create an open centre to your tree. This allows more light into the canopy to ripen the shoots and fruit. Improved air movement discourages diseases.”

When pruning, it is important to not overdo it. According to gardening experts at Sutton Manor Nursery, if done too aggressively, it could permanently damage the plant.

They said: “Pruning is simply cutting leaves and leaves are what a plant needs to make food. Therefore, over-pruning your plant means it cannot make food.”

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