How to deadhead roses and encourage more flowers to grow 

Keep your roses looking their best throughout the summer.

It’s that time of year when roses are filling our gardens with their beautiful blooms and delightful fragrance. But what should you do when their petals begin to wilt and start to turn an unsightly shade of brown? It’s time to deadhead those roses. 

Not only do we have Monty Don’s top tips on how to deadhead roses to prolong flowering, we’ve also sought out the expert advice of Heloise Brooke, head gardener at the National Trust’s Calke Abbey, so you can prune your roses with confidence. 

Pink cluster roses in full bloomCredit: Shutterstock/TOMO
Deadheading your roses will keep them blooming throughout the season

What is deadheading?

It’s different from pruning

Deadheading is simply the process of removing flowers that have finished blooming – sometimes referred to as ‘spent’ flowers. Aside from improving the plant’s appearance by keeping it tidy, the act of deadheading spurs the plant into creating new buds and flowers.  

“If your roses are repeat flowering varieties, you’ll need to deadhead them to keep them flowering,” says Brooke. “But if you don’t deadhead them, they will try to develop fruit (hips) and seeds, and all their energy will go into producing them instead,” explains Brooke.  

Developing seeds
A plant’s reproductive system will always take priority over its other functions and will be the first in line for nutrients and water.  

 Roses will still go on to create new flowers, even if they’re not deadheaded, but they will do so at a slower rate. So, one way to get more blooms is to grab some gardening gloves and secateurs and get to work. 

Deadhead rose flower heads before the petals drop Credit: National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra
Deadhead rose flower heads before the petals drop

When is a flower ready to deadhead? 

Don’t wait for the petals to drop

“The best time to deadhead roses is when the flowers are going over (fading or dying), but before they drop their petals,” says Brook, “And any time of day is fine.”  

How often do roses need deadheading?

It’s more often than you might think

On his blog, Monty Don  says: “Deadheading roses is really worth doing at least once a week – and preferably daily – in mid summer.” Keep deadheading your roses after each flush of flowers. 

How to deadhead roses

Make sure you’ve got the right tools

What equipment will you need?

  • A clean, sharp pair of secateurs
  • Gardening gloves
  • A trug or bucket for the dead flower heads 

If you’re a novice gardener, don’t fret, because deadheading roses isn’t complicated. Follow our easy steps on how to deadhead roses and you’ll have blooming beautiful blooms throughout the whole flowering season. 

Person pruning dead roses wearing gardening glovesCredit: Shutterstock/Jason Kolenda
Protect your hands from thorns while deadheading your roses

Monty Don suggests that “pulling off the old flower heads will help, but the best approach is to use a pair of secateurs”. 

Brooke advises: “Use a sharp pair of secateurs, hold the rose in one hand and cut the flower head off with some of the stem. Cut just above a main leaf, ideally at an angle, but straight across is also OK. Try not to leave any stem above the leaf, as this snag can die back.”  

Once cut, a new shoot should then grow from the point. 

As I’ve learnt from personal experience, investing in a decent pair of gardening gloves is best to avoid spiky thorns. A pair like David Austin’s gauntlet gloves, at £29, will protect your arms, too, especially if you’re reaching into large rose bushes. 

Removing clusters of roses versus single flowers

Each has a different technique

Roses form either as single flowers or in clusters, sometimes called trusses. “Single flowered roses can be removed one at a time,” says Brooke, “but with cluster sets or truss roses such as the Noisettes, or some of the floribunda roses, take off the whole cluster. Then, make the cut just above a main leaf.” 

To prolong the life of cluster roses if only one of two flower heads have gone over, simply snip off the single flower heads and you’ll be left with the remaining cluster of flowers until the whole cluster needs removing. 

Tip

When the whole cluster has gone over, make your cut at a thicker part of the stem, just above a leaf. Cutting at this point, will produce a thicker shoot of its own, which will carry more flowers than if you’d cut at a thinner stem nearer the old flowers. 

The correct way to deadhead a single rose it to cut above a leaf set that has five or more leaves. If you cut the stem at three leaves you will prevent the shoot from reflowering.  

Rosehips in the winterCredit: National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra
Rose hips create dramatic colour in the garden in the autumn and winter

Hips

Some varieties of roses will have good hips – these are the fruits behind the flowers that can turn bright orange and red in autumn. If you want to enjoy the hips and the wildlife that they’ll attract to your garden, it’s best to leave the flowers alone, to allow them to set seed and produce fruit into September and beyond.  

The RHS particularly recommends Rosa moyesii and Rosa rugosa for their hips. 

Camilla Sharman

Written by Camilla Sharman she/her

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With her 30 years of experience, Camilla Sharman has covered a wide range of sectors within the business and consumer industries both as a feature, content, and freelance writer.  As a business journalist, Camilla has researched articles for many different sectors from the jewellery industry to finance and tech, charities, and the arts. Whatever she’s covered, she enjoys delving deep and learning the ins and out of different topics, then conveying her research within engaging content that informs the reader.