Before pruning rose bushes, study the rose bush and notice how it grows. There are no rigid rules for pruning. Although experience is important a beginner following the basic principles will do better than the gardener who cuts just to cut.
There are two instances when you will want to do drastic cutting. The first is when the rose bush is newly planted and you are determining the shape of your rose bush. Since the ideal bush will be “clothed” or covered from the ground up, low pruning (which is not otherwise done) is usually recommend at this time. Leave three or four strong canes, cut the others back to the main stem, being careful not to bruise the bark at the base of the cane. The remaining strong canes should be cut back, leaving two or three good buds at the base of each. Be sure the top bud faces outward on each cane. Any branch that grows from these buds will grow in the direction it is pointing. By “aiming” the buds outward, you will prevent weak branches tangling in the center. There is no point in wasting that space in the center. You can aim one well-placed bud to fill later. If you live in a damp cool region where mildew is a problem, the center can be left open so that the sunlight can reach the base. This will help the plant to dry quickly in the mornings.
The second time when severe pruning rose bushes is when they are uncovered in the spring. You may find that your rose has winter killed canes. These canes will be brown or black rather than a healthy green. The dead canes must be cut back to live wood. Remember to aim all buds properly. When winter-kill is not evident, how low should you prune? A principle to remember is that for every inch of wood you lose about ten inches (measuring from the ground up) you will lose 10 percent of your early growth. This means that if you cut the canes back to eight inches, perhaps to have a more shapely plant, you will have eight blooms where you may have had ten blooms. Try to never cut lower than ten inches.
This is not the entire story. How high can we cut? This is the problem of adjusting all plants to a uniform height when they are growing in rose beds and look well together. In this case, the height is determined by the weakest grower in the rose bed.
If you are growing individual rose buses, remember that the more foliage the plant has the more food it can produce and the more vigorous it will be. For this reason, try to let the bush grow as tall as possible for its location. Pruning rose bushes need not be hard once you obtain all the information you need. Information in regards to your area can be obtained at your local garden center.