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Climbing Rose Care

June 29, 2022


Beautiful Plants!

There are climbing roses available in all the popular rose categories – hybrid tea roses, bourbons and English roses. Choose from double or single flowers, thornless or scented – the rose will live for decades so it’s worth getting it right.

Climbers can be trained on a fence or trellis to provide screening or garden walls. They can frame a window or doorway. When trained on an arbor, they can create a dazzling entry to other parts of the garden. They can even be used as a focal point when grown on a pillar frame.


All types of climbing roses need full sunlight to grow healthy. They thrive in loamy, well-drained soil and prefer consistent water. The ideal place is an eastern location. This exposure is ideal to protect leaves from the hot afternoon sun. Make a note that roses with wet feet are very much susceptible to all kinds of fungus that will damage your climber, so avoid over watering.

Pink and Yellow Roses


Climbing roses can be transplanted at any time of year but you should avoid planting during the high heat of summer. You should choose a spot that does have shelter, but will get quite a lot of sun.

Either remove the support stake (or equivalent) from the pot when you transplant the rose or replant this stake in the new location so that the plant can continue to grow up it. You may also choose to erect another form of support for the plant in the new location.

Make sure that the hole you dig is at least twice as deep and wide as the container the rose is in. When you transplant the rose, place the whole root ball into the hole.

Mix compost and fertilizer into the soil and fill in the hole. MVG stocks Espoma Rose-Tone, Bonide Rose and Flower Care 8-12-4, and Coast of Maine Roses and Flowers Plant Food.

When you transplant a climbing rose plant, remember that you will need to erect the support for the plant before transplanting.

After transplanting, the rose bush will need to be watered thoroughly until well established.

Materials such as wood chips, straw, or dry grass clippings make good mulches. More decorative materials such as shredded hardwood bark or cocoa bean hulls could also be used. Mulches should be applied about 2-3 inches deep and replaced as needed.


Climbers need little or no pruning the first two years. Many of the older climbing varieties tend to bloom on second-year canes. If it has been pruned back each year like hybrid teas and other shrub roses then bloom production will be minimal. Plan on pruning climbing roses every three or four years. At this time, remove small, twiggy canes and old, woody, less vigorous canes at the base of the plant in favor of the young, vigorous canes that are long and flexible

Proper Rose Pruning Cuts

Many gardeners prune their climbing roses, for maintenance and shape, in the spring after the first blooms pass. As a result of proper pruning, your climbers will be significantly stronger and will produce many more blooms!

Note: Most climbing roses (hybrid teas) bloom two or more times every season: first on old canes, and then on the current season’s growth. If you prune in late winter (about the time forsythia blooms), you’ll get boatloads of blooms later in the season. For old-fashioned climbers that only bloom once in the summer, prune just after blooming has stopped.

When it’s time to prune, remove any dead, diseased, damaged, or crossing canes, and canes that are narrower than a pencil. When all you’ve got is main canes left, cut back the side shoots from these main canes to about 2-3 inches to keep them in line. The photo above shows the correct angle and place to cut on the cane.

Tip: Wipe your pruning tools with rubbing alcohol between each cut. This helps prevent the spread of disease when pruning, while also caring for your tools. After use, wash pruning tools with a mild soap, rinse, and towel-dry.

As always, deadhead your climbers to keep them blooming, but just until fall — allowing hips to develop helps the plant enter dormancy, which will help it overwinter properly.

Bright Orange Roses
Pink And White Rose


Air circulation is important to prevent disease, so if you want the climber to cover a wall, use a free-standing vertical support that gives your rose at least three inches of breathing room between the plant and the wall. With a stretchable fastener, hand-tie your climber to the crosspiece of the structure and try to arrange the branches in a fan shape as it grows. This will help to make pruning easier. It’s recommended that you train — do not try to heavily prune — for the first couple of years. This will encourage growth on the bottom of the plant, not just the tops, for a fuller appearance.


Fertilizer requirements differ, depending upon where you live and your individual soil composition. In the South or West, where roses tend to grow for 9 or 10 months of the year, more fertilizer may be needed. In contrast: in the North, where roses may have three or four months of growth, less fertilizer will be used.

Time-release rose food is the easiest form to use; all you have to remember is to apply it once or twice per season, and water before and after use to avoid burning.

Organic gardeners like a 50/50 mix of cottonseed and alfalfa meals. Use 10 cups of this mixture at the base of each rose every 10 weeks, and cover with mulch.

Start fertilizing in early spring after pruning, about four weeks before spring growth begins. In cold-winter regions, stop fertilizing six weeks before the first predicted frost to allow the plant to go dormant before a hard freeze.

Yellow Roses
Orange Roses

Winterizing Roses

Climbing roses should be pruned in midsummer after the plants have stopped blooming and all the blooms have faded. Prune all the flowering canes close to the roots so that new growth will harden off by winter. Climbing roses will still need protection from winter injury. Depending on where the roses are located, either of the following procedures can be used:

If your roses are growing in a fairly protected area out of harsh winds and extreme temperatures, wrapping with burlap or evergreen boughs will give sufficient winter protection.

After the first hard frost of the fall, secure canes to their support and prune off long ends.

Next, wrap the canes in burlap, straw, or evergreen boughs and tie with twine.

Mound 10”-12” of soil around the base of the plant.

Mounding Soil
In extremely cold areas or open areas where winter damage is common, the best way to protect a climbing rose is to shield the entire plant with earth.

After the first hard frost of the fall, detach the plant from its support and tie its canes together.

Bend the canes to the ground arching them near the plant’s base to avoid breaking.

Pin the canes down with crossed stakes to heel in canes.

Mound the soil over the entire plant and drive a stake into the ground at each corner of the mound to mark the spot.