Caring for Climbing Roses

The care information provided in this section represents the kind of practical advice is available for all the plants in this web site if you subscribe to the monthly customized newsletter Yardener’s Advisor.

Sufficient water is crucial to roses. They are thirsty plants and need a steady flow of moisture for peak performance. Well drained soil allows them to receive a lot of moisture, but prevents their roots from standing in soggy soil. Climbers require about an inch of water a week either from rain or from a watering system. Those planted on very sandy soil or in the south may need even 2 inches of water a week. Water must penetrate 16 to 18 inches to reach the full depth of the roots of mature plants. Because splashing water carries fungal disease spores up to the rose leaves, watering with a drip irrigation system laid under a layer of organic mulch is the best way to water. When hand watering, avoid wetting the leaves. Whatever the method, water rose bushes in the morning so the plants can dry off by evening when fungal diseases thrive. For more information see the file About Watering Equipment

One major feeding in the early spring after pruning is adequate for most rose bushes. The most convenient rose fertilizer is a dry commercial type that has a slow release form of nitrogen. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of the dry fertilizer on the soil around each plant out about a foot. Do not allow it to get on the leaves or the canes. Plants in gardens with especially fast-draining sandy soil or those in southern climates may need a second dose of fertilizer about halfway between first flower buds and 8 weeks before expected first frost.

Because some climbers bloom a second time later in the season, they appreciate supplemental feedings periodically in the summer. Give them a boost to keep them vigorous in the heat by spraying their foliage with a dilute liquid fertilizer every 3 to 4 weeks until 6 weeks before expected first frost. Use a liquid fertilizer at half the strength recommended on the bottle for this foliar spray. Add diluted seaweed or kelp extract to this solution to improve the plant's ability to use the nutrients that are available to it. Beware of overfertilizing roses. Too much nitrogen promotes excessive foliage growth, making the bushes vulnerable to diseases and insect attack. For more information see the file About Fertilizers

Consider Plant Growth Activators
There are on the market a growing number of products that will help your plants become healthier, more drought resistant, more disease resistant, and even more insect resistant. These products are generally easy to use and not terribly expensive. If you want to give your plants some oomph, check out New Technology In Plant Growth Activators

Mulching and Weed Control
Mulch is very important for roses. While it keeps weeds down, its primary value is to inhibit water evaporation from the soil. Mulch will help maintain soil moisture levels, keeping the soil cooler in the summer when roses are more vulnerable to heat stress. A thick organic mulch freshly spread under the bushes in early spring while the plant is still dormant also reduces fungal disease problems, since fungal spores are often deposited on rose leaves by splashing rain bouncing up off infected soil. Spread two to four inches of some attractive organic material on the soil around the base of each rose bush in the late winter, at least a month before expected last frost. Although the soil around the roses will warm up more slowly, fungal disease problems will be forestalled.
Use wood chips, shredded bark, pine needles, cottonseed or cocoabean hulls, chopped leaves, ground corncobs or peat nuggets for mulch. The new landscape fabric makes an excellent first layer for mulching around a rose plant. Lay the textile material on the soil first, then cover it with the organic material for a more attractive look. Keep the textile and the organic mulch about two inches away from the main stem of the bushes. For more information see the file on Using Mulch

Basic Pruning
Prune yearly for healthier, more manageable growth and bigger, better flowers
by Andrew Schulman of Fine Gardening Magazine
It's best not to procrastinate when it comes to pruning climbing roses. Whether climbing roses are grown on a wall, fence, trellis, post, or pillar, I recommend pruning them every year not only to keep your climbers from overwhelming their supports but also to spare you the frustration of dealing with an overgrown snare of canes. Your roses will reward you with robust growth and more flowers.

Diseased branches are the first to go
Most climbing roses bloom at least twice each growing season: first on older branches and then on the current season’s growth. Pruning them while dormant in mid- to late winter will encourage plenty of late-season flowers. I like to begin my pruning by removing as much foliage as possible from each rose. This helps prevent disease by removing dormant fungal spores and allows me to see the rose’s branching structure as I prune. Once I can see what I’m dealing with, I remove any diseased, injured, or spindly branches, cutting them away flush with the cane from which they emerge. If any of the older, woody canes have failed to bloom well during the previous season, I will prune them off, too. Any canes that have outgrown their support will get a preliminary trim to set them back inbounds. I will also remove any crossing or awkwardly placed branches.

Training Climbing Roses
Unlike vines which have tendrils or suckers to help them cling to a wall or other support, climbing roses must be trained upward by hand-fastening the willing canes to the vertical support. Also, unlike vines which are comfortable snugged tightly against a wall or other support, roses require air circulation all around the plant. Use vertical suppports that are freestanding. Position the trellis or frame at least three inches away from the surface of the wall, to permit air flow behind the climbing canes. This space also makes plant maintenance a little easier. Delay any pruning for two years or so to encourage the climber to establish itself. As each long cane reaches a crosspiece on the support, tie it carefully with strips of soft cloth or plastic. Wrap the tie around the supporting piece first, then loop it over the rose cane, fastening it loosely so that the branch is not constricted. Tie to achieve a fan shape with the canes, because the more that are horizontal, the more blooms there will be.

Tool and Products for Pruning Roses

Pruning Shears

For good options for bypass pruning shears for pruning roses click here.

Garden Gloves

There are a large number of glove companies making garden gloves for use with pruning roses.

Here is are some options:

Magid TE194T-L Terra Collection Professional Rose Gardening Gloves - Mens Large

  • Puncture-resistant, synthetic leather padded palm and reinforced fingertips
  • Provides what professional rose gardeners need most � strength, durability and comfort
  • Elbow-length gauntlet cuff protects forearms from cuts and scratches
  • Knuckle guard provides added protection from thorny plants
  • Form fitting spandex back for maximum comfort

With a puncture-resistant, synthetic leather padded palm and reinforced fingertips, this rose glove provides what professional rose gardeners need most strength, durability and comfort. The elbow-length gauntlet cuff protects forearms from cuts and scratches, and the knuckle guard provides added protection from thorny plants. Form fitting spandex back for maximum comfort.


Deluxe Women's Rose Pros Garden Gloves (Large)

  • Premium goatskin with superb thorn resistence
  • Elbow high cuffs keep your arms protected when you are reaching in.
  • These are sized especially for women so they feel natural.
  • Besides roses they are helpful for bushes, brush and cactus.






Women's Heavy Duty Gauntlet Garden Glove TGL 109

  • Heavy duty gauntlets are made from hard-wearing leather with a tough leather palm.
  • The extra long, reinforced safety cuff, on these gloves fully protects wrists.
  • Offers great protection while working in the garden.
  • Great thorn protection!
  • A customer review
  • I bought these gloves for my sister's birthday. She does a lot of bush and tree trimming and always has scratches on her lower arms. These gloves are heavy duty enough to last her many many years of garden work. They are of very good quality and the shipping was fast even though they did not come direct from Amazon. I would have rated them a 5 if they were a tad bit longer.



 More Tasks

Pruning Climbing Roses
Pruning Large Flowered Climbing Roses: Do not prune large flowered climbers during the first 2 years except to remove dead wood. Flowers grow more abundantly on canes that grow horizontally rather than vertically. Only the tips of the canes will grow and flower unless the cane is bent sideways. The tension along the cane produced by bending it encourages the dormant buds all along the cane to break into flower. That is why homeowners often train these plants to fan out on a trellis or wall. Prune a climbing rose while it is dormant. Thin out the thick, old canes that are dry and scaly at their bases from time to time, keeping the total number of canes constant. Do not prune more than about 10% in any year.
Prune the newer canes with some restraint in order to keep young shoots appearing throughout the bush. Remember to guide those canes to grow horizontally whenever possible. As the climber fills the space you have allotted it, do some light pruning each spring, just after the bush begins to put out new growth. Prune the smaller stems, the 6 to 12 inch laterals that have grown out from the main canes, to promote more vigorous flowering. Trim each of these stems back to leave three or four bud eyes on it.
Large flowered climbing roses as the `Don Juan' and `Golden Showers' should be pruned a little differently because they flower on both old and new wood. New growth comes both from the base and from old canes. Flowers are produced from new canes and laterals, as well as from wood that is more than a year old. Prune laterals back to 2 buds after flowering; head back the new canes by a third.
Pruning Rambling Roses: Prune ramblers immediately after flowering. Ramblers flower in midsummer on the lateral stems of long, flexible canes that grew the previous season. To prune ramblers for containment and appearance, remove all flowering canes to the ground immediately after flowering. These old roses produce long canes after blooming. Flowers will appear on these new canes the next spring only once but ever so profusely. Hard winter pruning of ramblers encourages vigorous growth next summer. Hard pruning also reduces the number of flowers until the second summer. Ramblers that are not pruned simply become a thorny thicket. For more information see the files on Pruning Shrubs and Choosing Pruning Tools

Deadheading Climbing Roses
Climbing roses benefit from deadheading, removing spent flowers. While it may not be possible to reach all the faded blooms, try to cut off the accessible ones, cutting back the stem to a leaflet or bud with five leaves. Make the cut just above the bud.

Winter Protection
While these roses are pretty hardy, they sometimes need winter protection. In sections where winters are extremely severe, characterized by temperatures below -5<198>F, it may be necessary to protect climbing roses and ramblers. The only way to give them adequate cover is to take them down from their supports, gather the canes in a horizontal bundle on the ground, and cover them with soil. After the ground is thoroughly frozen spread a mulch of straw, compost or some other organic material over the soil mound. If it is not possible to remove the canes from their support, secure them to prevent their whipping in the winter wind. Then mound soil around the base of the rose plant to protect its crown. Shield the entire plant with a burlap screen, taking care to allow good air circulation around the plant. For more information see the files on Winter Protection For Plants and Plant Protection Supplies

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