Garden Advice

How to Prune Climbing Roses

The pruning of climbing roses is a seasonal task that must be performed once or twice a year. Although it might be seen as just another meaningless and complicated chore, it actually serves a great purpose. Cutting back your climbing roses will aid them in growing robustly, while also enforcing magnificent flowering each passing year. 

On the other side of the spectrum, if left unattended, climbing roses tend to spiral out of control. They turn into a tangled mess of branches and also sport way fewer beautiful flowers. Although, pruning climbing roses can seem like a complicated task, it really isn’t, as long as you follow the right steps. And in this guide, we will help you do just that. 

Table of Contents:

So if you:

  • Are a novice gardener.
  • Have a climbing rose, but have no idea how to prune it.
  • Don’t know how to train climbing roses.

Then keep on reading!

Difference between climbing and rambling roses

Before you start pruning anything, it’s good to check if the roses you have are climbing or rambling ones. The reason why this is so important is that the method we will go over below is only suitable for climbing roses. 

An easy way to differentiate between the two types of roses is through observing their flowering time and the size of their blossoms. Climbing roses flower repeatedly throughout the whole summer and beginning of autumn. They produce flashy, large roses but in smaller quantities. Rambling roses, on the other hand, flower only once, usually around June, and produce an abundance of small, charming roses.

When to prune climbing roses

Climbing roses are best cut back in winter, once their flowers have faded (sometime between December and February). Longer and more delicate looking sprouts can, however, be pruned a bit or tied during autumn. This is done to protect the roses from the strong, late autumn winds.

Renovating climbing roses can be done through late autumn to late winter. During this time the rose is not in leaf, making work on it a lot easier due to the visibility. 

Want to know more about when to deal with different garden maintenance jobs? Read more in our gardening calendar!

Pruning climbing roses

Climbing roses are a bit different than other types of roses when it comes to pruning, as only the side of their shoots require work. Trimming those is done in order to gradually build-up a framework, making the plant easier to tie into fences and walls.

Initial training and pruning of adolescent climbing roses

Climbing roses range in size and can be anywhere between 1m and 6m tall (or even taller). Also, all of them, without exception, need to be trained to climb as they are not self-clinging plants. Training your roses consists of tying their canes to the support you plan to grow them on and pruning them when needed to stimulate their growth. To get the best results, follow these tips on how to train your climbing roses:

  • If you don’t own a trellis you will need to install horizontal wires (on the desired surface) to which the shoots will be tied to. Place the first and lowest wire 45 cm off the ground and all subsequent wires 30 cm apart from each other.
  • When training climbing roses on pillars, pergolas, or arches, twist their main shoots around the upright while keeping them in a horizontal position. This will encourage flowering shoots to form at the base of the plant.
  • Prune the tips of the main stems to the first strong bud if they are slow to branch out. This process will stimulate the growth of side shoots. 
  • During these early stages, it’s also good to remove any dead or diseased growth. Also, don’t forget to deadhead the climbing roses during the flowering season.

Regular maintenance of climbing roses

Routinely pruning and maintaining your climbing roses is a must if you want your beautiful climber to illuminate your back garden. 

Begin the maintenance process by removing any of the “four D’s” – dead, dying, damaged and diseased stems. Then inspect the climber for new shoots and tie them in if you find any. Follow this up by pruning back, flowered side shoots by two-thirds of their original length. 

Important: If your climbing rose is heavily congested, prune really old branches from the roots to promote new and stable growth. 

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How to deadhead climbing roses

Deadheading is the process of removing old blossoms from the climbing rose. This is done in order to stimulate the plant to set seed and complete the blooming cycle. Deadheading climbing roses is quite simple and requires just a bit of observation.

Begin by inspecting the rose canes once per week during blooming season for any wilting flowers. Flowers that have started withering or whose petals have begun shrivelling and falling must be removed. Once you spot some, proceed with the following steps:

  • Cut the stem, to which the withering flower is attached, at an angle of about 45 degrees, using your pair of shears. The cut must be 1 cm above the nearest leaves.
  • Always work from the bottom up when deadheading, as to not miss any wilting flowers. If the climbing rose has grown taller, don’t hesitate to use a stepladder.
  • Dispose of all the clipped blossoms by either adding them to your green bin or your compost pile. Avoid leaving them on the soil around the climbing plant as they might attract insects and other infectious organisms.
When deadheading more than one climbing plant, be sure to disinfect your shears with ethyl alcohol to prevent spreading potential disease from one plant to the other.


  • Climbing roses are best pruned between late December and February.
  • Pruning your climbing roses once or twice a year will stimulate their growth.
  • Deadheading your climbing plant aids it in healthily completing its blooming cycle.


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Image source: Shutterstock / ajisai13

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