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 by 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 and the rose plants enter the dormant season. This usually happens sometime between October and February. This time is also perfect for renovating old overgrown climbing roses. During this time the rose is not in leaf, making it a lot easier to examine the branches and work on it.

During autumn, longer and more delicate looking sprouts can be pruned a bit and  the stems tied back to a preferred fixture – a wall, a fence or an arch. This is done to protect the roses from the strong, late autumn winds, that can easily break your climbing rose. 

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 from other types of roses when it comes to pruning, as only certain canes require pruning. One of the most common mistakes that we have noticed is that inexperienced gardeners tend to cut the wrong parts of the rose or trim the canes too short. As a result, their climbing roses don’t bloom the next season. 

If you look at the climbing rose, you will see the main cane – the one that grows from the base of the plant, and laterals – smaller shoots that grow away from the main cane. So, here you need to remember one rule – never cut the main stem more than one-third of the length

When it comes to pruning lateral branches, those can be pruned along the whole season. The cuts should be made 30 to 40 cm away from the main stem, right above a bud eye.

Initial training and pruning of adolescent climbing roses

Climbing roses range in size and can be anywhere between 1m and 6m tall . 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 shaping them when needed. To get the best results, follow these tips on how to train your climbing roses:


  • Step 1. Install a trellis or horizontal wires (on the desired surface) to which the shoots will be tied. Place the first and lowest wire 45 cm off the ground and all subsequent wires 30 cm apart from each otherWhen 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;
  • Step 2. Remove any dead or diseased growth. Starting from the bottom of your rose, identify all the dead, damaged and diseased branches that won’t produce any shoots and therefore need removal;
  • Step 3. 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;
  • Step 4. Deadhead the climbing roses during the flowering season. Remove faded flowers. That way you encourage your roses to produce more flowers.

Regular maintenance of climbing roses

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

Regular maintenance of climbing roses consists of

  1. Removing the “Three D’s” of any trees, shrubs and climbers – dead, damaged and diseased stems;
  2. Then inspect the climber for new shoots and tie them in if you find any;
  3. Follow this up by pruning side shoots by two-thirds of their original length;
  4. Finally, 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. After a rose blooms out, it starts developing seeds in the rose hips and wastes a lot of energy on it. By snapping the flower heads off, your climber will spend energy on the production of new flowers instead.

Deadheading is quite simple and requires just a bit of observation. Begin by inspecting the rose canes once per week during the blooming season. Once you see that flowers have started withering and their petals falling, it means that it is time to remove the flower heads.  This is how you do it:

  • 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.

Takeaways

  • Climbing roses are best pruned between late autumn and mid-winter;
  • Climbing rose is not a self-clinging plant, therefore needs constant training;
  • Regular maintenance for climbing roses includes regular pruning, tying new shoots to the trellis, and removal of damaged or flowered material;
  • Deadheading your climbing plant aids them to redirect the energy on flowering, instead of producing seeds;
  • Clip out the bloomed flowers once you spot them.

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Image source: Shutterstock / ajisai13

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