Roses are one the most popular flowers of all, thanks to their beautiful versatility that can grace gardens of all kinds. There’s a huge variety of rose types to choose from, but one of the most dramatic, and easiest to grow, is the climbing rose.
Known more formally as Rosa hybrid, the climbing rose is an ideal way to cover a wall, fence, or arch with a blaze of summer color while also filling your garden with scent. And what’s more, climbing roses are a straightforward plant to cultivate and care for.
How to Grow Climbing Roses: Selecting Your Variety
There’s a wide selection of climbing rose cultivars available, and considering that the plant can thrive for decades, it’s important to choose a variety you’ll be happy with. When looking for the best climbing rose variety to grow, consider whether you’d prefer single or double flowers, and which of the many colors will best fit into your garden. Climbing roses are available in shades from white through pink to red and yellow.
You can also choose climbing rose varieties bred for their scent, or ones that are almost scentless and won’t compete with highly perfumed neighboring plants. If you’re growing the rose next to a pathway or around a doorway, you might like to choose a thornless variety for safety. And lastly, consider opting for a disease-resistant rose to make growing this forgiving flower even easier.
Choosing The Best Position for Your Climbing Rose
Climbing roses prefer full sun, although they can tolerate partial shade with lower blooming levels. But when you’re choosing the location, bear in mind that some mature plants can reach 12 feet (3.5m) in height and spread, so be sure to allow enough space. Also, if you can, place the plant a foot or two away from any wall or fence, to give the roots room to grow.
How to Plant a Climbing Rose
1. Climbing roses are best planted in early spring, while they’re still dormant. Once you’ve selected your planting area, dig a hole to the depth of your rose plant’s root ball, making it three times as wide. Mix the removed soil with a little well-rotted compost to enrich its nutrient levels.
2. Slip the rose plant out of its container, tapping on the sides if necessary to ease it out, taking care to avoid any root damage.
3. Set the root ball down into the hole and remove any protective wrapping. If the roots look tightly packed, loosen them gently with your fingers, again being careful to avoid damage.
4. Refill the hole with the soil and compost mix, tamping it down firmly, until the top of the root ball is just below the surface.
5. Finally, water well, and add 2 inches (5 cm) of organic mulch to maintain moisture, leaving 4 inches (10 cm) clear around the stem to prevent rotting.
Climbing Rose – Ongoing Care
Climbing roses are thirsty plants, and in dry weather a weekly deep watering might be needed, especially when establishing a new plant. It’s better to give climbing roses a good soaking every few days rather than a constant flow of light irrigation, as this will encourage stronger roots for a healthier plant and better drought resistance.
After around two years of growth, the plant should be able to cope with natural rainfall alone, except in particularly dry areas.
Climbing roses don’t need constant feeding, but adding a balanced general-purpose fertilizer each spring will help growth and flower production. Also consider top-dressing with compost, rotted manure, or leaf mold each year after flowering is over.
How to Train a Climbing Rose
For the best show of climbing rose flowers, the plant should be trained against a trellis or other support. Unlike plants such as wisteria which produce clinging tendrils, roses can use a little help as they make their way skyward.
As new canes sprout from the plant, bend them gently to the side so that they grow outward into an uncovered part of the trellis. Secure them in place using a stretchy plant tape, jute twine or twist tie, leaving some slack to accommodate the cane’s growth.
Keep directing and securing new growth until the trellis surface is evenly covered. Remove any fading flowers to encourage new blooms.
How to Prune a Climbing Rose
For the first few years of a climbing rose’s life, there’s no need to prune unless the plant is escaping from the area you want it to cover. Once the rose plant is the size and shape you’re looking for, start an annual pruning regimen by removing a few of the oldest canes each spring to encourage fresh new ones to form, therefore increasing the number of flowers.
Also, tie in new canes as they grow to keep an even coverage, while removing any dead, damaged or weak canes as you go. Lastly, every three years or so, prune a little harder than usual to maintain the plant’s vigor.
For more information on climbing roses and their bushy relatives, read our articles Get to Know Roses and How to Fix 8 Common Rose Problems.