Pruning climbing roses

Last updated on February 22nd, 2022

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Pruning your climbing roses is a good way to ensure that your plant will produce flowers and remain strong each subsequent season. If you don’t prune your climbing roses they will inevitably become a tangled mess of branches and they won’t produce an adequate number of flowers. Most people consider this a complicated process but if you follow this guide you can learn how to prune a climbing rose easily.

How to prune a climbing rose

It is moderately difficult to prune a climbing rose and it should be done near the end of autumn or the beginning of winter. This is a method that is suitable specifically for climbing roses and the easiest way to tell if you have a climbing rose versus a rambling rose is to take note of when the flowers bloom. Climbing roses will repeatedly flower throughout the summer and autumn but rambling roses typically only bloom once, in June

If you have a rambling rose that flowers just once then you can read about how to prune them here.

When to prune

Climbing roses are typically pruned in the winter once the flowers have faded. It is recommended that you prune between December and February.

In the autumn you can take note of any long shoots that you will need to shorten and do so to prevent the strong winds from damaging them throughout the winter and to encourage new growth from the main stems. If you don’t shorten them you can always tie them down. It’s worth noting that it is much easier to see what you are doing when your climbing rose is not in leaf. You will also get a better response from your rose when it grows back more vigorously the following spring.

Climbing roses need support structures to which the shoots can be tied because they are not self-clinging. To that end, it is important that you start off by providing horizontal wires or a trellis framework to which your climbing roses can be fastened to using string or wire, but be careful not to tie them too tightly and damage the stems.

  • Set the lowest wire approximately 45cm off the ground and any subsequent wires should be spaced 30cm apart.
  • If you choose to train your roses over an arch or a pergola, you want to twist the main shoots very gently around the upright components of the structures. You would do well to keep these shoots as horizontal as possible so that the flowers form lower down.
  • If your main stems are having a hard time branching with very little growth shooting, you can prune them back to the first strong bud in order to encourage the growth of side shoots.
  • You should remove any dead, diseased or damaged growth as soon as you see it in order to encourage the flow of energy to other parts of the plant. You should also deadhead the flowers throughout the season, which, as with all roses, helps to promote new flowers.

In terms of routine pruning you should do every year on established roses, following the steps below:

  1. Remove any dead, dying or diseased branches and discard them.
  2. Tie-in new shoots that require support.
  3. Prune side shoots back by approximately two-thirds of their total length and this will encourage new growth in spring.
  4. If you have an old rose that is a little overgrown, cut away very old branches starting at the base in order to promote new growth, leaving the younger heathier shoots.

If you are trying to rejuvenate an overgrown rose and bring it back into a manageable size, follow the steps below:

  1. Remove any dead, dying or diseased shoots. Get rid of any weaker shoots that you know are well on their way to falling under this category.
  2. Cut old woody branches back to the ground but make sure you maintain a maximum of 4 to 5 younger stems that can be secured to your support structure.
  3. Saw away dead stumps to the base to prevent them from rotting.
  4. Shorten any side shoots on your remaining branches. To encourage new branching you can prune these back by cutting away the tips by approximately one third or a half of their size.
  5. Finally, spread some rose fertiliser around the base of the rose and add some mulch to help give your plants a boost.

Want to learn more about pruning other types of roses, click here

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