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The Correct Way to Prune Climbing Roses

Pruning climbing roses
With the correct tools, pruning climbing roses is very easy.

The Flowering Characteristics Are Decisive

With recurrent pruning, climbing roses remain vibrant and flower extensively. You can also control the plant growth with regular pruning.

Pruning climbing roses primarily depends on the flowering characteristics. We differentiate between varieties that only flower once a year and those that flower several times a year.

The single flowering varieties, such as the rambler rose, should be pruned once a year at the most. Spring is the ideal time for this. Roses that flower twice a year should be pruned twice. The correct time for this come in the spring and summer respectively. You should then prune these climbing roses directly after they flower.

Varieties of Climbing Rose that Flower Repeatedly

Modern types of climbing roses are also called “climbers”. They grow three to four metres tall. They sometimes even reach heights of five metres. This makes them particularly suitable for rose arches, obelisks, and trellises. And climbers can sometimes also be good as a visual screen. Well-known varieties of climber are “Coral Down”, “Ilse Krohn Superior” and “Swan Lake”.

Climbing roses that flower repeatedly have relatively large flowers that appear twice a year. These develop from around the end of May until the start of July. You can look forward to the second flowering from August. It almost seems as though these varieties flower continuously from May until the first frost.

The numerous flowers mean a real show of strength for the climbing rose. This is why the varieties which flower repeatedly are also considerably weaker than those that only flower once a year. The climbers also have shorter, rigid shoots. You should tie these securely to robust trellises.

The repeat flowering climbing roses develop their basic structure from these branches. Later, the side-shoots with the flowers grow out of these.

When pruning these climbing roses, shorten the plant to roughly this basic structure. For short, stronger shoots, power-assisted secateurs can help, such as the EasyPrune from Bosch. These will help you to make cleaner cuts and easily tolerated cuts for the climbing rose, even on stronger shoots.

EasyPrune from Bosch
The Bosch EasyPrune secateurs are power assisted. You can even cut thicker branches easily with them.

Pruning Repeat Flowering Climbing Roses in the Spring

As mentioned, you should prune repeat flowering climbing roses to keep the plant vibrant. Pruning stimulates the plant to form new shoots. Flowers then form on these new side shoots. Therefore, regular pruning enables the rose to develop a lot of flowers.

Reach for the secateurs for the first time in March or April. Then shorten all side shoots by about half. Leave three to five eyes or twigs.

If the climbing rose is older and the lower area is bare, take care of the older shoots as well to rejuvenate the plant. Do this by cutting off the old shoots above the soil. This will considerably thin out the plant.

However, not all varieties tolerate this rejuvenation equally well. So it’s better proceed with caution and make a test cut first. Do this by cutting off a third of the old, bare branches directly over the soil in the spring. If the rose tolerates this well and re-shoots as usual, you can shorten the other branches in the following year.

However, if the plant has a sensitive reaction, you should leave the other branches as they are. To prevent the bare lower part of the rose from appearing unattractive, simply under-plant the rose with a lower variety of bushy rose. This will cover the bare patches and you will have even more flowers in the garden.

Rejuvenating climbing roses
Cut off older climbing rose shoots just above the soil. This will rejuvenate the plant. ©MSG/Folkert Siemens Produktion: Wolfgang Bohlsen

Prune Repeat Flowering Climbing Roses in the Summer

Pruning in the summer increases the flowering performance in particular. For this, remove the wilted flowers or flower clusters. Cut below the flower with your secateurs, closely above the first fully developed leaf. This will prevent the rose from putting energy into forming seeds and instead put it into new flowers.

If the first flowering in June is finished, shorten all faded shoots. Cut back to a healthy eye. This usually means taking off around two thirds of the shoot. The cutting point should be about as thick as a pencil.

New shoots sometimes form in the lower third of the rose. You can leave these and tie them horizontally to the trellis. This is important if you want to rejuvenate the rose later. Then you can stem the old branches on these young shoots.

You can also find out more information about the how and why of pruning roses here.

Single Flowering Climbing Rose Varieties

Flowers on a climbing rose
Prune the faded shoots of the climbing rose after the first flowering in June. You can remove a good two thirds of the length. ©Flora Press/Annette Lepple

The varieties of climbing rose that only flower once a year are also called “ramblers”. They grow up to ten metres tall, depending on the variety. Their shoots are particularly flexible and many feet long. The plant uses these to climb upwards on old trees, fences, arbors and other trellises.

Rambler roses do not form a basic frame in the way repeat flowering varieties do. Their growth is therefore significantly wilder and more tangled.

Rambler rose flowers are very simple and tend to be small. However, they form such a plethora of opulent umbels that hardly any of the climbing rose foliage is still visible. These varieties have a very delicate fragrance.

Rambler roses developed from wild roses. As with these, rambler roses also form new shoots from the base. They develop vibrant rosehips in the fall.

Rambler roses grow vigorously. This is partly because they only flower once a year and therefore do not have to save energy for a second flowering. Well-known varieties of single flowering climbing roses are “New Dawn”, “Flame Dance” and “Bobby James”.

Pruning Single Flowering Climbing Roses

Rambler roses do not generally require regular pruning. They develop plenty of flowers on the previous year’s side shoots without regular pruning. This is practical as the upper areas of this very tall growing plant can only be reached with a ladder and you would therefore need to put a fair amount of effort into pruning.

It’s best to leave the plant in peace until it has taken in up the place in the garden that you have planned for it. Do not cut off long shoots, rather tie them with plant wire or raffia in an arch shape. The more horizontally the shoots are placed, the more richly the rose will flower.

You should only reach for the secateurs with single flowering climbing roses after five to six years. You do not need to leave a basic frame with these varieties. Simply cut of an old shoot directly above the soil every two to three years. Secateurs with power assistance, such as the EasyPrune from Bosch, can also help here with stronger shoots. Then pull the shoot you have cut off out of the tangle of branches.

You should only remove the shoots from these varieties which bother the plant or make it appear too dense. If shoots cross or rub on one another or if one of them is diseased, cut off these parts of the climbing rose as well. In this way, you will rejuvenate the plant.

If your rambler rose is growing too vigorously, completely shorten the faded shoots. The right place for the cut is just above the soil.

You can shorten faded side shoots by two thirds. However, it will form fewer rosehips. If you don’t want to lose the rosehips, let the shoots grow.

Some varieties of the rambler rose develop several, particularly thin shoots shortly before flowering. They do not have flower buds. These shoots are also called “fishing poles”. You can cut these back to two to three eye pairs.

What’s more, the roses generally like to be naturally fertilized again and again. For example, only with fresh compost soil or humus. You can find out how to produce this garden gold yourself here.

Pruning roses
Keep your garden roses in shape with regular pruning. This will make them look attractive and cared for. ©MSG/Martin Staffler
The Correct Way to Prune Climbing Roses
You need to prune climbing roses regularly. However, when to start and how often you should reach for the secateurs depends on the variety. You can find out everything you need to know about pruning climbing roses here.