Don’t know how to prune climbing roses? You might think that pruning a climbing rose would be the same as pruning a rose bush; however, this is not the case. In this article, I will discuss the unique needs of climbing roses and provide smart tips to help you prune your climbers like a pro. Read on to learn more.
Be Patient with Old Wood Bloomers
One of the first things you should know about pruning “old wood blooming” climbing roses is that you should not do it until the plant is 2-3 years old. Naturally, you should trim back any dead or diseased growth, but otherwise, let your rose ramble. In the first couple of years focus on training your rose to climb the way you want it to. This will help establish the basic shape and structure of the plant.
After the plant is fully leafed out in the second year, you can perform your first light pruning. If you have a single-blooming rose, prune “old wood” judiciously because this is where the blooms develop on this variety.
After your climbing rose has finished blooming in the second year give it a more thorough pruning. This means pruning at the end of summer, preparatory to winter dormancy. At this time, you can cut back as much as a quarter of old wood growth to give your climbing vine the shape you want.
In subsequent years, you should do your annual, heavy pruning during the winter months after the leaves have fallen (I usually do it in December). You’ll be able to see the “skeleton” of the plant better and do some real, renovative pruning. This kind of vigorous, down-time pruning stimulates good, new growth in the springtime.
Follow these steps when pruning a climbing rose:
1. Trim off any dead matter.
2. Sterilise your cutting implements.
3. Identify, guide and tie new shoots you wish to retain.
4. Prune away 2/3rds of the length of flowered side shoots and stem tips to encourage branching and fullness.
5. For heavily congested plants, remove very old branches from the bottom of the plant. This will encourage new growth.
6. Be sure to leave a minimum of half a dozen vigorous young stems at the base. Secure these to support structures.
7. If there are dead stumps, saw them off at an angle, as close to the ground as possible to prevent rain collection and rot.
Training is an Important Aspect of Pruning
Climbing roses do not support themselves. Part of your pruning project will involve securing the plant to its trellis or support wires to guide its growth. The lowest support should be about eighteen inches from the ground. Support structures should stand about a foot apart.
If you are training your climber up a structure (e.g. a pergola, arch or pillar) you may be able to simply guide the soft shoots around elements of the structure. Try to keep them horizontal so that flowering shoots will form low on the stems.
If your plant develops long, whip-like shoots that give it an untidy appearance during the growing season, you can trim them slightly and/or tie them back to control them and prevent wind damage.
5 Pruning Tips
1. If your climbing rose is a repeat bloomer, you should deadhead it frequently throughout the growing and blooming season to encourage more blossoms. Repeat bloomers can be pruned in either early spring or late winter without hampering blossom production.
2. When you prune your roses, keep a bottle of white school glue close at hand. This thrifty product is excellent for sealing pruning cuts to keep out pests, fungus and viruses.
3. Keep your tools clean and well-sharpened for safe, easy operation. You’ll need a pair of standard, bypass topiary shears and a set of long-handled loppers. You’ll get the most use out of the loppers because they extend your reach and make it easy to prune inside the growth without getting poked by thorns.
4. You can remove sickly, dead or damaged limbs and stems at any time. The same thing is true for spent blossoms. Even with single-bloomers, removing the dead flowers presents a more attractive appearance.
5. If you find that the main stems are not branching as you wish, prune the tips to encourage them to produce side shoots and present a fuller appearance.
Good Pruning Ensures Success!
If you neglect your climbing roses, they can quickly become an unruly tangle of sickly foliage with few (if any) blossoms. Correct and consistent pruning stimulates vigorous growth and abundant blooms. Follow the guidelines presented here to prune your climbing roses effectively.