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Training a Climbing Rose


Is there a more inviting garden entrance than a sunny arbor covered with roses? Or a more attractive way to frame a front door than a rose-covered lattice? Whether left to tumble over a picket fence or or carefully trained to a horizontal wires to create a narrow privacy hedge, climbing roses have a place in any garden.

The term "climbing roses" is a little bit of a misnomer. Roses don’t actually climb in the same way that vines like ivy or clematis climb, using suction-cup like holdfasts or twining around a support. Climbing roses are simply rose varieties that tend to produce long, arching canes. Left on their own, these roses would tend to form large, unwieldy shrubs; to get roses to climb you must tie them to a support or manually weave them through a lattice.

Before you dig in, here are some guidelines for planting and training climbing roses.

Decide where you’ll plant: Roses require at least 6 hours of sunlight during the growing season and fertile, well-drained soil.

Choose a support: Roses produce more flowers when the structural canes grow horizontally, such as along a fence, than when grown vertically, as on a rose tower. When selecting a trellis, also consider ease of access for pruning and the trellis’ ability to hold the weight of a full grown rose in wet and windy weather.

Install the trellis: If possible, install the support before planting your roses. Be sure the support is firmly anchored in the ground and strong enough for the mature weight of the plants. If growing against a building, position the trellis a few feet from the wall to allow for air circulation and maintenance. Place it at right angles to the prevailing wind or in a sheltered spot in very windy areas.

Plant your rose: Dig a hole 18 to 30 inches from the support. Mix compost or well-rotted manure and a handful of superphosphate with the removed soil. If planting a bare-root rose, make a cone of soil in the center of the hole on which to drape the roots. Plant the graft union, the bulge where the top joins the bottom, 2 to 6 inches below the soil line in cold-winter climates, slightly above the soil level in warmer regions.

Attach the canes: Climbing roses produce two kinds of shoots: the main structural canes and the flowering shoots which grow from these canes. Select the sturdiest structural canes and tie them loosely to the support with strips of stretchy cloth, such as pantyhose. Space the canes evenly and, ideally, as close to horizontal as possible.

Maintain: Allow climbers to grow unpruned, except to remove dead or broken branches, for two or three years. On established plants, prune dead, damaged, and overcrowded canes to the base. Tie in new canes to replace them. Prune the flowering side shoots to two to three buds above the structural canes during the dormant season.



‘American Pillar
Climbing Rose

American Pillar explodes each spring with a profusion of carmine-pink single blooms in huge clusters.
New Dawn
Climbing Rose

The plump blooms of this cameo pink climber offer a fruity fragrance.
Zephrine Drouhin
Climbing Rose

A nearly thornless climber, Zephrine Drouhin is well-suited for use along fences and walkways in that it will not catch passersby with anything other than its sweet aroma.
Sutter’s Gold
Climbing Rose

The climbing form of the 1950 AARS winner, Sutter’s Gold, has long yellow buds that open to large golden blooms brushed with carmine.


Tips: Provide winter protection in USDA Zones 7 and colder by untying canes and laying them gently on the ground. Pin them down with U-shaped wire staples and cover with soil or mulch. Plant a clematis vine 2 to 3 feet away from your climbing rose and train them to grow together for an extended flowering display.

Credit: National Gardening Association