Climbing Roses: Planting & Caring Tips

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Climbing roses are vigorous, easy to grow, and add a lot to your garden. Not only do they provide a plentiful amount of blooms and fragrance, but they can also play a strong and versatile utilitarian role in the garden. They can make a dramatic addition to a landscape. Their size and habit allows them to be used as an architectural feature. Climbers can be trained on a fence or trellis to provide screening or garden walls. They can frame a window or doorway. When trained on an arbor they can create a dazzling entry or doorway to other parts of the garden. They can even be used as a focal point when grown on a pillar frame.

To get the most out of your climbing roses, here are a few simple tips to assure an abundance of bloom and enjoyment in your garden:

Site Selection


Roses do best in full sun. While they tolerate some shade, they will bloom more and grow more dense and full when they receive at least 4-6 hours of direct sun each day. Also, pick a site that will accommodate the climber's growth habit. Climbers can grow from 6-12 feet tall (even taller with some!) and spread almost as wide.

Prepare the Soil


Roses are quite adaptable to many types of soil, but they do their best in rich, fertile, loamy soil with good drainage. No matter what soil is in your garden it can be improved with the addition of organic matter such as compost, mulch or peat moss. This will improve drainage in heavy clay soils and improve water retention in sandy soils.

Plant as Soon as Possible


One of the best ways to buy climbing roses are as bareroot plants. The plants are dormant at this time. This makes them easy to handle and plant. Bareroot planting season begins in late winter or early spring when the soil has thawed and is workable. Planting at this time allows the roots to get established in their new home before the hot weather of summer arrives. Because they haven't been pampered in a potting soil media, their roots get established in the indigenous garden soil very quickly.

Pick a Suitable Fence or Structure to Train Your Climbing Roses

Climbing roses do not twine or have tendrils to attach themselves to a structure. They need something sturdy that they can be loosely secured to or woven through. One trick to make climbing roses produce more bloom is to train them more laterally than vertically. When trained more horizontally, climbers will produce short spurs along their main stems or canes and these will produce blooms (very similar to practices used on apple or fruit trees to increase bloom and fruit-set).

Fertilize Your Climbers


It takes a lot of energy to produce all those large, magnificent blooms! Fertilize regularly with a balanced fertilizer that provides ample amounts of all the necessary nutrients. Avoid fertilizers meant for lawns. These tend to be quite high in nitrogen. This will produce a very lush, dark green plant, but less blooms.

Go Easy on the Pruning


Climbers need little or no pruning the first two years. Many of the older climbing varieties tend to bloom on second-year canes. If it has been pruned back each year like hybrid teas and other shrub roses then bloom production will be minimal. Plan on pruning climbing roses every three or four years. At this time, remove small, twiggy canes and old, woody, less vigorous canes at the base of the plant in favor of the young, vigorous canes that are long and flexible. These can then be trained onto or through the structure provided.

There are many wonderful climbing roses to choose from, both old and new. Newer climbers tend to produce larger blooms and more of them throughout the growing season. They also tend to have a very sturdy, upright habit. Good choices in this category include Scent from Above (fragrant, rich golden yellow), Blaze of Glory (a vigorous grower and a prolific bloomer with viberant orange blooms), Social Climber (fragrant, full petaled light pink), High Society, (clusters of large 5" fuchsia), Dream Weaver™(another prolific bloomer with ruffly coral pink blooms), and Don Juan (dark red, strong fragrance).

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