Climb to the Top: How to Plant Climbing Roses with Ease

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Spring is the time to plant roses, and the climbers are among those to set out. Every garden, no matter how small or large, has room for a few plants which require little space and not too much care.

Climbing roses may be grown for screening or ornamental purposes. For example, they can be trained on a fence to provide privacy, against a house or garage, over a trellis or arbor, or on a post or pole.

Climbing RosePin

Particularly attractive on a rail fence or a stone wall, they may be used to cover a bank or on an outcropping stone, where they make a striking appearance. For either traditional or modern houses, they are equally suited and adaptable. 

Climbers Are Among The Easiest Roses To Grow

They are permanent, long-lived plants and continue to bloom even if not pruned or sprayed once established. 

Early spring, before growth begins, is a good time to plant them when stock is handled bare-rooted, though potted plants can be set out throughout the growing season.

Good Site For Climbing Roses

A good site for climbing roses has both sunshine and free air circulation. If air flows freely, mildew, black spot, and other diseases will be less prevalent. 

Sun, too, is important, and though full sunshine gives the best results, plants do well if they receive sun for part of the day, as little as three or four hours, assuming the soil is good and plants are fed periodically.

A Large Planting Hole is Always an Investment

With climbers, make it at least 18” inches wide and a foot deep, but if the soil is poor, bring in good soil from elsewhere. 

Mix compost or a few handfuls of old or dehydrated manure and some peat moss to help hold moisture. 

Then add a few handfuls of a completely balanced fertilizer and mix it thoroughly with the soil that will be placed around the roots.


Since plants come already pruned, the rose will need little pruning except to cut broken branches or any that are small and weak. 

After unpacking:

  • Examine roots.
  • Cut any that are broken.
  • Spread them out in all directions in the hole, so they are not cramped. 

Hold the plant in position with one hand, and with the other, add the soil, working it around the roots.

After filling the hole about two-thirds:

  • Press the soil firmly with the hands or feet.
  • Fill the hole with water.
  • Wait for it to drain. 

The soil line indicates planting depth at the base of the stem, which may be used as a guide to set the plant at the same depth or about an inch deeper.

Adding More Soil

After the water has drained off, add more soil, but this time do not tramp. Rather, mound the soil around the canes and leave it there until the buds begin to break. 

The purpose of the soil is to protect the canes from the drying effects of wind and sun, a practice recommended for all kinds of roses.

Sometimes if plants arrive too early, before the ground is workable, or if you happen to be too busy to set them out, it is possible to heal them in the soil for later planting. 

Wet Roots If Dry 

First, examine the packing medium around the roots and add water if it is too dry. 

To do this, it is better to unpack the roots so that excess water may be squeezed out of the packing material. Then place the plant in a cool place, such as a garage or shed, for not more than a week.

If you cannot plant within a week, dig a trench that is not too sunny, set plants at a 45-degree angle, and cover them completely with soil. This will retard growth and keep canes in perfect condition.

Feeding Climbing Roses

Climbing roses appreciate feeding at least once a year, preferably in the very early spring. Use a rose food or a balanced chemical fertilizer according to directions. 

In addition, add organic matter in the form of peat moss, compost, or dehydrated manure.

Since all roses have roots near the surface, scratch in fertilizer lightly in order not to injure them. At flowering time, feed again, but avoid using fertilizers in late summer, which tends to stimulate new growth that does not harden properly before cold weather.

Climbers Require Support

Climbers are not twining or clinging vines. Therefore, their canes require tying to a support, such as on a trellis, fence, or arbor. Fasten canes as they grow, tying them loosely to avoid bruising with soft twine.

Whether canes are trained upright or horizontally makes little difference, but horizontally trained plants bloom more profusely. This is more true of some varieties, including Golden Climber.

Early spring, before buds begin to break (which is early), is the time to prune. A second pruning period is a fall, but remove only dead or weak wood and head back extra long canes at that time.

To know what and how to prune, it is first necessary to classify the different kinds of climbing roses. 

There are the ramblers, the large-flowered climbers, the everblooming climbers, and the climbing hybrid teas, polyanthas, and floribundas.


Like the old-time Dorothy Perkins, Ramblers produce new canes from the base each year. After this flower, cut them directly to the ground, leaving only the new ones to flower the following season. 

Although this pruning can be done in the summer or fall, the sooner it is done, the more energy is freed to help produce strong canes.

Paul’s Scarlet is an example of a large-flowered climber. Roses in this group do not produce many canes and require little pruning. Instead, cut back some of the oldest growth in the spring.

With everblooming climbers and climbing hybrid teas, polyanthus and floribundas cut off old blooms and remove any wood that is dead or weak.

Re-sparing with them, allowing enough growth to cover the desired area. Newly planted climbers can go without pruning for about three years.

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