Climbers (Roses)

Many people think of climbing roses as a single group, but in fact there are two: climbers and ramblers. The distinction is more than just a whim on some ancient rose-grower’s part, and it affects the way they are pruned. Climbers are to all intents and purposes the same as bush roses except that they are much taller and need some form of support. Indeed, many varieties of rose may be grown as a large bush or trained as a climber.

Pruning a Climbing Rose 1: A climbing rose trained around a pillar. It can be pruned in situ or untied, pruned and then tied back into place. 

Picture of Patio Planting

Pruning a Climbing Rose 2: After cutting out dead and damaged wood and reducing flowered stems by up to two- thirds, cut out a few of the older stems.

Garden Planning

Pruning a Climbing Rose 3: After pruning tie in the remaining shoots using proprietary rose ties or soft garden string. Do not strangle the plant. 

Garden Planning

Pruning a Climbing Rose 4: When the rose is in flower, remove all the faded ones by cutting out their stem back to a leaf, shoot or bud.

Garden Planning

Renovating an Old Climbing 1: Sometimes it is necessary to take drastic action in order to renovate an old climbing rose. A better support also needs to be provided. 

Garden Planning

Renovating an Old Climbing 2: The thickest of the stems should be cut through with a saw. Be careful when you reach the end of the cut that the stem does not split.

Garden Planning

Renovating an Old Climbing 3: Thinner material can be cut out using secateurs (pruners) or long-handled pruners, again taking care not to split the remaining stubs. 

Garden Planning

Renovating an Old Climbing 4: The resulting stool. In most cases, it would be better to spread the removal of the old wood over two or more seasons. 

Deadhead as often as possible, cutting
back the longer shoots that stick out over
a path or into the middle of an archway. 


Climbers can be trained in a number of ways. They can be tied in to wires stretched horizontally across walls or fences, or trained up vertical structures such as posts, obelisks and tripods. They can also be trained to cover pergolas, arbours and arches. They can be allowed to scramble into trees but this is mainly the province of the ramblers. If grown in trees, they are not very easy to prune and can lose their vitality.

Initial training

No pruning is required after planting climbing roses, beyond cutting back any damaged growth. As the new stems develop, spread them out so that they cover the whole of the area and tie them in. To stimulate side shoots, lightly cut back longer shoots. Continue to tie them in as they grow.

Established pruning

Prune between late autumn and early spring. Firstly, take out completely any dead, damaged or diseased wood. Also remove any weak growth. Prune back all flowered shoots by between half and two-thirds to a strong bud or shoot. After a few years, cut out one or two of the oldest, least productive stems, either right back to the base or to a strong shoot low down. Tie in all the new growth to fill gaps and extend the framework. Avoid cutting back too vigorously, especially in the initial stages, as many climbing versions of bush varieties may revert to the bush habit.

Pruning a climbing rose

Climbing roses can be trained up a variety of supports. They tend not to be too vigorous and so are suitable for arches and the like, where more restrained growth is required. Train the rose so that it covers as much as possible of its allotted space. After flowering cut the flowered shoots up to two-thirds back to a shoot or strong bud. Also, remove any suckers that appear at the base of the rose.

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