With such an abundant variety of colour and fragrance, there’s a rose suited for everyone somewhere. Climbing roses allow you to use the boundaries and structures of your garden, which in today’s modern, smaller, gardens actually can hold the greatest amount of space. A well-trained climbing rose can add height and elegance to any outdoor space, making it the most timeless and perfect way to cover up a weathered wall or a colourless pergola.
If looked after correctly, climbing roses can achieve heavy blooms throughout the summer and into the autumn for several years. With this guide, we’ll show you how to ensure your roses become a stylish staple feature of your garden for years to come!
Picking the Perfect Rose and Place
One of the greatest things about climbing roses is their ability to flower year after year and how they respond well to heavy maintenance, making them a strong investment for the future. However, dependent on the variety they can be somewhat needy in their first years, so ensuring their basic needs are met is essential.
First of all, check the specific requirements of that rose, mainly;
- How much sunlight it needs
- The kind of soil it requires
- How much space it’ll need once it’s reached its eventual height
Then, pick a spot in the garden which would suit the rose, considering these prerequisites.
Ensure that all stones and weeds along with any other competition have been removed. This will help the roots to establish themselves in the first couple of years.
If you’re training against a wall or fence, leave 50cm between it and the base of the plant. This will give the roots more space to grow out.
If you are using a space where you previously used to grow roses, then it’s important to replace at least the first 6 inches of topsoil. Roses are susceptible to replant disease which can in some cases kill your rose. Simply use soil from elsewhere in your garden and, for best results, mix in manure or compost and leave to settle for 2 weeks.
Soak your rose before planting it into the ground. You can either give the plant a generous watering if it is potted or leave to soak in a bucket of water for around 2 hours if it is bareroot.
When digging, you want a hole roughly twice the width of the plant and also give an additional 5 inches of depth. With a fork break up the soil at the bottom giving the roots a chance to spread out. Here, fill in the extra depth with manure or quality compost.
Sprinkle any surface the roots will come into contact with lightly with Mycorrhizal Fungi (commonly know as Rootgrow). This will help stimulate and nurture root growth.
Backfill the remaining space and gently heel. Make sure your rose is well watered and is supported securely on your trellis or structure (see ‘training’) and you’ll have made the perfect start towards a beautiful bloom.
Typically, a larger climbing rose will need two meters of space between it and any other rose. Standard roses will only need one meter.
Preparation for the summer begins in the winter. For your first year the plant will require minimal pruning, simply remove anything dead or diseased. With this done the rose will be ready to train. Climbing roses once mature can be fairly heavy plants and so ensure that the support is sturdy and large enough to support the plant when mature.
The key to perfect climbing roses is training your main shoots as horizontally as possible. This will stimulate flowering shoots to grow up vertically in abundance giving you an orderly trail of beautiful rose flowers.
When tying the plant to a trellis or structure many gardeners simply use old string provided it’s thick enough to hold the weight of the plant. You want to tie it tight enough so that it doesn’t get thrown around too much by the wind, or rubs against things, but also loose enough to give the stem space to grow.
If using a trellis utilise several horizontal supports for you branches or if training up a pillar simply wrap the shoot around in a spiral. 8-12 inches is a good distance to leave between ties. Tie the branches securely and you’re one step closer to a bountiful summer bloom.
Pruning should be carried out during the winter, making it easier for you and giving the plant time to grow during spring. When pruning cut at a 45° angle. This is a great way to prevent rot and fungal disease by letting the water slip off.
Climbing roses are vigorous growers, and although they are great for framing a garden they can quickly become unkempt. Luckily they are not afraid of some heavy pruning if neglected for a while.
Cut away any of the old and woody branches leaving just the new, fresh main shoots. Prune back to just above a bud which looks like its growth will be directed outward or in keeping with how you have trained the plant. You then want to prune any side-shoots by about ⅔ of their original length. Once this is done and you have a series of healthy, neat branches, you can tie back into the support.
How to make sense out of the mess
Again what is most important is to rid your rose of any dead, diseased or weak looking shoots. This only needs to be done once in the winter but also when in bloom – don’t be afraid to deadhead! Climbing roses repeat flower throughout summer and into autumn and it will keep the plant healthy and looking great.
In the spring it’s a good idea to feed your roses (they are an exceptionally hungry plant)! Simply sprinkle some rose fertiliser at the base and use manure or an organic mulch.
Following spring your roses will have grown to a truly regal splendor. Rich colours and fragrance will fill your garden bringing with it all the warm delights of summer.
Secrets to Healthier Climbing Roses
- Feed – With roses it’s incredibly important to ensure they are well fed. This is why you want to avoid planting them in the same spot because they will have consumed so much of the soils nutrients.
Luckily there are specific fertilisers for roses, which we would recommend using these over more general fertilisers because they contain more phosphorus (which helps promote flower and root growth) and less nitrogen (which promotes more leaf growth). This directs energy into bigger blooms and can prevent disease and aphids from attacking your plant.
- Mulch – Mulching provides a whole host of benefits to a rose plant. Not only does it prevent competition from grass and weeds it also helps to regulate temperature, keeps the soil moist and provides food preventing disease. It’s a good idea to add the mulch after you have fertilised the rose, so typically around April to May.A mulch is only ever complementary and cannot be a substitute for your feed.
Before mulching you should rid the soil of any stones or weeds and water if dry. A bulky organic material such as well decomposed manure, leaf mould or garden compost serves as a great mulch for rose plants.
- Water – Due to their deep roots a rose plant may remain green and strong as other plants begin to wilt during dry periods. However, as this writer’s experienced, without an adequate amount of water rose plants will flower less for a shorter period of time. You’ll want to ensure that after a dry spell that you water the plant, especially if the plant is new, is trained against a wall, and if it is fully mature.
Typically each climber will require 10-15l of water if the soil is clearly dry.
- Garlic! – Garlic, when planted near roses are a great way to deter aphids from attacking your plant. For an organic solution for deterring pests, attracting pollinators and improving soil nutrition take a look at our companion planting guide here!
Top 3 Tips
- Water the soil, not the leaves
- Prune to encourage good air circulation
- Feed and water well early in the year, to ensure your rose is strong enough to fight off disease
Common diseases and how to fight them:
Symptoms – The most common rose disease it leaves a white, light mould on the leaves and buds of rose plants.
Prevention – Prevent fungal diseases and their spread by watering at the ground level during the morning so the top soil moisture can evaporate off before sitting over night. Pruning away any weak looking leaves and leaving space between your shoots encourages ventilation which will prevent the fungi from taking up residence. If pruning diseased shoots clean your pruning shears in a sterilizing solution before touching other parts of your plant .
Treat – A fungicide spray can be used on the rose to help rid it of the disease.
Symptoms – A common disease, Blackspot can lead to dieback of the leaf, buds and stems. Black spots and yellow fringing becomes visible on the leaves.
Prevention – The disease is waterborne and so the key to prevention is good air circulation and keeping the leaves dry. The same pruning and water techniques provide good protection. Additionally, ensuring the rose is well fed gives the plant a better chance of avoiding contamination.
Treat – Similarly a fungicide spray can be used to treat a diseased plant along with removing any of the affected leaves.
Symptoms – Not as common but can be very harmful if it contracted. Orange and black spores can be found on the undersides of leaves and stems.
Prevention – The key to prevention is ensuring the rose is well fed and is strong coming into the summer months.
Treat – Again a fungicide spray is required if the plant is contaminated.
Liam works in the buying team at Primrose. He is passionate about studying other cultures, especially their history. A lover of sports, his favourite pastime is football, either playing or watching it! In the garden Liam is particularly interested in growing his own food.