How to Prune Climbing Roses

What You'll Need
Long handled shears
Garden shears
Canvas gardening gloves
Climbing rose bushes

Climbing roses are a beautiful addition to any garden, though they do require maintenance and attention to grow healthily and continue blooming. Climbing roses need a support to climb on and should be placed near a wall, arbor or fence designed for their support. Though roses need to be pruned to encourage blooming, they should not be pruned other than to remove dead wood during their first 2 or 3 years of growth.

Be sure to water your climbing roses regularly. They are susceptible to root rotting, however, so make sure that they are well drained. Also, be sure to water the plants either in the morning or at the base of the plant later in the day so that the leaves are not wet overnight.

Different varieties have different pruning needs, but these basics apply generally to all climbing roses.

Step 1 – Prepare for Pruning

Climbing roses should be pruned in late winter or early spring. Cut off any dead or weak canes at the ground level using your long handled gardening shears. Be sure to wear your gloves at all times when pruning roses to avoid the thorns.

Step 2 – Prune Back Laterals

Locate the shoots or laterals and cut them to about 2/3 of their current size, leaving at least 3 nodes on each shoot. This is where the new laterals will grow from throughout the current growing season. Use alcohol or another disinfectant to clean your shears between pruning individual plants so as not to pass any possible fungal infections on to other plants.   

    Step 3 – Prune for Structure

    After you prune back the laterals, take a look at the climbing rose as a whole from a few steps back so you can see the entire plant. If there are a lot of shoots extending past the support, prune some additional shoots back as well. Without pruning some of these shoots back, the plant will become too heavy and pull the plant down, so it is necessary to lighten up the plant. Climbing roses are not a vine like ivy that attaches itself to its support; you may need to use plastic ties or some other support measure to keep the branches in place as they grow.

    Step 4 – Remove Dead Flowers

    Cut the dead flowers and their short stems from the plant throughout the entire growing season. This will allow for other blooms forming behind the first set on the stem to grow and thrive.

    Step 5 – Complete End of Season Pruning

    After the last flowering of the season in the late summer or early fall, prune the laterals back 5 inches to 15 inches. Be sure to check the plant thoroughly to ensure there are no more buds before doing this final pruning.

    By following these steps for pruning your climbing roses, you will promote the long-lasting blooming and nice structure of your plants. Be sure to regularly water and fertilize your climbing roses for their best performance and you will have some beautiful climbing roses this season and for years to come.