Pruning Climbing Roses & Protection From Winter


Climbers are of two types and pruned differently. The ramblers bloom once during a season, with small, clustered flowers. They may be allowed to spread and may even be used as ground cover by pruning only weak or diseased canes. The ends of the long canes can be snipped to produce more lateral stems and blooms next year. Some rosarians clip back canes as soon as the bush has finished blooming. This allows new canes to grow during the summer and produce blooms the next year. Nearly all ramblers produce flowers only on second year wood.

Large-flowered climbers may be once-bloomers or repeat bloomers. They need pruning only of old, nonproductive canes of winter die-back. The repeat bloomers should have short flowering stems cut back to the first set of five-leaflet leaves as soon as the flowers are spent. As climbers set hips to produce seed, most of the food and energy goes to producing seed, rather than more flowers. Therefore, be sure this deadheading is taken care of, or there will be very little repeat blooming. It is not unusual for climbers to not bloom until the third year.


In the Southern United States, roses do not go dormant. You should refrain from pruning spent blooms three to five weeks before the first hard frost in your area, usually November. Leaving the bloom provides the bush with a rest from developing more. In the South, the plants retaining spent blooms form seed pods, thereby becoming semidormant. In January, you can begin pruning for the coming year.

You should also refrain from using any nitrogen-containing fertilizer six to ten weeks before the last blooming cycle. The last blooms could appear by the end of September in the extreme South.

The most common way to protect roses is to take soil from a location other than the rose bed and make a mound around the base of the plant to a height of 10-12 inches. Where temperatures remain below freezing for some time and the weather becomes stabilized, additional protection is needed. Materials on hand that you can use include leaves, wood chips, pine needles, bark, sawdust, and ground-up corn cobs. Do not apply the protective material too early, as it could cause a late soft growth that will hinder dormancy. Since white and yellow roses suffer the most damage, they should be given extra protection.


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