Tips for Growing Climbing Roses
1. Climbers need sunlight. Like all other roses, they’re happiest with at least six to eight hours of sun a day. Otherwise, you’ll have scraggly stems, fewer and smaller flowers and disease issues.
2. Choose varieties that like our climate. Arbor Hills Trees & Landscaping offers a number of old-fashioned types that are reliable.
3. Select the right climber for your space. Some have mannerly canes that don’t exceed 8 feet; others can eat the barn, as they say, with canes of 20 feet or longer.
And that’s not the only growth habit to consider.
Some climbers bloom once a year, in spring, others flush on and off all year. Some varieties produce large single flowers, others offer up clusters of small jewels. The blossoms can have seemingly hundreds of tightly held petals or a looser “double” form with fewer petals. Some are more fragrant than others. Some are nearly thornless (the best option for a porch).
4. Provide a strong support. Robust climbing roses quickly outgrow flimsy trellises. Iron supports are best in our area, where wood can deteriorate quickly. String extra wire across structures if the gaps are large.
5. Give them some love. Climbing roses must be trained, unless you want a wild, shocked-hair look. Be vigilant about weaving flexible new canes carefully through your trellis or post support. If a cane isn’t behaving, just cut it.
6. Feed twice a year. More if you have time and energy. Like all roses, climbing roses appreciate a monthly feeding of a soluble organic compost tea. For a lush spring show, give them special attention around Valentine’s Day: Water the plant well, then sprinkle a cup of epsom salts (to encourage more stems) and a cup of granular organic fertilizer such as MicroLife or Mills Magic Rose Mix (to encourage blooms) around the base of the plant; water in the dry materials with at least a half-gallon of diluted compost tea (preferably aerated, but that’s a project). Spread a 3-inch layer of quality mulch around the plant, pushing it away from the base to form a slight “doughnut” mound that will direct water toward the roots.
Repeat the treat in late August or early September for a fall flush. And keep a vase handy.