Climbing roses are both climbing or rambler roses, which are single-flowering and reach heights of up to ten metres, and the actual climbing roses, which grow less high but more compact and show their flowers several times a year. Rambler roses are known for their vigor. They reach great heights with their metre-long shoots and bloom – even if only once – tremendously opulent. In the meantime there are also newer Rambler breeds, such as ‘Super Excelsa’ or ‘Super Dorothy’, which flower several times a year, but the flower is not as lush as that of their single flowering relatives. When buying climbing roses, pay special attention to the ADR seal (Allgemeine Deutsche Rosenneuheitenprüfung), which only carries very robust varieties. This is especially true for climbers, as there are many interesting newer varieties that have been ADR tested. Recommended ADR varieties include ‘Kir Royal’ (pink), ‘Compassion’ (salmon), ‘Manita’ (dark pink) and ‘Rotfassade’ (red).
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To grow, climbing roses always need a climbing aid, at which they strive upwards. They conquer the garden vertically, so to speak, and add a third dimension to the planting. The use of climbing roses in the garden therefore depends primarily on the base that is to be covered with vegetation. Climbing roses grow to a height of about three to a maximum of five metres and are particularly fond of fences, rose arches, arbours, obelisks and trellises. They are ideal as privacy screens because they grow densely and compactly and can also be steered in width. Fragrant specimens planted on seats or arbours, put every guest in a real flower frenzy. The favourite planting partners of climbing roses are clematis and lonicera, an unusual, delicate green-yellow variety of elf. Place the three metre high climbing rose best on rain-protected house walls so that the heavily filled flowers do not stick together due to too much moisture. The climbing rose ‘Jasmina’ is a must for romantics. The filled flowers smell seductive. If the rose foot is charmingly flattered by bellflowers or catnip, the Sleeping Beauty atmosphere is perfect.
Rambler roses, on the other hand, strive above all upwards, which gives them a tremendous long-distance effect at flowering time, but quickly becomes a problem if the climbing aids are too small. With their six to ten metre long shoots, the plants can become very heavy, which is why we have to pay attention to a very stable climbing aid. Ramblers appear particularly elegant as plants of old trees, in whose branches they meander all the way to the top and give the tree a second flower. House facades and large pergolas are also suitable for Rambler roses. Who has a lot of roof area or big trees to green, chooses strong growing Ramblers like ‘Bobbie James’, ‘Kiftsgate’ or ‘Ayrshire Queen’ (pale pink). A nice addition to these XXL Rambler roses, which unfortunately flower only once, but for weeks, are varieties that are not so vigorous and flower all summer long. These “handier” rambler roses for smaller pergolas or rose arches include, for example, the pink varieties ‘Super Excelsa’ and ‘Brewood Belle’. In contrast to Rambler roses, Climbers develop short shoots which are raised by tying. Orange-coloured buds from which light flowers develop make the Rambler rose ‘Ghislaine de Féligonde’ unmistakable. Its absolute advantage: it tolerates half shade and gets by with a few hours of sun per day. The small pink flowers of the single flowering rambler rose ‘Maria Lisa’ appear bundled in dreamlike umbels. Best climbing partner for the almost prickly rose: purple flowering clematis, for example the varieties ‘Niobe’ and ‘Blue Belle’. The English rose ‘Teasing Georgia’ is actually a shrub rose, but when the rose is raised on tendril elements, it can easily reach a height of three metres.
If you don’t have much space, you can also grow smaller climbing rose varieties in a pot. Since roses have deep roots, however, it is important to choose a vessel that is at least 40 centimeters deep and wide. Supply the pot roses regularly with fertilizer and avoid waterlogging. Every two to three years you should repot the rose and then give it a pot two sizes bigger.
Rootless climbing roses are planted in autumn or spring, container roses can also be planted in summer. Climbing roses do not need much space in the bed. But the soil should be medium heavy, rich in nutrients and deep (at least 50 centimeters!) in order to supply the flowering deep roots well. If you water the plant for several hours before planting, you can prevent dry stress after planting. Most climbing roses do not like full sun, good planting places are walls in southwest or southeast position. When planting, always maintain a distance of about 30 to 50 centimeters from the climbing aid so that the roots can develop evenly. Ensure good air circulation at the rose site, as the heat of the stasis and leaves that do not dry off provide ideal growing conditions for pests and fungi. The trellises for the climbing roses should have a minimum distance of eight centimeters to the wall so that sufficient air can reach the leaves and the binding of the shoots does not become too laborious. If you want to place climbing roses and ramblers on passages, such as rose arches, the remaining passage should be large enough.
The name “climbing rose” can easily be misleading, because climbing roses cannot climb independently. Climbing and rambling roses are among the so-called spread climbing, which means that they have no holding organs in the classical sense and cannot wind themselves. In order for them to grow upwards, their shoots must be tied up regularly. Pull the shoots along the climbing aid and fasten them loosely with natural or plastic bast, plant clips or rubber-coated wire. The flowers form mainly in the upper part.
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Tip: Guide the shoots of the climbing rose as horizontally as possible. This stimulates flower formation and at the same time inhibits growth. On climbing columns, the shoots are laid spirally around the climbing frame. On trellises, the long shoots are pulled fan-shaped or crosswise. If you simply let climbing roses grow straight up, they will balm from below. Fertilize at the beginning of April and a second time after the first flowering at the end of June. Newly planted roses are an exception: this is where fertilizers are applied for the first time after flowering.
Plant cut: After planting, bare-rooted climbing roses are shortened to a height of about 50 centimeters. Maintenance pruning: Climbing roses are cut very little and only from the third year on. In spring, when the forsythia blossoms, they can be carefully thinned out and damaged or diseased wood removed. In more frequently flowering climbing roses, unbranched branches are shortened in order to stimulate the formation of new shoots, as most flowers develop on the new side shoots. When cutting, select one shoot at the bottom, one in the middle and one at the end of the old branch. All remaining shoots are then pulled over the climbing aid and fastened there. Disturbing or too long shoots can be shortened. Single-use climbing roses should not be cut at all.
Autumn pruning: Climbing roses are only pruned back in autumn when the rose has become too large to fit under the winter shelter. Avoid a larger cut, as otherwise not much remains of the plant after a possible frost damage in spring. Wild shoots: shoots that grow under the grafting site should always be removed immediately close to the roots. In this way, you can prevent the strong wild rose base from overgrowing the noble rose.
In order to preserve the flowering pleasure of climbing roses, they should be cut regularly. In this video we show you how it works. Credits: Video and Editing: CreativeUnit/Fabian Primsch
To protect against frost, climbing roses are piled up with soil at the base in autumn, then cover the lower two metres with a willow mat. This serves at the same time as wind and sun protection. The long shoots are hung with sackcloth. Fertilize the last time in mid-June and do without potash.
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Diseases and pests
Climbing roses suffer from the same fungi and infectious diseases as all roses. The most important are powdery mildew, sooty mildew, rose rust, grey mould and leaf spot disease. Therefore you should already pay attention to robust breeds when buying. Always remove fallen leaves promptly to prevent fungal growth and infection. Aphids, thickmouth weevils and spider mites are the most common pests. Natural enemies such as ladybird larvae and pirate bugs help here. In case of heavy infestation, spray with crop protection agents.
In an interview with our store editor Dieke van Dieken, plant doctor René Wadas reveals his tips against aphids.Credits: Production: Folkert Siemens; Camera and Editing: Fabian Primsch
Climbing roses in test
In a large-scale experiment, the Saxon State Institute for Agriculture in Dresden-Pillnitz tested numerous climbing roses for four years. Particular attention was paid to frost resistance and resistance to disease. A total of 76 different climbing rose varieties were tested, including single-flowering climbing and rambler roses. in spring 2003, the testers placed three plants of each variety on free-standing wooden trellises with wide-meshed wild game fence wire netting. These were installed in a north-south direction to ensure optimal exposure from both sides. The soil was deeply loosened before planting and improved with perlite. The roses were fertilized annually in April with about 40 grams of mineral slow-release fertilizer per square meter; watering was only carried out during persistent drought. The experts largely refrained from pruning in order to be able to better assess the typical growth forms of the varieties. Only very long and frost-damaged shoots were removed. To promote flowering, the testers attached all the main shoots to the climbing aid at an angle of 45 degrees. For three winters, the roses had to prove themselves without the protective microclimate of a house wall in cold Saxony. The testers documented all frost damage from spring 2004 to spring 2007. Phytosanitary measures were not taken during the three years. The infestation intensity with sooty soot, powdery mildew, downy mildew and leaf spot diseases was examined and recorded several times a year. In addition to these two important aspects, the experts also assessed the intensity and effect of the flower as well as its ability to self-clean, i.e. to discard all withered petals as completely as possible. The surprising result was that not only the ADR varieties, known for their robustness, passed the test with flying colors. Even a few classics, for example the climbing rose ‘Rosarium Uetersen’, which is more than 30 years old, didn’t bother. In our gallery we present the test winners from the category “Frequent flowering climbing roses”, who were ahead in terms of frost resistance and leaf health.
I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide. I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.