Pruning Climbing Roses

What you’ll need

  • Pruning shears
  • Lopping shears
  • Pruning saw

step 1: Train the Canes

Climbing roses don’t make flowers at the tips of their main canes, as bush roses do. Flowers grow on laterals—side branches that grow off the main canes.

As they grow, train the main canes onto their support. Laterals grow best from slanted or horizontal canes, rather than from vertical ones. Train canes at an angle, and bend over the tips of vertical canes to stop their growth and encourage laterals.

step 2: Remove Dead, Damaged and Diseased Canes

It’s sometimes easiest to untie the whole rose from its support and lay it on the ground to prune it. Tie it up again as you work on it.

In early spring, as buds begin to swell but before growth begins, prune off any wood that has been damaged by winter. Remove any dead canes to the ground and cut dead tips back to healthy wood.

step 3: Remove Old Canes

Keep old roses young by removing the oldest growth. Each year, remove one or more of the oldest canes, cutting them to the ground or to their point of origination. This will encourage the growth of new canes during the summer, which you can train as they grow. Train new canes vertically to encourage them to grow long. When they have reached the height you want, re-tie them to a slanted or horizontal position, or bend their tips over, to stop tip growth and encourage lateral growth.

step 4: Shorten Laterals

Cut back all the laterals to 6 inches, or 3 to 5 buds each. Make slanted cuts just above a healthy bud—buds are at the bases of leaves or just above leaf scars. It isn’t important which way the bud faces.

Most of the growth of climbers pruned this way will be in the laterals, and each lateral will make flowers. Keep the flowers deadheaded as they fade to encourage more flowers.