The Q&A Archives: Climbing Roses

Question: Hi.....climbing roses...what's the rule on pruning? My roses are splindly, leggy and look terrible most of the time...lots of blooms but the plants are leggy. When I try pinching back, I get a division at the top of the plant....these are grocery store cheap roses.....can you suggest a variety that might be better? Also, can you recommend a good Bushy background rose variety for the back of the border? Thanks!

Answer: Climbing roses bloom on new stems that grow on old wood. Pruning them back in late winter will encourage new, flowering stems. If you didn't prune, most of the new growth will be at the ends of the main canes instead of lateral stems that produce flowers. Roses need two things for blooms: sun and nutrients. Are your plants receiving at least 6-8 hours of sun daily? If so, they might be missing essential nutrients. Nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium are the 3 major nutrients for all plants. (They correspond to the 3 numbers on fertilizer packages.) Nitrogen promotes growth of green leaves. Phosphorous is essential for blooms. Roses are heavy "feeders" during their bloom period. I suggest you apply a rose fertilizer. The second and third numbers on the package should be higher than the first. Or, roses benefit from applications of greensand, which contains potassium, and bone meal, which contains phosphorus. Both of these nutrients are important for flowering. The thing to avoid is feeding them with high-nitrogen fertilizer that will encourage foliage growth at the expense of flowers. Keep them consistently moist and mulch with 2-3 inches of compost to help maintain soil moisture. Rosarians I know fertilize their roses every 6 weeks during the blooming season.

Prune your roses this winter and by next summer your climbers will have enough old wood to produce new flowering stems and you should have lots of blooms.

A realy bushy rose is Rosa Rugosa. It sprawls on the ground or climbs over itself, providing a thick and colorful hedge.

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