The Q&A Archives: Roses And Care

Question: We have some roses that have climbed up an arbor and are now probably 12' long. They don't seem to bloom anymore, and look like a few bugs have been chewing on them. There are probably 6 or 8 stocks each. What aproach would one take to bring them back to good, blooming health?

Answer: There are several types of climbing roses with various bloom patterns. Some older types of climbing roses--the "ramblers"--produce a profusion of relatively small blooms all at once, usually starting in early summer. This show might last amonth or so, then blooming is over for the season.

Another group of roses is the large-flowered climbers. These generally have flowers over 2" in diameter, and bloom for a longer period but much less profusely than the ramblers. Some varieties of large-flowered climbers bloom continuously over the growing season; others bloom once in early summer and have a second flowering later in the season.

Pruning climbing roses is somewhat different than pruning other roses. Climbers don't "climb" by twining themselves the way ivy and similar vines do. They grow longer and longer vigorous arching canes, which will form a huge sprawling shrub, unless you tie them to a support, such as a trellis or arbor. After planting, climbers should be left alone for two to three years so they can develop long, sturdy canes. Prune only as much as is necessary to keep them within the desired boundary and to remove dead or damaged canes.

After two or three years, your goal is to select the sturdiest canes and tie them to the support in even spacing. These main canes form the basic structure of the plant. Other canes should be removed. After you bend these structural canes and tie them to the support, new growth sprouts along their length; these are the flowering shoots.

During dormancy, you can cut back these shoots to about two to three buds above the structural canes. If a structural cane becomes old, damaged or doesn't bloom, prune it out. New canes will arise from the base of the plant.

If it's a spring-blooming climber: Wait until after they bloom to prune, then remove more of the older structural canes. The new canes produce most of the next spring's bloom.

I wouldn't worry too much about insects chewing on the foliage. The leaves will fall this winter (or you'll be pruning them off!). Once you've properly pruned your climbing rose, and provided adequate food and water, it should bloom wonderfully well for you next summer.

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