The Q&A Archives: When and how to prune climbing roses?

Question: I have Joseph's coat, climbing Blaze and America roses. Please tell me when, and where I should prune them. And how do I get them to climb against mt house?

Answer: Climbing roses bloom on new stems that grow on old wood. Pruning them back in late winter or early spring will encourage new, flowering stems. If you do not 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. 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 now and by summer your climbers will have enough old wood to produce new flowering stems and you should have lots of blooms. As the canes elongate you can tie them to a support or to wires or a trellis attached to your house. They won't attach like a twining vine, you will need to encourage them and tie the canes until the canes are old enough to be rigid and can hold themselves upright. Good luck with your roses.

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