How to Prune Climbing Roses

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

Whether you have an overgrown climbing rose or one that’s just getting started, proper pruning is essential to keeping these plants healthy and productive.

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Pruning Basics

The best time to prune most roses is in late winter, just before growth begins. For climbing roses, you may need to do some additional pruning in the summer. This will help to keep the plant healthy and encourage new growth.

When to prune

Climbing roses are best pruned in late winter or early spring, just before they start putting on new growth. Pruning any later in the season will remove the flowers for that year. If you must prune during the growing season, do so just after the roses have finished blooming.

The three D’s

Good pruning practices involve the three D’s: derail, deadhead, and diseased.

Derailing refers to any pruning that controls the shape or size of the plant. This includes removing suckers, crossing canes, and any growth that rubs against something else and could damage the plant. Deadheading is taking off spent blooms and seedpods. Diseased canes should be removed and disposed of so the infection won’t spread.

Getting Started

Before you begin pruning your climbing roses, it is important to understand the basics of how to do so. This will help you achieve the best results and avoid any damage to your plants. The first step is to identify the different types of branches.

What you’ll need

-Loppers:These are long-handled shears with blades that open wide to cut thicker stems.
-Pruning saws: These have narrow blades to cut through thicker woody stems.
-Hand pruners: Hand pruners (secateurs) have two blades that open and close like scissors. The blades come together in a curved or anvil shape, and one blade is serrated to grip the stem as you cut.
-Gloves: To protect your hands from thorns.
-Pruning paint or wiltproof ribbon: To mark any canes you want to remove later in the season, after the plant has flowered.

The right way to prune

How you prune your climbing roses will affect both the health of the plant and the quantity and quality of the flowers. It is therefore important to know how to prune correctly.

The first step is to assess the plant. Look for any dead, diseased or crossing stems and cut these back to just above a healthy bud. Thin out any overcrowded stems, again cutting back to a healthy bud. Pruning in this way will encourage new growth and stop the plant from becoming congested.

Next, cut back any remaining long stems by around two-thirds. This will encourage the plant to produce more lateral (side) shoots, which in turn will produce more flowers. Make sure you cut just above a bud facing outwards, as this is where the new growth will emerge from.

Finally, cut back any stems that are growing too close to neighbouring plants or structures. These could crowd out other parts of the climbing rose, preventing it from flowering properly.

The Different Types of Pruning

There are three main types of pruning for climbing roses- light pruning, medium pruning, and heavy pruning. Light pruning is mostly for shaping the plant and removing any dead or diseased canes. Medium pruning is for removing any canes that are crossing over or rubbing against each other, as well as any weak or thin canes. Heavy pruning is for completely rejuvenating the plant by removing all canes down to about 6 inches.


Deadheading is the process of cutting off spent blooms and often includes cutting back to a healthy bud or stem. Deadheading can be done with pruning shears or by pinching the stem with your fingers. Pinching is often preferable because it doesn’t damage the plant as much as shearing does. In general, you should remove spent blooms as soon as possible after they fade. This will encourage the plant to produce more flowers.

Heading back

Deadheading is the removal of spent flowers and is probably the most common type of pruning that gardeners do. It’s easy to do, and it encourages your plant to produce more flowers. You can deadhead most flowering plants, including annuals, perennials, roses, and shrubs.

To deadhead roses, start by cutting off any dead or diseased canes at their base. Then cut back the remaining canes by about 1/3 their length. Finally, cut off any remaining spent blossoms.

Pruning Climbing Roses
Climbing roses are a bit different from other types of roses in that they produce new growth on old wood as well as new wood. This means that you’ll need to do two types of pruning: heading back and renewal pruning.

Heading back is similar to deadheading in that you’re removing spent flowers and encouraging new growth. To heading back climbing roses, start by cutting off any dead or diseased canes at their base. Then cut back the remaining canes by about 1/3 their length. Finally, cut off any remaining spent blossoms.

Renewal pruning is a bit more aggressive and is done every 3-5 years to rejuvenate your plant. To renewal prune climbing roses, start by removing any dead or diseased canes. Then remove any thin or weak canes until you’re left with only the healthiest looking canes. These should be evenly spaced around the plant and about 3-4 buds long.


Thinning is the process of selectively removing canes to promote air circulation and good light penetration within the rose bush. It is generally done in early spring, before new growth begins. You should thin your climbing roses every 3-4 years to keep them healthy and looking their best.

To thin a climbing rose, start by removing any dead, diseased, or weak canes. Then, cut away any canes that are crossing each other or growing in toward the center of the bush. thinning will encourage new growth and help to prevent problems like mildew and black spot from developing. When you’re finished thinning, your rose bush should have an open, airy shape with plenty of room for new growth.

Maintenance Pruning

The best time to prune your climbing roses is in late winter or early spring, before new growth begins. dead, diseased, or damaged canes should be removed first. Also, any canes that are crossing or rubbing against each other should be removed. After that, you can begin to prune the canes that are growing in the wrong direction.

Summer pruning

Maintenance pruning, also called “knuckle pruning,” is done to keep a climbing rose bush tidy, to rejuvenate old canes, and to promote good air circulation, which helps prevent fungal diseases. This kind of pruning is best done in late spring or early summer, after the climbing rose bush has flowered.

To prune a climbing rose bush, start by removing any dead, diseased, or damaged canes. Then cut back any canes that are growing horizontally or vertically. These canes will not produce as many flowers as canes that are growing at a 45-degree angle. Next, remove any canes that are crossing each other or rubbing against each other. Finally, cut back any long canes to about 6 feet.

Winter pruning

Prune annually in late winter or early spring, just before new growth begins. For best results, use sharp, clean pruners and prune out any dead, diseased, or crossing canes. Start by removing any canes that are thinner than a pencil. Then, cut back the remaining canes by about one-third to one-half their length. After pruning, remove all debris from the ground around the roses to help prevent disease.

Advanced Techniques

If your climbing roses are in need of a good pruning, there are some advanced techniques you can try. First, you will need to remove all of the dead, diseased, or damaged canes. Next, you will need to thin out the remaining canes so that they are about six inches apart. Finally, you will need to cut back the canes to about 18 inches.

Rejuvenation pruning

Rejuvenation pruning is done to control the size of a climbing rose that has become too large for its space. Rejuvenation pruning is a severe pruning that removed most of the canes. It is usually done in late winter or early spring, before the new growth begins.


In rose terms, espalier is a training system that produces a flat, two-dimensional plant. Espaliered roses are popular in small gardens because the technique makes good use of vertical space.

Climbing roses are the best candidates for espalier because they have long, flexible canes that can be trained to grow horizontally. Other rose varieties can also be trained to grow in an espalier pattern, but they may require more support and pruning to produce a flat, tidy plant.

When training roses for espalier, it’s important to start with young, healthy plants. Select canes that are at least 18 inches long and free of disease or damage. If you’re working with bare-root plants, look for healthy canes that are at least 2 years old.

Before you begin training your rose, it’s important to prepared the planting area. Install supports for your plant – metal or wood lattice works well – making sure that they are tall enough and securely anchored in the ground. You will also need to dig a wide planting hole so that the roots have plenty of room to spread out.

Once your rose is planted and the supports are in place, you can begin training the canes. Begin by selecting the strongest central cane and tie it vertically to the support. Then, choose two side canes and tie them horizontally to the support on either side of the central cane. As new growth appears, continue to train the canes by tying them horizontally or vertically to the support structure.

It’s important to keep your espaliered rose well-watered and fertilized throughout the growing season. Be sure to prune away any weak or damaged growth so that your plant remains healthy and vigorous. With a little patience and care, you will have a beautiful espaliered rose that will add interest and charm to your garden for years to come!

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About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books


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