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Pruning English Climbers

WHEN SHOULD I PRUNE

We recommend pruning in late winter, during the period maximum dormancy of your roses. This is generally between December and February but this may vary depending on where you live.

If your roses are susceptible to be damaged by wind rock, a light pruning of longer stems at the end of autumn is often advised. 

In Regions with a Mountainous climate and a late spring, it is often best to prune around mi-to-late-April. Elsewhere (oceanic, Mediterranean and continental climates), we recommend to avoid pruning your roses after the end of March as this may deplete the plant’s energy and only encourage spindly shoots which will be vulnerable to late frosts.

STRUCTURES & SUPPORT

Climbing roses will need a support upon which to grow. Generally you have two choices:

Fixed structures – grow up a building, wall or fence.

Decorative structures – grow up an obelisk, pergola or arch.

HOW TO PRUNE

The two important elements when pruning climbers are:

Selecting and encouraging strong growth from the base of the plant.

Training stems so that they fan out and are near to horizontal to promote shoots along the stem.

Climbers growing on fixed structures

Before Planting

Before planting, we recommend attaching horizontal wires to your wall which you will use to tie back the stems. Attach the wires at two feet intervals up the wall. Initially, three wires will suffice. As your rose grows taller you will need to add additional wires.

Year One

We define Year One as any rose that has completed its first season of flowering. At this stage your rose will still be establishing its roots to support growth in the future, thus only very light pruning is required.

Step 1 – cut away any growth that is growing away from the structure that cannot be tied back.

Step 2 – the ‘four D’s’ – remove any dead, dying, damaged and diseased stems.

Step 3 – pull down the longer stems to 45 degrees or more and tie against your wires.

Step 4 – remove any remaining leaves to reduce the risk of disease spores being carried over.

Year Two

This is a year for a climber to fully establish.

Step 1 – cut away any growth that is growing away from the structure that cannot be tied back.

Step 2 – if your climber is very vigorous and getting congested, cut away more of the weakest growth.

Step 3 – cut back old flowering stems to about 6 inches from the main stem.

Step 4 – the ‘four D’s’ – remove any dead, dying, damaged and diseased stems.

Step 5 – pull down the longer stems to 45 degrees or more and tie against your wires

Step 6 – remove any remaining leaves to reduce the risk of disease spores being carried over.

Year Three

Repeat the steps outlined for Year Two.

In addition, cut out any old or weak stems at the base of the plant.

Climbers growing on decorative structures

The process is virtually the same as for climbers grown against a structure.

Obelisks – wind the strong stems growing from the base around your structure so that the stems spiral around it. This is much easier when the stems are young, soft and pliable.

Arches – follow the same method as for wall climbers but tie-in to your arch. Be sure not to tip the tops of the leading stems – you want your climber to grow as long as possible.

Key Points

Remember these key points to ensure effective pruning:

Shaping is essential. Try to create a rounded shrub.

Don’t worry about where you cut a stem. Accepted wisdom suggests cutting just above a leaf joint with a sloping cut away from the bud. However, there is no evidence to prove this is necessary.

Don’t worry about cutting back too much. Roses are extremely strong and will grow back even if you cut all of the stems right back to the base.

Carefully dispose of foliage. Foliage should never be composted and should be removed from your garden. This ensures spores that can initiate disease are removed from your garden.

Look out for loose roses. Look out for any roses that are loose in the ground due to the wind rocking them to the point where they are no longer standing upright. Firm around the base of each loose rose and cut them back a little more to reduce wind resistance.