Should I prune my climbing roses in the fall, cut them all the way back, or just let the long runners stay on the fence?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Shirley: Climbing roses are a great addition to any sun-loving garden. Proper pruning will ensure that they bloom to their fullest potential. If this is a new addition to the garden, you will not need to prune for the first two to three years. This allows enough time for the rose to establish itself, and during this period you can help to encourage the canes to grow more horizontal to create the framework. Horizontal canes will bloom better than vertical ones, so keep this in mind when training the climber. After the rose has been in the ground for a few years and the framework is established, then it will benefit from annual pruning. Pruning depends on what kind of climbing rose you are growing. Does your rose bloom just once a year or does it continuously bloom throughout the season? Repeat bloomers should be pruned while they are dormant during the winter and early spring. The climbing roses that only bloom once per season should be pruned after they have finished flowering. The lateral shoots that grow from the horizontal framework is where the flowering takes place. With an established rose you want to prune back the laterals to the second or third bud. Pruning with a clean, sharp pair of pruners will help prevent disease spread. Keep the space around the rose free of fallen plant debris, which will also decrease potential disease and insect problems. It is important to remove any dead, diseased, weak, or crossing canes. Increased air circulation will help keep the climber happy and disease-free.