Plants - Roses

Climbing roses

There's no trick to healthy climbing roses - as long as you choose wisely.

Planting and Supporting
You can plant roses any time from spring to fall, but early spring is the best time because plants have ample time to become established before winter sets in. Climbing roses are planted in the same way as other types of rose bushes: dig a roomy hole and mix plenty of organic matter, such as peat moss, well-rotted manure or compost, into the soil. Take the rose out of its container and gently untangle the outer roots with your fingers. (For a bare-root rose, merely place it in the planting hole.) If you're planting a tender climbing hybrid tea in a climate colder than Zone 6, make sure the graft'the knobby part where the rootstock is connected to the rest of the rose'is four inches (10 centimetres) below the soil level. For roses grown on their own roots, plant no deeper than the original soil level. Fill in, and firm the soil around the roots and stem; water until the soil is completely soaked.

Throughout the summer until mid-September, water thoroughly once a week, and fertilize every couple of weeks with 20-20-20 or 15-15-30 until the first of August. Follow this regimen each year.

Unlike vines, climbing roses don't have tendrils to wind around and attach themselves to a trellis or arbour, so they have to be tied to a structure. Install your trellis, pergola or arch before you plant so you don't disrupt the plants' roots. Space roses about a foot (30 centimetres) from the support'this distance provides good air circulation and enough space to train the rose. Once canes grow long enough to reach the structure, tie them to it loosely, using flexible material such as foam-covered wire, string or strips of cloth. The key to tying roses is to make sure the growing canes have room to expand. Check periodically to ensure branches haven't grown so much the ties are pressing tightly against them.

Every year in early spring, at the first swell of buds, prune dead, crowded or crossing branches. Since leaves have yet to form, the plant's energy is channelled to new cane growth. Cut canes back to the base or, if only cane tips are damaged, back to live wood. Always use sharp, clean secateurs to avoid injuring plants or introducing disease.

In the third and following years after planting, you also want to prune to open the plant up so it gets more sunlight, and to get rid of hiding places for insects or nurseries for disease spores. The timing depends on the type of climber. Prune repeat bloomers in spring, the same time you cut out dead, crowded or crossing branches. Prune roses that bloom once a season after their blooms fade. Be sure to prune three or four weeks before the average first frost--pruning stimulates new growth, which is vulnerable to winterkill if done late in the season. Start by finding the leaf buds just above where a set of five or more leaves are attached to a cane; plants send out new growth in the direction these buds face. Make pruning cuts a short distance (one-quarter inch/.5 centimetres) above outward-facing buds.

Many climbers bloom on second-year wood, so don't sheer plants off. Some gardeners remove one older cane per year to let younger, more vigorous canes develop.

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