Climbing or rambling roses are those that festoon arbors and trellises. Roses do not climb in the true sense of the word--they grow on long canes that can be trained to grow on supporting structures by tying the canes to the structures. Ramblers grow canes of 20 feet. There are many types of climbing roses to choose from. Some have large flowers other produce tiny tea roses.
Climbing roses that were cultivated from tea roses include "Joseph's Coat," "Handel" and "Don Juan." Others originated from a hybrid bush form of rose such as "Climbing Peace" and can be identified by the word "climbing" in front of the variety name. Those cultivated from Rosa wichuraiana will not rebloom whereas others may. They include varieties "Alberic Barbier," "Silver Moon" and "May Queen." Ramblers include "Excelsa,""'Dorothy Perkins," "American Pillar," and "Veilchenblau."
Climbing or rambling roses grow on canes that typically reach 15 to 20 feet in length. Most climbing roses bloom on the current season growth or on 1-year-old canes. Climbing roses do not generate vigorous growth and need little pruning. Rambling roses generate more growth from the crown and require more frequent pruning to prevent them from becoming a tangled mass. Ramblers produce blooms on second-year wood.
Most roses, including the climbing varieties, prefer a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight daily. An eastern exposure is preferred to the intensity of the western sun. Some wind protection is also desired. Plan for the mature plant as it will need plenty of room and solid support such as an arbor, fence or wall. Leave plenty of space between the climbing rose bush and other trees or shrubs so the roots do not have to compete for water and nutrients.
Roses are sold in three states: bare-root, packaged or grown in a container, and each has its own planting requirements. Bare-root plants should be submerged in water for no more than 24 hours. Meanwhile, prepare a hole about 12 inches deep and 18 inches wide. Set the plant in and gently spread out the roots. If the plant is grafted, bury it to 1 to 2 inches above the graft line.
Packaged plants usually come from department stores and have bags or boxes filled with sawdust to protect the rose bush. These should be removed from the packaging immediately and treated the same as bare-root plants.
Container-grown plants often come from nurseries. Dig a hole deep and wide enough to accommodate the root ball. Handle the root ball gently and carefully loosen any roots that may have become matted in the container. Set in the hole and backfill.
The key to fertilizing is not to apply too much. Applications should be made in the early spring and shortly after the first blooms appear. Avoid applying fertilizer after mid-August as the new growth generated may be susceptible to early frosts. Water first and then add the fertilizer. Never add fertilizer to a dry plant.
Climbing roses generally do not need pruning assuming they are given ample room to grow. In the spring, before the rose canes begin to leaf out, remove any dead or damaged canes. If pruning to maintain shape or control overgrowth is needed, wait until after the first blooms have fallen to avoid trimming away first year canes that will bear these blooms.
Newly planted roses require more frequent watering than older roses. Check 2 to 3 inches below the soil surface--if the soil is dry there, the roses need water. Overhead sprinkling or ground level soaking are both suitable methods. To avoid disease, sprinkling should be done in the morning, giving the water time to dry off the leaves before the cooler night temperatures set in.
Late in autumn, cover the base of the rose plant with a thick layer of mulch. Straw, pine needles or wood chips are acceptable. This protects the roots from the effects of winter temperatures. Provide a deep watering once a month if the ground is not frozen. Choose a warmer day and water early in the morning to allow the best chance for the ground to absorb the water before nightfall.