Climbing roses add dimension to a garden because they grow to heights of 15 or more feet and they bloom profusely. They add a casual, unstudied look to cottage gardens and can also be trained to a formal structured look. The Rhode Island Rose Society reports that climbing roses are less susceptible to disease and pests than other types of plants. There are several aspects of their growth habits to understand before purchasing a climbing rose.
Choose climbing rose varieties that are well suited to your USDA Plant Hardiness Zone. Abraham Darby is an old English pink rose that grows well in zones 5 through 10. It gives continual bloom from spring to fall, and it grows to 10 feet. Cecile Brunner is a climbing rose that can reach 25 feet in height. It has small, rosette-type pink flowers that are very fragrant. Blaze is a well-known scarlet rose with clusters of medium-sized blooms on canes that grow eight to 10 feet.
Climbing roses need support after their second year of growth. Long canes may reach eight to 20 feet. Canes can be supported by an archway, a garden trellis, a pillar or a fence. The main two canes can be trained horizontally along a fence. Lateral shoots grow and produce abundant flowers. In formal gardens, climbing roses are often trained onto chains or tunneling arches.
Do not prune climbing roses for two years as they become established. In their third year, the four to six main canes are determined, and the rest are pruned back to the ground. Dead wood and crossed stems are also removed. Flowering lateral canes and main canes are cut back to two-thirds of their original height during the early spring pruning.
Individual climbing roses are best supported by sturdy structures, such as iron poles or a tee-pee style structure made from bamboo. Garden centers sell decorative iron scrollwork poles that roses love to climb. Climbing roses can create a problem when grown onto a house wall. The trellis should be separated from the house by a six-inch iron bracket or wooden block.
Climbing roses grow very vigorously and need to be well fertilized. They thrive in soil that has high organic content. High organic content ensures good drainage and constant release of nutrients into the rose roots. Roses benefit from adding compost to the hole dug for planting. Rose growers often recommend three applications of compost fertilizer per year.