Climbing roses can be romantic draped over a trellis, whimsical growing up trees or shrubs, or they can lend structure to a formal garden. Many gardeners are afraid of climbing roses, thinking they are fussier than shrub roses and require more care. As long as a climbing rose is planted correctly and has an appropriate support system, they can actually be easier to grow than shrub roses. Pruning climbing roses can send gardeners into a tizzy, afraid they will kill their rose with a wrong cut. While there are a lot of steps involved, once you prune your first climbing rose you will be surprised by just how easy pruning is.
Prune climbing roses in late fall after most of the leaves have fallen off. If you live in zones 7 and lower, time pruning with winterizing your roses to save time.
Disinfect your pruning shears and saws by dipping them into a container of 10% bleach solution. Roses are susceptible to many fungal and bacterial diseases; disinfect equipment between plants and between cutting canes (both diseased and healthy).
Remove rose canes from their supports. Use scissors (not pruning tools) to snip plant ties or unwind canes wrapped around supports. Gently untangle canes and lay flat on the ground. Wear rose gloves (heavy leather gloves that extend to the elbow) when handling canes to avoid scratches.
Make all cuts at a 35- to 40-degree angle to prevent rainwater from collecting on the stump and causing rot.
Prune dead, diseased and spindly canes back to the ground or as close to the base of the rose as possible.
Select six to eight young, strong, well spaced, vigorous canes. Keep these canes intact for next year. Cut all other canes back to the ground. If your climbing rose has six or less canes, skip this step after removing dead and diseased canes.
Shorten flowering side shoots by half, making the cut right above a strong bud. Be sure to make these cuts on an angle also. This will make your climbing rose a little bushier and cause it to produce more flowers the following year.
Shorten the remaining canes by one-third to one-half if the canes have grown taller than their support.
Winterize your canes as usual; or ,if you live in an area with mild winters, reattach the canes to their support.
The following spring, just as buds begin to break (leaves start emerging), fertilize with a granular rose fertilizer according to package instructions, then mulch your climbing rose with 2 to 3 inches of compost or rotted manure. Doing this will give your rose the energy to grow and flower vigorously.