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How to Care for Climbing Rose Bushes

By Sarah Terry ; Updated September 21, 2017
Climbing rose bush trained on a wall

Climbing rose bushes aren’t actual climbers, but rather sprawling shrubs that grow long canes. This means that you’ll need to train the bushes to climb, because they don’t have suckers or other parts that grip (as can be found in true climbing plants such as ivies and certain vines). Climbing roses come in a wide range of colors, ranging from whites and yellows to pinks and deep reds. Some varieties can climb up to 25 feet in height, but most climb to a height of 12 to 15 feet.

Water your climbing rose bushes deeply once or twice each week throughout the growing season, soaking the soil down to the root zone. Water the roses daily during times of drought or extreme heat, watering directly into the soil to avoid wetting the foliage.

Feed your climbing rose bushes with an all-purpose rose fertilizer, preferably one with an NPK (Nitrogen-Phosphorous-Potassium) ratio of 5:9:6, according to the dosage instructions on the package. Apply the fertilizer in early spring, and again every four weeks throughout the summer.

Apply a layer of composted manure of 1 to 2 inches on the ground around the bushes, once in the spring and again in summer, after the first blooming is finished.

Spread a 2-inch to 4-inch-thick layer of bark mulch on the ground around your climbing rose bushes’ root zones each year in the spring or early summer to protect the roots, control weeds and retain soil moisture. Add more mulch, as needed, to keep the layer at the necessary thickness.

Train your climbing rose bushes on a support, such as a trellis, fence or arbor, by securing the long, arching canes to the support using green stretchable tape. You can get this kind of plant tape, which is used for staking and training, at most garden stores.

Prune your climbing roses during the first two to three years in late winter or early spring by simply cutting away any dead or damaged stems. After the first few years, select the strongest main canes and cut all the other canes back to the base of the climbing rose plant. Also cut back all the new flowering shoots to about 2 to 3 inches above the main structural canes.


Things You Will Need

  • Garden hose
  • Rose fertilizer
  • Composted manure
  • Bark mulch
  • Climbing support
  • Green stretchable tape
  • Pruning shears
  • Burlap or foam pipe sleeves


  • Deadhead your roses to pinch off and remove the spent blooms when the flowers fade to encourage new flowering. When the structural main canes on your climbing rose bush age and stop blooming, cut them back to the base of the plant to encourage growth of new canes.
  • If you live in a climate with cold, freezing winters, you'll need to "harden off" the roses to prepare them for winter. Stop fertilizing the climbing rose bushes in late summer and gradually reduce watering frequency, watering just enough to keep the roses from drying out. Mound up soil over the crown and lower stems to a height of about 8 to 12 inches in mid- to late fall, removing the soil in early spring.


  • Be extra vigilant in protecting your climbing roses during winter, in extremely cold climates where winter temperatures often fall below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Untie the canes from the climbing support and wrap them in an insulating material, such as burlap or foam pipe sleeves. Gently remove the insulating material and retie the canes to the support in spring.

About the Author


Sarah Terry brings over 10 years of experience writing novels, business-to-business newsletters and a plethora of how-to articles. Terry has written articles and publications for a wide range of markets and subject matters, including Medicine & Health, Eli Financial, Dartnell Publications and Eli Journals.