They climb up like crazy. Its flower cushion impresses with a breathtaking floral dimension. Climbing roses are undoubtedly one of the ultimate floral wonders in the garden. Without the regulating hand of the hobby gardener, however, the splendor of the roses would soon be gone. Regular pruning is the only way to prevent the shoots from becoming longer and weaker. Various aspects have to be considered, because hasty use of the rose scissors sometimes has fatal consequences. It is better not to tackle the cut until you are familiar with the techniques. If you want to cut back climbing roses properly, you can delve into the following lines so that you are well prepared to take action.

Characteristics of climbing roses

  • Do not have clinging roots.
  • The thorns act as climbing organs.
  • Stable climbing aids must usually be available.
  • Climb house walls and trellises 300 to 500 cm and higher.
  • The way up must not have any obstacles.
  • Double, semi-double and single flowers in a wide range of colours.

In rose breeding, a distinction is made between climbing roses that bloom more often and rambler roses that bloom once . Thanks to their stable constitution, the latter are sometimes able to climb up without climbing aids.

The right time

Choosing the right time to cut back climbing roses has a decisive influence on the success of this care measure. Even if the sight of wilted roses in autumn tempts you to prune and shape them, experienced experts advise against it. The reason is that in this phase the nutrients from the leaves flow back into the shoots to strengthen their resistance to the winter. Anyone who picks up the rose scissors now robs the climbers of a much-needed amount of energy.

  • Ideally, cut climbing roses in late winter before new shoots appear.
  • The forsythia blossom serves as a natural signal for the right date.

Another advantage of this time of year is the excellent view of the structure of the climbing roses, because even the semi-evergreen varieties have shed their foliage at this stage.

Tip: Pruning begins on freshly planted climbing roses when they have reached a height of 200 cm, which is usually the case in the 2nd or 3rd year of growth.

The exemplary cut

A central aspect for the correct handling of the rose scissors is the solid knowledge of the relevance of the ‘eyes’. The points on the branches from which fresh shoots grow in spring are called ‘eyes’. Incidentally, this fact applies to all types of roses and already gives an idea that an expert pruning cannot be that problematic.

Climbing roses and rambler roses only sprout at defined points, known as leaf nodes (nodes). With a little practice, they can be clearly recognized at first glance by the thickening on the shoots. If there is still a leaf from the previous year on the eye in spring, the experienced hobby gardener cuts it off without further ado, because it is no longer useful. The actual cutting technique is as follows:

  • Sharpen the rose scissors and disinfect with alcohol.
  • The direction of the cut leads obliquely to the leaf node.
  • This allows rainwater and irrigation water to drain off better.
  • A distance to the eye of 3 mm to 5 mm is ideal.
  • The tip of the sloping cut is centered over the bun.

It is important to note that only above the outward-facing eyes is cut. If a node points inwards, it will understandably produce a shoot towards the center of the rose and hinder other branches.

Note: Special gloves for cutting roses with cuffs protect against painful injuries caused by sharp thorns.

The conservation cut

In the first step, the rose lover concentrates on maintaining the health and vitality of his climbing roses. It is important to optimize the growing conditions and repair damage caused by the hardships of winter to prevent any risk of bareness or senescence.

  • Remove shoots damaged by frost and hail.
  • Cut off dried and stunted rose branches at the base.
  • Prune inward or criss-crossing branches.
  • Do not cut one-year-old rose shoots, but tie them to the climbing aid.
  • If necessary, cut back two- and three-year-old branches to 3 or 5 eyes.

At the same time, experienced hobby gardeners take a close look at the climbing roses in terms of pest infestation or fungal infections. At the slightest sign of infestation, the parts of the plant should be pruned generously to prevent further spread. The clippings must never be disposed of in the compost, but end up in the household waste.

Tip: In order to promote a bushy habit of climbing roses, the annual shoots are attached horizontally or diagonally to the trellis as often as possible.

The shape cut

After the ‘duty’ in the context of maintenance pruning, now comes the ‘freestyle’, in which the climbing roses are directed into the desired shape.

  • Shorten annoying side shoots to 2 or 3 nodes.
  • The fixed main shoots are spared as much as possible.
  • Repeatedly step back and plan the next cut.

On particularly vigorous climbing roses, a 5-year-old shoot gives way every year in favor of a young specimen. In this way, prudent hobby gardeners maintain a balance between old and young rose shoots. This measure takes place at least every 2 to 3 years on roses that grow less well. Ideally, climbing roses should have 4 perennial branches and 1 this year’s shoot.

Special case rambler roses

In rose breeding, rambler roses are considered the ultimate climbers. Thanks to a stroke of genius by experienced breeders in the 19th century, these rose varieties score with unusually flexible tendrils, coupled with enormous vigour. Therefore, it is not uncommon for them to climb up walls, fences or tall trees without climbing aids. In addition, most rambler roses are considered to flower once, in contrast to the more often flowering classic climbing roses. Nevertheless, this unique flowering extends over a long period of several weeks or even months, depending on the cultivated variety.

  • Thoroughly thin out and trim rambler roses immediately after flowering.
  • Only cut when necessary, as they bloom on perennial wood.

For the young shoots, this means that they will not flower until the second year at the earliest. Therefore, pruning in late winter is limited to removing frost damage to avoid accidentally cutting off healthy buds that are about to flower. Gardeners who have decided to cultivate rambler roses that bloom more often should prune in the same way as with traditional climbing roses.

Summer cut

After the climbing roses have had their main pruning in late winter, a less extensive summer pruning is limited to trimming. The more consistently all withered flowers are cut out, the more intensively climbing roses are encouraged to form new flowers. The cut does not differ from the shape and maintenance cut.

  • Cut back faded umbels to the first five-fold leaf.
  • If the decorative rosehips are welcome, the summer pruning is avoided.

In the event that an abundance of young shoots spoils the appearance, it is advisable to tie them between the flowering perennial branches and thus hide them from the eye of the beholder. Since they represent the next generation of flowering shoots, pruning would be counterproductive. Experience has shown that varieties that bloom more often present their first flowers later in the year. Only sparsely thriving branches, which at the same time assume an unfavorable direction of growth, fall victim to the rose scissors.

taper cut

It is quite understandable that beginners in particular among rose lovers are happy about every long flowering shoot and never consider shortening this botanical achievement. The result is bare and aging climbing roses that only flower at the tips of the branches. If climbing roses have not been pruned properly for years, there is still hope of salvation in the form of pruning for rejuvenation.

  • In the first step, cut half of the perennial shoots up to 30 cm above the ground.
  • The following year, the remaining old branches are cut off.
  • Side and short shoots are cut back to 2 knots.

On this occasion, the wild shoots should be removed at the same time. To do this, experienced gardeners expose the rootstock and tear off the water shoots with a jerk.

The juice scale provides assistance

Garden lovers who want to cut back climbing roses properly are confronted with a multitude of details that naturally only become internalized over time through practical application. An effective aid in the transition is the visual representation of the juice scale, which plays a role in any horticultural pruning measure:

Each leading shoot of a climbing rose has branched side shoots that should also bear flowers and sprout branches. Although all parts of the plant have an equally high supply requirement, the roots still transport water and nutrients to where the maximum yield of sunlight is available; the tips of the leaders. The task of proper pruning is to achieve an even juice balance under several upper buds. As a result, the supply current from the roots is distributed more evenly in the climbing rose, so that the side shoots also sprout and flower over their entire length.

Before pruning stunted rose shoots, it is therefore worth trying to cut the lush leading shoots of the climbing rose a little deeper. In this way, according to the physical principle of the juice scale, good conditions are created for the runts to turn into lush flowering shoots.

So that climbing roses can develop their full growth potential, it is the job of the hobby gardener to cut them every year. The best time for this central care measure is in late winter or early spring, when the forsythia blossom appears. The spectacular climbing artists are prepared for a breathtaking flowering by means of a targeted maintenance and topiary cut. The summer pruning is then responsible for strengthening the willingness to bloom, because who would want to say goodbye to the magic of rose blossoms prematurely? Until the right sense of proportion for the adequate pruning of climbing roses has manifested itself among hobby gardeners, they use the juice scale as a practical guide.

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