The hardy climbing rose spreads lusciously and blooms twice or more per year, producing large and stunning flowers. Not only are these plants more eye-catching and impressive than the average rose bush, but they also tend to be easier to maintain. Despite the impressive heights they attain, the root space climbing roses require remains low — at most 24 inches in width, making them suitable for all garden sizes. Any fence, trellis, or wall enveloped by this romantic plant is sure to become a favorite focal point in your garden.
These plants can grow up to twenty feet tall and four feet wide. With occasional training, climbing roses can cover substantial areas with their long canes, lush green leaves, and iconic flowers. The plethora of varieties available allows you to choose bright to pastel flowers ranging from strongly floral to scentless. These days, you can even find miniature, thorn-free, and multicolor varieties!
Climbing roses are outdoor plants that thrive in full sun. The best soil for climbing roses is one that has good drainage, is fertile, and contains some sand and clay. When planting your roses, start by digging a hole that is slightly bigger than your plant's root system. For ideal growth, in the base of your hole combine an organic fertilizer with a nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium ratio of 2-5-2 with some compost and around half acup of bone meal. Once you have planted, tamped in, and watered your climbing rose, it is helpful to add a few inches of mulch at the plant's base to keep the roots insulated. In the winter, extra mulch can keep the roots from freezing. Although roses tend to prefer warm environments, climbing roses can survive in hardiness zones as low as USDA 4 or as high as 10.
Consistent, light watering is best for climbing roses. Around an inch of water per week is ideal, as over-watering can create root rot. The fertilization needs of your roses will depend on your climate. In warmer climates where roses are only dormant for a few months, the plants will need more fertilizer. The easiest fertilization method is to use a time-release variety, typically just once or twice a year during the active season. Make sure to water your roses both before and right after fertilizing.
To keep your rose climbing in the direction and shape you desire, you'll need to do a bit of training. If you are planning on growing your roses against a fully solid structure, such as a wall, use a free-standing vertical support that can be inserted a few inches in front of the wall to maintain good airflow around your vine. Within the first year or two of planting, there may be very little need to train your climber. Once your rose has grown lengthy canes or stems, individually attach the canes to your structure using twine, according to your desired growing design. Be careful not to tie your twine too tight around the cane, since they will continue to expand as they grow. Continue to train your climbing rose intermittently, as the canes grow and develop.
If you're looking for an introductory climbing rose, try the Fourth of July variety, a low maintenance, disease-resistant, and red- and white-flowered beauty. This rose can handle hardiness zones 5 through 10, has deep green leaves, and can grow up to 14 feet tall. For a yellow to orange rose, the Alchymist is an easy choice. It can reach 20 feet, survives in hardiness zones 4 through 9, is quite fragrant, and has an exceptionally high petal count. For more of a timeless classic, try the Dublin Bay Rose, which blooms romantic, ruby red flowers, grows up to 8 feet, handles hardiness zones 5 through 10, and is relatively disease free.
Roses attract a wide range of bugs, some of which are not beneficial to the plant. Common pests include aphids, whiteflies, and scale insects. These pests destroy leaves, cause flowers to wilt, and even get into the stems. The easiest and most eco-friendly solution to rid your climbing rose of pests is to spray your plants with organic insecticidal soap.
Climbing roses, although typically hardy, can be susceptible to fungal diseases such as black spot or anthracnose. The main causes of these problems are too much heat, water, or humidity. Diseases can often be avoided by ensuring your rose's soil is well-drained, by keeping space between your rose bush and it's climbing structure for air circulation, and by watching the soil's moisture level. If one of these diseases does occur, garden stores offer a variety of sprays and dusts that can resolve the issue.
Climbing roses are commonly bought from stores; however, they can also be propagated from a healthy bush. To propagate your own, first fill a 6-inch pot with potting soil and press a 3-inch deep hole in the center. Cut a healthy stem off the bush at a 45-degree angle, right under a set of leaves. Roughly six inches above the first cut and right above another set of leaves, cut the stem flat across. Remove all the leaves except the very top leaf; then, around the bottom inch, carefully remove the outer bark with a knife. Dip this base in a powdered rooting hormone, place it in the pot and cover the base with soil. Maintain a damp topsoil and after two months in indirect light, new leaves should form. When this happens, move the plant into direct sunlight until you're ready to plant it outdoors in the spring.
Yearly pruning helps keep your plant healthy and increases both the abundance and size of its future flowers. Recently planted climbing roses do not need pruning for the first year or two, unless they have visibly dead or diseased branches. Pruning can be done from the second half of winter up until early springtime. Don't be afraid to remove some of the leaves from your bush before starting, so you have a better view of all the branches. To start, fully remove any extremely slender or diseased branches flush from the cane. Next, remove any old branches that have stopped producing flowers. Lastly, trim back branches according to your framework, always cutting stems a quarter of an inch above a bud. Make sure to take a step back every so often to keep track of how the overall shape of the plant is looking.
Rose petals are not only beautiful and fragrant — they're also edible! Petal flavors are unique to each variety and can range from sweet and mild to slightly spicy. Petals are best harvested mid-morning after a few dry days. Used fresh they can be eaten in salads, on toast, or made into rose water. They can be dried by leaving the petals spread out on sheets of newspaper for a few days. Make tea from your dry rose petals, step up your bath game, or decorate baked goods.