How To Grow And Care For Climbing Roses

Get old-fashioned cottage charm with colorful climbing roses.

Climbing Roses
Photo: Photo: Jean Allsopp

Plant climbing roses (Rosa setigera) for a charming and dramatic element to your Southern garden. Vigorous and relatively easy to grow, climbing roses sprawl on a fence, ascend a trellis, drape over an arbor, or scramble up a tree when trained. Flowers emerge on the end of the plant's long canes in single flowers or a cluster of blooms. Available in various colors, climbing roses produce fragrant blooms when cared for throughout their growing season.

Plant Attributes

 Common Name:  Climbing Rose, Prairie Rose, Climbing Wild Rose
 Botanical Name:  Rosa setigera
 Family:  Rosaceae
 Plant Type:  Perennial, Rose, Shrub
 Mature Size:  6-12 ft. tall, 3-4 ft. wide
 Sun Exposure:  Full
 Soil Type:  Loamy, Well-drained
 Soil pH:  Acidic (6.0 to 6.5)
 Bloom Time:  Summer, Fall
 Flower Color:  Red, Pink, Orange, Yellow, White
 Hardiness Zones:  Zones 5-9 (USDA)
 Native Area:  North America

Climbing Roses Care

Climbing roses do not twine or have suckers or tendrils to attach to a structure, so you need to loosely secure the rose to a sturdy structure, such as a trellis or fence. One trick to making climbing roses produce more bloom is to train them laterally than vertically—Climbers will have short spurs along their central stems, and these will produce buds.

When possible, buy a climbing rose as a bare-root, dormant plant. This makes it easy to handle and plant. Bareroot planting season begins in late winter or early spring when the soil is workable and thawed. Planting at this time allows the roots to get established in their new home before the heat of summer hits. Since potting soil has not surrounded bare-root roses, their roots develop quickly in the fresh garden soil.


Roses do best in full sun. While they tolerate some shade, they will bloom more and grow denser and fuller when they receive at least four to six hours of direct sun each day. Choose a location that will accommodate the climber's growth habits


While roses can adapt to many soil types, they do best in rich, fertile, loamy soil with good drainage. Whether you have good soil or not, you can always enhance it by adding organic matter such as compost, mulch, or peat moss—This will improve drainage in heavy clay soils and increase water retention in sandy soils.


Water consistently, especially during the first year when roots establish. Climbing roses prefer consistent, deep waterings in the mornings. Be mindful not to oversaturate the plants, making them susceptible to fungal diseases if the soil does not drain properly.

Temperature and Humidity

Climbing roses prefer moderate temperatures between 50ºF and 80ºF. Regions with extended periods of harsh summer heat should plant climbing roses in an area with partial afternoon shade. Cover plants after the first frost to protect them from the cold. Roses thrive in relatively moderate humid environments.


All plants need a lot of energy to produce. Fertilize regularly with a balanced fertilizer that provides ample amounts of all the necessary nutrients. Avoid fertilizers meant for lawns, which are relatively high in nitrogen. Fertilizers with high nitrogen content will produce a lush, dark green plant with fewer blooms.

Types of Climbing Roses

Climbing roses are available in various colors, sizes, and shapes. These versatile and easy-to-grow and train climbers add charm to any garden. Here are some varieties to know: 

  • 'New Dawn': This soft pink flower with glossy foliage produces clusters of sweetly fragrant roses growing up to 15 feet. 
  • 'Russell's Cottage Rose': A deep crimson flower, fading to pink, with fragrant foliage that grows around 10 to 20 feet. 
  • 'Sombreuil': Large creamy white blooms that smell like a "Granny Smith" apple. Train this flower to climb a low wall, fence, or trellis. 
  • 'Lady Banks': A spring-blooming climbing rose available in yellow and white, this flower grows over 20 feet.
  • 'Iceberg': White to pink blooms produce clusters of medium-sized flowers with glossy leaves and easy-to-train climbing growth. 


Climbers need little to no pruning for the first two years. Many of the older climbing varieties tend to bloom on second-year canes. Most climbing roses bloom at least twice each growing season—first on older branches and then on the current season's growth. When you prune, do so in the dormant months of mid-to-late winter to encourage plenty of late-season flowers. Remove any diseased, injured, or spindly branches. Prune off any old, woody canes that had not bloomed well the previous season, and remove any crossing or awkwardly placed branches.

Propagating Climbing Roses

Propagate climbing roses by taking stem cuttings from blooms at least four to six inches in diameter in early autumn after the flowers have faded. Here's how to propagate climbing roses from cuttings:

  1. Use sharp, sterile pruning shears to cut a six-to-eight-inch stem cutting from a healthy plant. Cut at a 45-degree angle to help the plant to absorb moisture. 
  2. Remove all but the top set of leaves. Remove the outer bark from the angled-edge side of the cutting with a sharp knife. Avoid cutting into the stem.
  3. Fill containers with damp potting soil. Use your hands or a pencil to create a hole in the center of the soil about three inches deep. 
  4. Dip the cuttings in a rooting hormone, if preferred, and plant the angeled-edge side of the cutting into the potting soil. Lightly pack the soil around the cutting. 
  5. Place containers in bright, indirect light and keep the soil consistently moist. 
  6. After two sets of leaves emerge and roots develop—about two months—move the cuttings to a location with morning sun. Avoid placing the plant in harsh afternoon sun until more mature. 
  7. The following spring, move the climbing rose plant to a final location. In dry climate regions, plant roses during the autumn after temperatures drop. 

How to Grow Climbing Roses From Seed

Growing climbing roses from seeds require patience, as plants might take three to five years to mature. Collect seeds by purchasing them at a nursery or after cutting rose hips. Here is how to grow climbing roses from seed:

  1. Rose seeds need cold stratification. After collecting, washing, and eliminating unviable seeds, place them on a moist paper towel or in planting mix inside a plastic bag in the refrigerator. 
  2. Keep seeds in cold storage for four to 10 weeks until germinating—The paper towel and soil should remain moist throughout the stratification. 
  3. Remove seeds from the refrigerator and plant them in a seed-starting tray filled with moist potting soil—plant seeds about one-fourth inch deep. 
  4. Maintain seeds in consistently moist potting soil—with equal parts mixture of peat or perlite. 
  5. After seeds sprout three to four leaves—about six weeks—transplant to a large pot. Plants will appear a few inches tall. Continue transplanting to large containers when appropriate. Full maturity can take three to five years. 


Prepare climbing roses for winter by deadheading spent blooms in late summer or early fall. Suspend fertilization in the fall to promote rose hip development. Additionally, clean up fallen branches at this time. 

Winter protection, such as a burlap covering, should be applied after the first frost. Avoid pruning stems immediately before cold weather initiates, as the plant will not have sufficient time to callus over. In addition to covering plants, add a thick layer of compost, such as shredded leaves, near the plant's base. Tie taller rose canes together with a loose twine. Remove winter protection in early spring to promote new growth. Use a string, such as a twine, to loosely tie taller rose canes of climbing roses together.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Climbing roses are relatively disease-resistant. However, these plants are still susceptible to certain fungal diseases such as black spots, anthracnose, powdery mildew, and rust, often caused by too much water, humidity, and heat.

Aphids, scales, whiteflies, and weevils are pests that occasionally attack climbing roses. Treat small or infrequent infestations by spraying plants with a garden hose, or if the issue persists, use insecticidal soap as directed. Prevent pests by maintaining a healthy plant with full sun exposure and plenty of air circulation and by removing dead or damaged branches.

How to Get Climbing Roses to Bloom

Deadheading is one way to help encourage climbing roses to produce a second showing of flowers throughout the season. Additionally, training climbing roses to grow horizontally instead of vertically will create shorter spurs to emerge along the main canes, which produce blooms.

Common Problems With Climbing Roses

While versatile climbing roses are spectacular additions to gardens, there are a few issues to know about to help promote better growth. Here's what you should know about growing and caring for climbing roses:

Curling Leaves

Climbing roses cannot thrive in areas with sustained temperatures above 90°F. Extreme heat prevents climbing roses from absorbing nutrients and water. Avoid over-pruning to help care for plants and try planting in areas with afternoon shade. Additional coverings might be beneficial to provide artificial shade during harsh sun exposure.

Plant Leaves Falling Off

Climbing rose foliage will die back and fall off when over-fertilized. Additionally, too alkaline soils will discolor the plant's foliage, turning it yellow or brown. Adding peat moss or mulch around the plant can help it retain the ideal nutrients and absorb moisture.

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