With gardening, there is always more to learn. I’ve written previously about spring pruning roses, and I stand by the tips and techniques in that article for most roses.
But I’ve learned more about climbing roses and realize that I was cutting back most of them too harshly. They still grew well, but I didn’t get a great show of flowers (and flowers really are the point when you’re growing climbing roses!) At the urging of my garden mentor, I left them taller last year, and I had far more blooms than in previous years.
What I’ve Learned About Pruning Climbing Roses
What I’ve learned is that for climbing roses are that are healthy,* in the spring when they start budding, you should prune back anything thinner than a pencil (see the other article for a picture) to no more than 3 buds, but for any canes thicker than a pencil, leave them with as much height as you’d like. In some cases that may be three or four feet, in other cases, for a vigorous rose with good thick canes, it could be six or even eight feet.
The rose I tested this on was Rosa ‘Constance Spry’, an English rose (aka David Austin rose).
This year when I prune I will leave the height on most of the canes, but I will prune back a few of the oldest canes (about 1/3 of the plant) quite hard. This will help the plant retain vigour, but will still leave a substantial number of canes to produce a good show of flowers.
*If the rose isn’t very vigorous, cut back harder, to two feet or less, to good, thick shoots, as it will promote growth. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but the more you constrain the plant by cutting it back the more it will burst forth with new growth.