Choosing Climbing Roses for Your Garden

Climbing roses take some effort to maintain, because you have to tie them up — but their special beauty is your reward. Climbing roses represent a diverse group of plants, producing long, supple canes that, in some varieties, can reach over 20 feet long.

Climbing roses aren’t true vines in that they don’t cling to, climb on, or in any way attach themselves to an upright support. Left on their own, they tend to be large, sprawling shrubs. But most climbing roses aren’t left on their own. You usually tie them in an upright fashion to some type of vertical support, such as a fence, arbor, trellis, or wall. But you don’t just train them straight up to the sky. Grown like that, they would only bloom at the very tip-top of the canes. So that you can benefit from climbing roses, you develop more floriferous (gotta love that word, which means blooms a lot) horizontal side shoots.

Climbers come in many different types, but most climbing roses fall into one of the following categories:

  • Large-flowered climbers: The most popular and widely used climbing roses produce clusters of flowers on stiff, arching canes that generally reach 8 to 15 feet. They produce flowers throughout the growing season, but they bloom most heavily in spring. Large-flowered climbers are generally hardy to 15° to 20°F (–10° to –7°C) and need winter protection wherever temperatures regularly drop lower. They are, nonetheless, your best bet for a climbing rose if you live in an area with cold winters.

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  • Climbing sports: These climbers — generally named after their original variety, such as ‘Climbing Queen Elizabeth’ from the famous, pink grandiflora — result from unusually vigorous canes that grow from popular hybrid teas, grandifloras, shrubs, and floribundas. They produce the beautiful flowers of their shrubby parent on a more sprawling plant. Climbing sports don’t usually bloom as heavily as large-flowered climbers, but do produce flowers with excellent size and character throughout the growing season. Generally hardy to 10° to 20°F (–12° to –7°C), these plants need protection in regions with colder winters.

  • Ramblers: Because they bloom only once a year, in spring, ramblers are less popular than other types of climbing roses. These very vigorous plants can grow up to 20 feet tall. They’re hardy to about 10°F (or about –12°C).

  • Climbing miniatures: Some are sports of popular miniature varieties. Others were created by crossing miniatures with more vigorous roses.

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