How To Choose The Right Climbing Rose

Choosing any plant for your garden can be tricky. It can be difficult to know where to begin, with the sheer amount of choice available, especially when it comes to climbing roses.

If you get it wrong, and pick a beautiful cultivar that’s nevertheless completely unsuitable for your garden, it can be disastrous.

Here’s how to do it right.

Climbing Roses: What You Should Know Before You Get Started

So you fancy a climbing rose for your garden. It’s a great choice of rose, providing height and plenty of color, sometimes perfume, while inviting plenty of beneficial insects into your garden including bees and butterflies.

Many climbing roses, apart from ramblers, have arching or climbing stems, though they are technically bush roses. 

In many heirloom roses, this is the natural way they grow, and in modern cultivars, these are ‘sports’, or random mutations through nature.

As climbing roses are usually a mutation, you’ll need to spend some time ‘training’ them up a surface before they will start to climb properly.

The majority of climbing roses reach between 6 and 20 feet high depending on the cultivar you choose, and the conditions of your own garden, as well as the space available. 

They can be grown on many surfaces, such as fences, walls, obelisks, large trees, sides of houses, and garages, to name a few. 

Climbers may be repeat flowering, where they flower continually for a season, or they may produce blooms during a short, single window each year. 

But where do you start, with so many cultivars to pick from? 

There are some things to think about before you click that search button. But don’t worry, you already have the answers.

Consider The Traits You Need In A Rose

You need to know what kind of rose you want. To make it easier, think about the traits you want to have in a rose in your garden.

Do you want large roses with hundreds of petals, or do you prefer miniature roses, or those with only five petals? What about scent? Is it important if the rose is perfumed, or not? 

How much room do you have in your garden? Can your garden support a 20 foot rose when the plant gets big enough? Would something smaller be more suitable? 

What about flowering times? Do you want large roses that only flower once a year in antique roses, or would you prefer continuous blooms?

How hardy does your rose need to be? Do you get cold winters? Does your garden get really wet, and you’ll need a disease resistant rose?

And, probably most importantly (for me, anyway), what color do you want your rose to be?

New varieties are being bred all the time, and there’s a good chance that you might find exactly what you’re looking for.

In some cases, you may need to compromise, but when you finally see those roses blooming in your garden, you might be surprised at how most of your pickiest traits just fall off the list, and you can simply enjoy the roses bloom.

Tips On Searching The Internet For The Right Climbing Rose For Your Garden

There are some terms that you’ll come across, that you may not be familiar with.

Any rose which is modern has simply been bred after 1867, and therefore cannot be classed as an heirloom rose.

It’s important to note that any rose listed with “Cl.” or “Climbing” in front of its name is a genetic mutation of the original plant (otherwise known as a sport, a natural mutation), and may not get to the same heights as rambling roses, for example. 

The growth habits of climbing roses are less vigorous than ramblers, which is a good thing, as you can keep on top of the rate it grows much easier.

When you start browsing for roses online, you might see the term ‘bare-rooted’. This means that the rose comes with its roots and a few chopped stems, and nothing else.

There’s nothing wrong with this, in fact it’s a good way to ensure they survive the stress of being stuck in a box for a week or longer, and they are easy to transplant into your garden.

Choose Your Words Carefully

The quickest way to pull up the relevant information is to include the word buy in your search term, along with a specific species or cultivar.

This will bring up any retailers selling the roses you might be after, and if they’re good ones, they’ll tell you the exact conditions the rose needs in order to thrive.

It’s always worth exploring a few links, not just one or two. Some sites can get the care information wrong (especially if they are just informational plant websites, rather than those that sell plants), and others omit information entirely, so landing on a few pages will tell you what’s what.

There are certain websites that will promise you can grow very specific plants, for example, like rare orchids in your own garden or house, and provide full care guides for this.

In reality, you would have trouble finding viable seeds or even the described plant outside of its natural habitat.

Be Specific

Be as specific as possible in your phrase. If you have a particular trait you want in a rose, search for it!

That might be a specific height, color, fragrance, or disease resistance that you need, and mentioning that in your search will help. 

The more you do this, the better your results will be, and the less time you’ll need to spend trawling through websites which are barely relevant to what you’re after.

Climbing Roses To Consider Growing In Your Own Garden

Rosa ‘Altissimo’

For some, red roses are the only choice. ‘Altissimo’ is a beautiful cultivar, and while the blooms aren’t as elaborate as some, sporting the classic five-petal rose, they positively glow in bright crimson.

These gaze-stealing flowers surround a delicate yellow eye, and contrast well against the rich green leaves.

It’s a repeat bloomer, so you’ll see color for several months, for as long as the weather allows.

As an added bonus, this plant is resistant to disease, and remains hardy in USDA zones 5 through to 9, where it can reach a maximum height of 10 feet tall.

Rosa ‘Compassion’

A hybrid tea rose, this lovely climber was introduced by Harkness in 1973.

It is known for its excellent disease resistance, reliable blooming habit, and sweet scent.

‘Compassion’ can reach up to 15 feet tall, so if this is the rose for you, make sure you give it enough room! Similarly, the roses produced are large, reaching about 5 inches in diameter, in shades of light pink.

This variety is perfect for archways, doorways, tall fences or walls, or even the front of your home. 

It’s not picky about the soil type, and will survive in partial shade or full sunlight.

Rosa ‘Don Juan’

A classic when it comes to red roses, ‘Don Juan’ produces highly fragrant bright red blooms, in a hybrid tea form.

The leaves have a glossy sheen while being resistant to disease, and the plant flowers repeatedly, making it ideal for growing in containers.

It reaches heights of about 10 feet once the plant is mature, and about 6 feet wide.

It’s suitable for gardens in USDA zones 5 through to 9.

Rosa ‘Eden’

For a very romantic rose that’s not a cliché as it flowers in pink, rather than red, ‘Eden’ has you covered.

This cultivar produces very large blooms, not holding anything back, as it’s able to produce a hundred petals per flower.

It can also produce flowers in pastel shades of cream or yellow, too. 

‘Eden’ makes a great statement in any garden, climbing up walls, arches, and arbors without any issues, but you’ll need to encourage it to climb to begin with.

Before you know it, it will reach 10 feet tall, producing reliable blooms for years. These gorgeous flowers also do well as part of a cutting garden.

Rosa ‘Golden Showers’

Maybe pinks and reds just aren’t for you. In that case, ‘Golden Showers’ is a great climbing rose to try, producing plenty of yellow roses which are highly scented.

This particular rose is only hardy in USDA zones 8 through to 10, and does better in a sheltered position.

Rosa ‘Sombreuil’

A firm favorite of many gardeners, ‘Sombreuil’ produces warm white old roses, which can get as large as 5 inches across.

This lovely plant was introduced in 1850, and has remained popular ever since.

It helps that the plant is a repeat bloomer, producing more than one flush of beautiful roses in a year, and all of these blooms are highly scented, with a tea-like perfume. 

It can reach up to 15 feet tall, which makes it suitable for all kinds of structures, including fences, arbors, obelisks, archways, doors, trellises, and summer houses.

One thing to note, though: ‘Sombreuil’ will not do well in partial or full shade, as it loves to bask in the sun, so keep this in mind!

Final Thoughts

Climbing roses are among the most versatile types of roses you can grow in your own garden. You can even grow several types up one large wall or structure for multiple colors or an extended season of blooms.

Climbing roses can be grown up most surfaces, but you will need to tie the plant to the surface loosely to make sure it’s stable, as climbing roses cannot grip on their own very well, unlike ramblers.

As there are many cultivars to choose from, there is bound to be the perfect rose for your garden. Just make sure you pick one that’s suitable for the conditions that your garden provides, and it will bloom for years to come. It may even outlive you!

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