The Rambling Rose And The Climbing Rose: What’s The Difference?

While there are plants that come in many forms, perhaps the most famous of them all is the rose.

Roses come in many types, including shrub roses, climbing roses, rambling roses, ground cover roses, and miniature roses.

This can mean that knowing where to start in choosing a rose type is difficult, or even overwhelming. 

If you have an upright surface that’s just crying out for the beautiful color and form that roses provide, it can be tricky to decide between rambling and climbing roses (see also How To Choose The Right Climbing Rose).

Here’s everything you need to know.

The Difference Between A Climbing Rose And A Rambling Rose

Rambling roses are a very vigorous form of rose. They grow rapidly, and produce lots of roses, which tend to be much smaller than those on floribunda or grandiflora rose types.

Rambling roses are great for growing up large areas, such as trees, pergolas, garden lamps, summerhouses or sheds (see also Our Guide To Growing Roses).

Climbing roses (see also Plants For Tall Containers) are a little slower at covering spaces, but they tend to have a more ‘polite’ growth habit.

They are best suited for obelisks, trellises, and single walls, where you only want them to grow up one surface.

They will also repeat flower, whereas rambling roses only tend to bloom during June or July.

You’ll also notice the difference in the stems. Rambling roses produce sturdy canes which bend easily, making it very easy for the plant to ‘ramble’ across difficult areas, tall surfaces, or even other plants.

Ramblers also tend to be the taller of the two types, some reaching more than 40 feet high in the right conditions!

The Different Types Of Rambling Roses

Ramblers can be divided into three different groups: Multifloras, Sempervirens, and Wichurana Ramblers.

These are separate species of rose, and some ramblers can be hybrids of these, too.

The Sempervirens is also known as Rosa sempervirens, or the evergreen rose, which is a wild rose hailing from the Mediterranean region.

Rosa wichurana, also known as the memorial rose, or Rosa lucieae, comes from Eastern parts of Asia.

Multiflora ramblers also go by the name multiflora rose, Rosa polyantha, Japanese rose, and the rambler. This species hails from Eastern Asia, and it’s considered an invasive species in America.

Rambling Rose Varieties To Try In Your Own Garden

Rosa ‘Alister Stella Gray’

For sunshine yellow blooms on a large rambling rose, ‘Alister Stella Gray’ is a good choice. It flowers early in the season, producing lovely flowers with a decadent, strong perfume.

As the flowers mature, they turn a lovely ivory.

It’s an exception to the rambling rose rule, as it is a repeat-flowering rose.

It’s capable of reaching 15 feet tall, which is fairly compact for a rambler, perfect for the side of buildings, sheds, or large walls. 

Rosa banksiae ‘Alba Plena’

To introduce early color into any garden, ‘Alba Plena’ may be the rose for you.

It’s worth knowing that this particular rambler requires patience, as it may not flower until the plant has established itself. 

It grows just shy of under 20 feet tall when it has matured, thriving in a sunny, sheltered spot. 

‘Alba Plena’ produces creamy, full flowers, each rose packed with a plethora of petals and plenty of perfume.

This rambling rose has the advantage of having thornless stems, which helps in that if you’re a little less active with the pruning shears than you should be, you will still be able to move past this rose without being attacked.

Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’

If you are someone who simply can’t wait for roses to come out, Rose banksiae ‘Lutea’ is the perfect option, as it blooms into rays of pale yellow, double roses earlier than most ramblers.

It’s perfect for large areas that you want covered quickly, as it has a strong growth rate. Once mature, it can reach up to 40 feet high, by 13 feet wide.

Rosa ‘Ghislaine de Felingonde’

A very robust variety, ‘Ghislaine de Felingonde’ creates an ever-changing display. 

It produces bright orange rosebuds, maturing into light apricot, double flowers. These fade to spectacular shades of ivory, pink, and peach, taking on pink tints during fall.

It also helps that these flowers bear a captivating perfume, with sweet notes of musk.

As it doesn’t have a lot of thorns, it’s suitable for doorways, arches, and walls you’d regularly walk past, capable of reaching up to 12 feet high once mature.

Rosa ‘The Lady Of The Lake’

Reaching about 12 feet high once mature, ‘The Lady Of The Lake’ is one of the best roses to cover walls, fences, archways or pillars with seas of pale pink roses.

You can also spy golden yellow stamens in the center of each rose, only adding to the plant’s beauty.

Its long, slender canes make it ideal for covering a wall or fence, and its fragrant flowers have a delicate citrus scent.

Bred by David Austin, ‘The Lady Of The Lake’ is named after the figure of Arthurian legend.

This rose will do well in dappled shade or full sunlight, in well-draining soil sites. 

Rosa ‘Super Fairy’

If you are worried about a rambling rose taking over your garden, this is a variety worth considering.

‘Super Fairy’ has a less vigorous growth rate than some of the other rambling roses on this list, so you won’t need to keep such a keen eye on it.

This also means that this cultivar is perfect for growing up smaller surfaces such as obelisks, trellises, or archways.

It also helps that ‘Super Fairy’ produces double pink roses, in various shades of pink.

‘Super Fairy’ will reach just under 10 feet tall once the plant is mature, spreading to 6 feet wide if you give it the room to do so.

Rosa ‘Veilchenblau’

Bred by the rose breeder Schmidt in 1869, this cultivar has remained a firm favorite.

It’s not difficult to see why, with its purple-pink flowers which form in large clusters, sometimes streaked with white.

These small roses mature into a silvery, light purple which can look blue in some lights, and it helps that they carry a citrus fragrance.

‘Veilchenblau’ is capable of reaching 15 feet at maturity, and will grow well in either dappled shade or full sunlight, whatever you might have.

Final Thoughts

Rambling roses are a great way to introduce more life and color into your garden. You do need to be careful that you get the position right, however, making sure to give any rambling rose enough light, space, and air circulation for it to thrive.

Some rambling roses grow quicker than others, and get to much smaller or much larger heights than you might expect from the average rose, so it’s worth doing your research beforehand.

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