Quick facts and care essentials

Sunset  – September 21, 2004

Quick Facts on Climbing Roses:

  • Evergreen or semievergreen
  • Zones vary
  • Full sun
  • Regular watering
  • Climbs by: scrambling; uses thorns as hooks

A climbing rose trained on a trellis, decorating a wall, or clambering into a tree is one of the most delightful sights in the garden. Climbing roses are almost as popular as their shrubby counterparts, and they likewise need regular water and fertilizer to thrive. We describe just three popular climbers, but countless choices are available; for a more complete selection, consult Sunset’s Roses (1998).

Lady Banks’ rose (R. banksiae) ‘Lutea’. Native to China, this spring-blooming species rose is a favorite in many parts of the country. It grows in Zones 4-33 and is evergreen in all but the coldest parts of its range. Though it isn’t hardy below 0 degrees F/-18 degrees C, it does survive the heat and humidity of the Gulf Coast, Florida, and the Deep South. Very double, primrose yellow blossoms are small (just 1 inch across), in pendent clusters; leaves are small, too, and highly resistant to pests and diseases. The virtually thornless canes can reach 25 feet long and are quite pliable, easy to twine around a support structure; they are best displayed over an arbor, where they can form a thick canopy. They don’t require formal training. If you need to thin growth or prune to limit spread, do it right after flowering.

R. ‘Blaze’. A long-time favorite for its plentiful bright red blooms, ‘Blaze’ tolerates both cold and heat and is grown throughout the country. Though cane length varies by region, it’s typically a fairly restrained climber that will grow happily on a low fence or over a small arbor. The double, 2- to 3-inch blossoms are often borne in clusters; they typically don’t appear in profusion until the plant is 2 or 3 years old.

‘Blaze’ is rarely troubled by pests or diseases; it tolerates tough conditions but appreciates regular water and fertilizer, rewarding you with an almost continuous display of bloom throughout the growing season. Prune and thin as needed during dormancy.

R. ‘New Dawn’. One of the most popular climbing roses, fast-growing ‘New Dawn’ is cold hardy in all but the northernmost parts of the United States. Make sure you give it plenty of room: its many canes can reach 15 to 25 feet, with vigorous side branching. Plump pink buds open to scented semidouble blossoms that age to a lighter, creamier pink. The glossy green foliage is seldom troubled by pests, but in humid climates it may be afflicted by mildew or black spot late in the season.

‘New Dawn’ is attractive scrambling atop an arbor, engulfing a dead tree trunk, or tumbling over a wall. To contain growth, cut back some of the the oldest canes to the bud union each year; this also keeps the plant from getting too dense.