Prune Roses That Climb

At Heirloom Roses, we refer to roses that are used in climbing applications as “roses that climb” because there are two types of roses to consider in this category: Climbing Roses and Ramblers. Climbing Roses are bred to grow tall. Ramblers also grow tall, but they have softer, more pliable canes and are generally less thorny than Climbing Roses.

Whether you have a Climbing Rose or a Rambler, they both should be pruned in early spring, with the exception of once-blooming Ramblers, which should be pruned after they bloom. Once-blooming Rambler Roses bloom on old wood, so prune keeping in mind that growth that develops the previous year will be the canes that produce blooms the following year.

Pruning roses that climb is more about training the canes and less about cutting them back. However, if you have an older Climber that is not doing what you want it to do, you will need to recondition it, which requires some hard pruning.

There are two types of canes on roses that climb: main canes and lateral canes. Main canes start at the ground and climb upward. Lateral canes come off of main canes and produce blooms. In order to have your rose produce blooms from top to bottom, you must train your main canes to grow horizontally and allow the lateral canes to grow upward. Climbers that are not properly trained tend to have roses only at the top of the bush and none at the bottom or the center.

The most important thing to remember when pruning roses that climb is to always start at the bottom of the plant and work your way up. Starting at the bottom enables you to make decisions about the plant’s structure and health without getting mixed up on which main cane you are working on. Older roses may have many canes that are intertwined, making it difficult to tell which cane you are working on unless you start from the bottom.

Once you have secured the main canes horizontally and any lateral canes vertically, start at the bottom of the plant and use our PRUNE acronym to prune the remainder of the plant.



  • Cut the plant back to about waist height so you can work safely


  • Branches that look dry, shriveled or black should be removed as they will no longer produce new growth. The healthy canes will be brown or green and firm.
  • Remove canes that are crossing or rubbing, as they will create weak spots.


  • Know what type of rose bush you are pruning, and how you want the bush to look as it grows out.
  • Shape the plant with this future growth in mind.
  • Make final cuts at a 45-degree angle and about ¼ inch above outward-facing bud eyes.


  • Clean up all cuttings, dead leaves, and other debris from around the plant. Do not compost as it could spread pathogens.
  • Leaving the area as clean as possible will minimize the growth of diseases.


  • That’s it! Enjoy your hard work!
  • If you want to enjoy some cut roses, cut the stem right above the first five-leaflet leaf under the flower and immediately place the cut stem into a clean bucket of lukewarm water.