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.

One of our favorite products for pruning climbing roses is the Bahco Superlight Orchard Lopper 24". This product is best for mature rose bushes; with its durable lightweight aluminum handles and shock-absorbing bumpers, this lopper reduces muscle strain and fatigue during long pruning sessions. This lopper's long, stable handles easily reach high branches for efficient overhead pruning, while its locking center bolt mechanism ensures the blades stay aligned for continuously clean, precise cuts.

Pruning Less Mature Climbing Roses

While the Bahco Superlight Orchard Lopper 24" is our preferred choice for more mature rose bushes and long pruning days, if you have a smaller rose plant or want to make quick trims, hand-held pruners might be more appropriate for your needs.

One of our favorite handheld pruners is the Fleco 11 Improved Classic Pruning Shear. The Felco 11 provides cleaner cuts for unruly rose plants in your garden. The cutting head is also easily adjustable, ensuring precision when dealing with smaller canes. The ergonomic, cushioned, non-slip, phthalate-free handle grips provide comfortable and safe pruning, reducing the risk of hand fatigue and slippage.



  • 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.