Climbing Roses with Mike Darcy

May 28, 2020

Often when gardeners use the word ‘climbing’, they are referring to plants that cling, and usually, those plants have tendrils that wrap around a structure such as a trellis, string, wire, and even other plants. Some climbers have the ability to produce roots that will grow from a stem and these roots will then cling to a structure. Climbing hydrangeas are a good example because they do not have tendrils and the plants will attach to a wall or trellis by aerial rootlets. Ivy would be another example of this.

However, climbing roses are an entirely different matter. They do not have tendrils to cling, they do not wrap around other plants, and they do not have aerial roots.

A climbing rose is actually a rose that produces very long and usually very strong canes and they can be trained through a structure such as a trellis or tied onto a trellis or wall. They are often grown against a wall or over an arbor and it might appear that the rose has ‘climbed’, but in fact, it actually has not.

Consider the space before a climbing rose is planted because most climbing roses are quite vigorous and need a fairly large space. They also need some pruning throughout the growing season in order to keep them somewhat contained. When trained and in full bloom, a climbing rose can be a spectacular plant. In addition to needing space, they should be planted in a sunny location, full-sun is ideal but they will perform well with usually a minimum of six hours of sun daily. Remember when selecting space for a climbing rose, like their bush relatives, the canes have thorns.

I think that it is always wise when selecting a new plant to be aware of the growth pattern and to actually see it growing in a natural setting. Currently, there are restrictions on some public rose gardens, but if there is an opportunity to visit one, I would recommend it to get an idea of how the plant might grow in a home garden setting.

There are many climbing roses available and the following list is five of the more popular selections that perform well in the Pacific Northwest.

Climbing Roses - Altissimo

Altissimo is a very popular and vigorous climber that can easily reach 12 feet. The flowers are scarlet or almost blood red and are single with golden stamens which contrast nicely with the red petals. Altissimo has a long blooming period.


Climbing Roses - Dortmund

Dortmund is also a red single and the flower has what is often called ‘white eyes’, meaning that the stamens are yellow but have white around the base. Dortmund flowers have a slight fragrance and the plant has a long blooming period that is often followed by orange hips in the fall.


Graham Thomas is a David Austin English rose that is very popular in Northwest gardens. Sometimes sold as a bush but in our climate, it is a vigorous grower. The double flowers are cupped shaped, deep yellow, and fragrant. It is a good repeat bloomer.


Climbing Roses - Iceberg

Iceberg (Climbing) There is a shrub rose called Iceberg as well as a climber. Both are pure white and fragrant. Climbing Iceberg is quite vigorous and is a good bloomer for most of the season.


Climbing Roses - Westerland

Westerland has a reputation for fragrance and deservedly so. Large sprays of apricot-orange flowers on glossy leaves that are disease resistant, it blooms repeatedly throughout the season.


This is an excellent time to plant climbing roses. Just remember that they need adequate space to grow, and given that, they can put on a great show.

We would love to see your growing gardens, use #mywilcolife on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and tag Wilco Stores.