How to prune climbing roses for winter to ensure large, healthy blooms come spring

A guide to pruning climbing roses for neat, healthy stems resulting in large, gorgeous blooms, according to experts

Garden with a climbing rose plant
(Image credit: Future PLC/David Giles)

While this time of the year is great for pruning several plants in your garden, from summer jasmine to raspberries, roses including the climbing kind are not one of them. Winter, specifically between December and February, is when to prune roses according to gardening pros. But if you want to be prepared and know how to prune climbing roses for winter there is no harm in that. In fact, we commend you. After all, luck favours the prepared.

So if you are in possession of a climber and in need of some gardening advice, then you’ve come to the right place as our panel of experts shares a step-by-step guide to the best way of pruning climbing roses. Let’s get snipping. But only with a pair of clean, sharp pruning shears and secateurs, you don’t want to harm your plant with dirty, blunt ones.

How to prune climbing rose for winter 

Bright pink roses

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

If you've learnt how to plant climbing roses and you now a have a healthy rose bush on your hands, learning how to prune it should be next on your agenda. Firstly, you want to get everything ready. Your pruning shears or secateurs, as well as protective clothing and thick gardening gloves as those thorns are sharp.

What you'll need

‘Ensure they have support before pruning, as removing the stems without support can cause damage,’ warns Jack Sutcliffe, co-founder of shed manufacturer, Power Sheds.

If you are training your climbing roses, then Steve Chilton, garden expert from LeisureBench, recommends to ‘place support wires to which the shoots can be tied. The lowest wire should be 50cm off the ground, with wires 30cm apart at least. Tie newly grown canes to the supports.’

Climbing rose plant on a house

(Image credit: Getty Images/craig fordham)

Then you can get pruning.

‘First, you want to start by removing dead, damaged or dying branches, as it is best to get them trimmed back to allow the stronger branches to grow,’ says Natalie White at Rated People.

‘Carefully put these cuttings into your general waste bin, rather than your compost, so you don’t spread any diseases,’ warns Fiona Jenkins, gardening expert at MyJobQuote.co.uk.

Jack continues, ‘Remove any stems that are growing inwards towards the centre of the plant, crossing each other, or rubbing against each other to allow better air circulation.’    

Steve Chilton portrait
Steve Chilton

Steve Chilton is a passionate and knowledgeable garden expert with several years of experience within the field. As the director of LeisureBench, an industry-leading garden furniture company, Steve has developed strong expertise for all things nature and plants. Steve is a keen educator and loves to share this knowledge with others. He strives to simplify complex garden practices and encourage eco-friendly gardening.

He continues, ‘When making each cut, ensure it is made at a 45-degree angle, just above an outward-facing bud. This is because new growth will emerge from the bud, leading to healthy and balanced development.’

‘Next, prune any flowered shoots back by around two thirds – this will ensure they grow back nice and strong the following year,’ Natalie says.

If you prefer light pruning over going all in, then Fiona has a trick up her sleeve, ‘If you don’t want to prune too heavily, you can tie back long shoots. This will help train your rose and stop strong winds snapping them off.’

Either way, you should never remove more than one third of your rose plant when pruning as this can weaken it.

Why do you need to prune climbing roses?

Climbing rose plant on a brick house

(Image credit: Getty Images/PaulMaguire)

You might be wondering why you need to prune your climbing rose plant. Or do you actually have to prune it? The answer is yes, you do. And there are several reasons why.

'In order to have a healthy climber, it is essential you spend some time each year pruning,’ Natalie explains. 'It helps to remove the dead and damaged branches, which will allow the other branches and shoots to grow for the next year. If you don’t prune your climber and it gets out of control, you might find that the stems can cross over with each other, not only will this leave you with a mass of stems to try and sort out, but it could end up leading to disease and fungal infections.'

Garden with a climbing rose plant

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Giles)

Steve continues with a few more good reasons, ‘It also often helps increase the size of the flowers, as pruning offers the plant more energy for flower production. Climbing roses have vigorous growth, and often grow pretty wild without pruning. This means that they naturally become tangled and overwhelmed, so regular pruning is essential to keep them in check and ensure that they don't become overgrown and messy. 

‘Pruning climbing roses when training them enables you to effectively shape and direct their growth, as you have the ability to guide and control the plant's development through pruning practices.’

So whatever you do, just don’t skip pruning your climbing roses this winter. They’ll thank you for it with large, beautiful blooms next spring. Just wait.

Climbing roses in the garden

(Image credit: Getty Images/Yulia Shaihudinova)

Can you prune climbing roses in October?

Generally speaking, it is not recommended to prune climbing roses in October. But there are exceptions.

‘If your climbing roses are overgrown, damaged or diseased, you can prune these earlier, from late autumn to the end of winter. This is called renovation pruning,’ Steve advises.

News Writer

Sara Hesikova has been Ideal Home’s News Writer since July 2023, bringing the Ideal Home’s readership breaking news stories from the world of home decor and interiors, as well as trend-led pieces, shopping round-ups and more. Graduating from London College of Fashion with a bachelor’s degree in fashion journalism in 2016, she got her start in niche fashion and lifestyle magazines like Glass and Alvar as a writer and editor before making the leap into interiors, working with the likes of 91 Magazine and copywriting for luxury bed linen brand Yves Delorme among others. She feels that fashion and interiors are intrinsically connected – if someone puts an effort into what they wear, they most likely also care about what they surround themselves with.