How to Train Climbing Roses

Climbing roses thrill the garden with vertical color and form, not to mention fragrance. For a robust, overflowing display of blooms with ample foliage, learn how to train climbing roses with gardening expert Katherine Rowe.

train climbing rose. Close-up of profusely blooming climbing roses on tall vertical wooden posts forming a pergola in a garden. These roses enchant with their graceful and vigorous growth. Their slender stems are adorned with glossy green foliage, with finely serrated edges. The plant produces clusters of bright pink, double flowers cascading gracefully along the length of the stems


You probably already have the perfect climbing rose (or roses!) picked out for your garden. Maybe you’re working with an established rose that needs some healthier habits. These gorgeous plants brighten garden corners, soften structures, and envelop the visitor in fragrance. Carefree climbing roses thrive in a variety of situations and positions, but they must be trained to grow in your desired shape.

Explore the steps below to choose the optimal support structure and method of tying or pegging to train your climbing rose for a long-lasting garden display.

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Do I Need to Train My Climbing Rose?

Yes, you must train climbing roses and tie them to a support structure to direct growth. These plants vigorously with repeat flowering from spring through frost. Their rambling relatives sprawl with long canes and a single profusion of blooms in spring or early summer. Both types grow beautifully on trellises, house walls, arbors, pillars, arches, and along fences, but they won’t create a flawless form without some help.

These roses are not true climbing plants, meaning they don’t twine, vine, or cling to structures on their own (except for hooking a thorn). Tying and training keep them orderly and upright. Without support, climbing roses grow as free-standing shrubs that ramble down a slope, crawl along a wall, form a groundcover, or make graceful, arching garden specimens.

Long, pliable canes set climbing roses apart from other roses. Depending on the variety, many have prickles (thorns) or are nearly thornless and easy to train. Choose a disease-resistant variety with repeat blooming for optimal landscape performance and easy-care qualities. 

Here are 5 simple steps to train a climbing rose:

Supplies Needed:

  • Thick gloves
  • Strong jute or other garden twine
  • Pruning shears
  • Support structure materials

Step 1: Choose Your Support Structure

Close-up of a woman installing a metal obelisk for a climbing rose support. Crafted from sturdy materials like metal, its pyramid-shaped form rises elegantly from the ground, tapering to a pointed apex. Nearby grows a rose bush with vertical strong stems, adorned with green glossy leaves with jagged edges.
Choose sturdy supports to accommodate climbing growth and weight.

Versatile in position and form, climbing roses grow vertically on a variety of structures. They’ll spiral around pillars, cover trellises, crawl along walls, fill in obelisks, and more. 

The priority is to plan for the rose’s mature size by selecting the right garden location and support structure. A tall climber needs a support that fits the entire length of its future canes. A shorter climbing rose gets away with smaller supports and even grows in containers.

Install support structures at the time of planting so that roots aren’t disturbed later. Supports must be solid and sturdy since climbing roses and ramblers grow robustly with thick canes. Canes get weighty as they mature and must hold all those gorgeous blooms! Anchor your structure in the ground (with a solid mallet to the top or a deep hole) so that it won’t lift as roses grow and become weighty up high. 

Fitting structures include strong wooden supports with horizontal slats 18 to 24 inches apart. Galvanized metal works, as does straining wire (metal string) and fixed anchor points. We’ll explore these in combination in step three.

Step 2: Train Horizontally First

Many climbing roses boast a vigorous habit, quick growth, and prolific flowering. Let roses get established in the first year to train and direct growth in subsequent years. 

First Year

Close-up of a newly planted rose bush against a trellis in the garden. The young rose bush presents a charming spectacle, with its slender yet resilient stems reaching skyward, adorned by delicate foliage in shades of vibrant green. The stems are covered with small sharp thorns. The rose bush is tied with a rope to the trellis by the tip of the stem.
Allow young roses to grow freely for upward development.

If your rose is young and newly planted, let it grow freely without training for the first year. This encourages upward growth. Canes grow long and thick enough to work with (ideally the width of a pencil or more). 

To support vigorous canes, tie them loosely to the support structure. Use strong jute or other garden twine to tie a loose loop around the support and the stem at 15-inch intervals. Ensure the knotted tie is loose with four to six inches of “play” so air circulates freely around developing canes.

Second Year

Close-up of two gardener's hands tying flowering rose stems to a trellis in the garden. The rose bush has complex pinnate leaves consisting of small oval leaflets with finely serrated edges. The plant produces clusters of small, lush, double flowers with wavy bright pink petals surrounding white centers with golden stamens.
Encourage abundant blooms by training canes horizontally for growth.

In the second year and beyond, we’re ready to get training. A simple technique to increase climbing rose flowering is to train the main canes horizontally to start. These plants typically produce bloom clusters on the tip of stems as they scramble toward the sun. To promote flowers along the stem for an all-over bloom appearance, promote the growth of side shoots (laterals). 

Choose the sturdiest canes and tie them loosely to the support. Leave enough “give” for cane movement and thickening. Evenly space canes as close to horizontal as possible (between 45 and 90 degrees). This horizontal positioning allows each leaf node and bud eye to develop a stem to hold bloom clusters

Horizontal training is not essential to plant health, though it directs a plant’s energy to create a full form as it grows. Lateral shoots lead to more blooms than the tip of a single long cane. Train laterals and canes as they grow by tying-in on the support structure and pruning.

Step 3: Train & Tie-in to Supports

Using long, sturdy, green, and pliable canes, work with your support structure to let the rose climb. If you’re using a permanent structure, like a brick or stone wall or house front, consider a trellis, gridded metal, or straining wire (metal string) with anchors to support the climbing rose. Aim for 18 to 24 inches of vertical spacing and anchors every five feet.

Remember to train and tie climbing rose canes as plants grow. Here are streamlined tips for training and integrating different support options. 


Close-up of a blooming climbing rose bush over white wooden trellis in a sunny garden. The white wooden trellis stands as a picturesque centerpiece in the garden. A rose bush entwines its climbing flowering stems around a vertical trellis. The rose bush has clusters of bright pink flowers with double and slightly wavy petals.
Enhance your garden with versatile trellises.

Trellises offer a primary support system for a variety of growing areas. They stand alone in the garden to create a climbing rose display or pose against walls, house fronts, and above doorways as essential structural supports for climbers. Using trellises allows airflow between a solid structure and the rose itself.

Employ latticed trellises of strong wood or galvanized metal gridding with 12-inch intervals to create a facade for the rose. With training and even coverage, the rose obscures the support, and the materials become unnoticeable.

Tie canes to the trellis at 18-24 inch intervals. Encourage horizontal growth for lateral offshoots.

Pillars & Obelisks

Close-up of climbing roses Alain on a black metallic obelisk. The roses 'Alain' captivate with their exquisite beauty, boasting large, double blooms. Each flower is a masterpiece of petal perfection, with layers upon layers of velvety, deep crimson-red petals.
Guide roses in elegant spirals around pillars and obelisks.

Pillars, obelisks, and similar forms require training the rose in an upward spiral around the support. For posts and pillars, simply tie the canes to the post at 8 to 12-inch intervals as they grow.

For obelisks and other forms, train a few main canes to grow up the support. Tie-in others to spiral around it as you would a pillar. This promotes blooms at varying levels along the structure.

Prune to keep roses in bounds, and consider “pegging” for appropriate garden areas (see step four).

Arbors, Pergolas, & Arches

Close-up of a large tall wooden arbor with profusely blooming climbing roses in a sunny garden. The wooden arbor adorned with climbing roses creates a scene of enchantment in the garden, its rustic charm enhanced by the vibrant blooms cascading from every corner. Roses produce delicate clusters of small double flowers in pink and white.
Create enchanting floral canopies by training roses upward.

Use the upward spiral technique for posts and pillars to start roses on arbors, pergolas, and archways. When canes reach the top, tie them to beams to create an even coverage canopy. For arches, continue wrapping and spiraling the structure like a pillar. 

Depending on the size of your structure, the mature size of your rose, and your vision for the space, you may opt for more than one rose to infill a canopy. Plant each rose at the base of a post, and they’ll meet at the top to cover the arch or canopy.

Walls & Fences

Close-up of a white house with large windows and red roses climbing up the walls. Rose bushes climb the walls using attached trellises. The house is white with a red roof and black frames on the windows.
Transform walls with climbing roses in full bloom.

Walls and fences often need a trellis or wire system to keep climbing roses growing in the right direction. Vertical wooden, metal, or wire supports require an 18 to 24-inch spacing, with anchors every four to five feet. 

Evenly space canes using the horizontal technique to promote full coverage. Train roses to run along the top of the wall for a luscious, overflowing bloom display.

Step 4: Peg Down

Pegging climbing rose in a sunny garden. Close-up of a blooming rose with arched stems hanging down. These graceful stems are adorned with profusely blooming clusters of red roses and glossy green, oval-shaped leaves with jagged edges.
Enhance flowering with the charming technique of pegging roses.

“Pegging down” (also called “pegging” or “self-pegging”) is an old garden technique to increase flowering among climbing roses. As with horizontal training, pegging stems promotes blooms along the length of the cane from the ground up. 

Pegging is anchoring stems to the ground or tying them in loops around each other to create a full appearance. Pliable canes bend back to the base of the plant, where they’re tied to a stake or pegged into the ground. Pegging makes an interesting rose form full of blooms. It saves space when working with a tall climber in smaller garden spots. Pegging may be useful on stand-alone trellises or obelisks when roses grow beyond the structure.

How to Peg Climbing Roses

  • Peg at the same time as pruning (late winter/early spring). Remove old, weak, and dead canes.
  • Insert a wooden stake at the plant’s base for a tying-off point for looped canes. Or, opt to peg canes at the ground level using pegging hooks or sod staples.
  • Select several long, pliable main canes to peg. Canes at 8 to 10 feet long work well. They’ll need to bend fully without breaking. Additional shorter canes become upright fillers.
  • Bend and tie or peg canes. For tied canes, aim for a few inches above the soil level. Use jute or sturdy twine to secure stems to the stake. For ground pegging, anchor the stem directly on the soil surface. Purchase pegging hooks from rose growers or large sod staples from the hardware store do the trick.

Pegging, like horizontal training, encourages flowers beyond the tip of canes. The plant’s flower-inhibiting hormones reduce blooming competition and energy needs by keeping them to a singular stem as it grows tall and reaches for sunlight. Training them by pegging promotes more shoots and stems for more bloom clusters.

Step 5:  Prune for Longevity

Pruning a rose bush in the garden. Close-up of  gardener's hands in yellow gloves pruning a rose bush using red and black pruning shears. The rose bush has strong purple-brown stems covered with sharp thorns and compound leaves. The leaves consist of oval leaflets of dark green color with finely serrated edges.
Maintain plant health and shape through strategic pruning.

Experts insist that pruning is a key component in climbing rose care and training. Before the rose sets new buds in late winter or early spring, prune to reduce size to keep climbing roses in bounds. Remove any dead, damaged, or diseased canes

Remove any crossing or weak canes and those that emerge from the ground or graft union (for grafted roses). And, even if they’re healthy, remove surplus canes that don’t add infill to the form of your climbing rose. Excess canes draw energy from other areas of the plant.

For those lateral side shoots created by horizontal training, reduce them annually by four to five sets of leaves for rejuvenation. 

For self-pegging roses, prune off old pegged canes every few years to make room for new ones. Removing old canes on any climber allows healthy new ones to take their place.

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Final Thoughts

Beautiful, vigorous climbing roses bring unparalleled vertical interest to the garden. They soften garden structures and envelop us in color and perfume. Stunning in form, flower, and fragrance, the rewards of growing climbing roses make their training well worth the effort.

Plenty of climbing rose cultivars feature disease resistance and adaptability, making them relatively carefree garden performers. Attention to mature size is vital in choosing a site and support structure for climbing roses.

If you’re not ready to train your climbing rose, let it sprawl along a slope or serve as a graceful, arching garden specimen. However you incorporate a climbing rose (or roses) into your garden, their florific bounty of color, fragrance, and rose hips offer multi-season delights.

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