I’d like some advice on pruning a rose tree that is growing on the south side of my house against the garage. It’s a Joseph’s Coat climbing rose that is about 8-9 ft. tall, reaching the top of the garage. We have never pruned it and it is 5-6 years old. Now all the flowers are at the near the garage roof! Someone said we should just cut the whole thing down to 2 feet above the ground. Is that right?
Climbing roses need to be pruned a little every year to keep them from getting away on you as this one has! Now that it has grown so tall, you need a plan to bring it back under control.
And no, that plan is not just to cut the whole thing down.
What you must do first, given the bad winter we’ve just been through, is remove removed any damaged or dead looking canes. Also remove the very oldest, thick and woody canes right at the ground level. You want to create a new structure by leaving the healthiest, young and flexible main canes in place, just cutting off any dark, brittle winter damage. That may bring them down to about 7 or 8 feet. You would be safe to shorten those main canes by another foot or 18 inches this year. Shorten the lateral stems to 3 or 4 buds. Tie the young main canes to the supporting trellis, aiming to make them as horizontal as possible. To make your rose seem even shorter this year, and prompt more blooming, you can bend the canes back and forth in a zig zag fashion, tying them into the trellis. That way you can bring those remaining 6 or 7 foot canes down to 5 feet or less. Remove any old leaves and hips. Also remove any suckers that are coming up from below the graft at the base … they may be shoots of the root stock, which is likely to be a different rose than the lovely Joseph’s Coat.
You can cut the main canes back again in summer if they are getting too long.
Next year, in winter or very early spring, follow the same procedure and your rose will continue to provide lots of blossoms at a height where you can enjoy them.
For more information about pruning roses, you can read the Gardening Guide on this site. Just click on Pruning Roses.