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Climbing Roses

Roses are ideal plants to embellish a facade! Besides their beautiful dark green foliage, they bring magnificent flowers and present no risk of structural damage. The selection is by no means limited to the so-called "climbing roses," -- an arbitrary assortment of rose cultivars with long shoots which allow them to climb on pergolas and rose arches; this doesn't necessarily mean that they are a good choice for walls. Historical "climbing roses" are often susceptible to disease on walls, while modern shrub or ground cover roses may be fine. Roses with large stems can be planted as shrubs/bushes without any wall trellis.

Climbing rose - latin: Rosa

Climbing rose in bloom

Choosing a Cultivar

Roses are fragile and often prone to disease. Many historical cultivars bred in the industrial age fail today because of poor air quality (lacks sulfur oxide which the roses need). On hot facades this problem is intensified and then it may be necessary to treat with sulphur. Select a robust cultivar if possible-- for example, something from the ADR roses. There are hardly any new climbing rose cultivars, so it may be necessary to choose one of the more resistant small shrub roses or a ground-cover rose. Many wholesalers sell their products under invented and colourful names as a marketing practice, so it is recommended to shop directly from rose nurseries to guarantee the quality. The use of false picture labels is also not uncommon.

Requirements / Sources of Supply

The roses should be planted in a sunny location, but some varieties (especially those that are susceptible to mildew) may suffer from hot south-facing walls. Partially shaded locations may also be considered. The soil should be sandy and loamy, deep, not too moist and also not dry, with some humus but not too nutrient-rich. Fertilise with potassium (potash) or wood ash until early in the summer. Distance between roses: 1.5 - 4 metres.

Characteristics and Pruning

Roses are ramblers: they grab onto branches or wires with their thorns to grow higher. Some cultivars tend to 'bald' (lose their leaves) at the base. Height of growth depends on the cultivar-- between 2 and 15 metres. The leaves persist from May to October, with some cultivars keeping their leaves well into March. The flowers open at the extremities of green shoots and come in many colours: yellow, white, pink, apricot to dark red. Some cultivars flower only once, some twice, and some for several months. Often produces green or red rosehip fruits.

 

The framework can be shaped depending on the growth habit of the particular rose. Generally speaking, the horizontal shoots will produce more flower buds and flower better in the following years. Cutting the older flowers stimulates the development of new flowers and can extend the flowering period. On smaller trellises, the rose can be cut down almost to the ground in winter. When cutting a shoot, always leave a small stub.

Climbing Supports for the Facade

Stakes, trellis grids, nets, or wire rope systems can be used for roses. The table at the bottom of the page lists compatible designs. Choose a wire rope trellis in the medium range, maybe even in the easy or light ranges for some, and a heavy or massive trellis for the more fragile cultivars or for larger projects.

Suitable wire rope trellises?

Click on the image to find a suitable facade trellis design.

Small climbing rose on a wall
Red climbing rose in front of an old cowshed
Greening up buildings with roses
Large climbing rose on a trellis

Roses for Facade Greening

This photo gallery shows how beautiful roses can be when grown on a facade or a wall. The flowering period can be more or less long depending on the cultivar.

Climbing roses can grow to be very old. This one is around 70 years old: shortly after WWII, it was bought from a traveling motorcycle seller and has since adorned this farm near Grimma / Saxony, probably "Paul Scarlet Climber"
Same blooming year after year, same rose as in the previous picture- but some years later (2005)
Climbing rose on a trellis and drainpipe
Rose bushes on old tension wires similar to our system 1020 / 1030, Babelsberg / Brandenburg
Yellow climbing roses on a facade
Blossoming trellis roses on wire cables
Several climbing roses on a small wooden trellis
Small rose espalier
Lush roses on a wooden trellis
Not only flowers, but also the leaves of roses can beautify a wall!
Climbing rose - classic "New Dawn" on a FassadenGrün-wire rope system 4040, heavy construction style
Hildesheim / lower Saxony: this rose (Rosa canina) is more then 1000 years old!
Even high-stem roses can adorn a facade! Here: roses on a classicist house in Putbus on the island of Rügen
Large climbing rose on a house wall
Fungus resistant 'ADR-climbing rose' of the variety "Rotfassade," with particularly long lasting foliage
Climbing rose on wire ropes at a Franciscan monastery in Saalfeld / Thüringen
Small rose on a wooden espalier
Climbing rose on wire ropes
Old rambler-rose
With several rose plants, full walls can be greened!
House rose in white and violet (probably cultivar "Veilchenblau")
Violet climbing rose, likely "Veilchenblau"
Bushy rose without formation, Klosterbuch near Leisnig / Saxony
Trellis wall with roses
Old espalier rose on a latticework frame
Climbing roses greening a street in Wernigerode / Saxony-Anhalt
Lush rose trellis on a house in Halberstadt / Saxony-Anhalt
House greening with a well-maintained rose on a traditional style German house
Facade greening with climbing rose on a Baroque building
Even balconies can be greened with roses!

Roses and Trellises

Roses are not twiners... rather they 'climb' by catching branches of other plants with their thorns; for this reason, they won't grow very high without a trellis / proper climbing support to 'pull' them up. A horizontal training of the shoots is also a good, or even better, idea (see last 4 photos).

Small rose in a garden (Otto Niemeyer-Holstein, Lüttenort / Usedom)
Small rose on a simple wire rope system
With two parallel ropes, guiding a rose on walls is a lot easier
With several parallel support cables, greenings can be more extensive
Young rose on a FassadenGrün-wire rope system 2040
This rose grid looks like a flower vase for the rose
Red climbing rose on simple horizontal wire ropes
Older branches should always be tied to the outside of the trellis system; younger shoots (flower shoots..) can be put between trellis and wall
This rose was trained horizontally with a wooden trellis; FassadenGrün's wire rope system 2060 or 3060 are suitable for such a training
Decorative climbing rose with winter-foliage in March, guided horizontally on wire ropes; pedestrian path in Bremen/Germany
 
 

Botanical Features

There are thousands of cultivars with a variety of characteristics... consider what is most important to you before buying a rose.

Here, a wall greening with historic roses... There is virtually an infinite selection of rose varieties. Selection is made according to criteria such as: flower colour, size, duration of flowering, fragrance, height of growth, etc..
Whether roses are suitable for walls or not often depends on the position of the flowers or flower clusters. Those with flowers that grow straight upright are usually not suitable for facades.
Many of the historic cultivars, which unfortunately only flower once, produce beautiful clusters of rosehips in autumn.
Different growth habits (winter photo): left-- a variety with thin, flexible stems (rambling type); right-- a stiff, vertical, and very vigorous growth habit... such roses are more difficult to 'tame' and shape.
Climbing rose in winter
Some rose varieties keep their foliage well into winter.
Many varieties-- sometimes exactly the historical and fragrant ones-- are vulnerable to 'black spot' disease; infestation can become so severe that in late summer there is hardly a leaf left on the rose bush
Even powdery mildew on flowers and leaves can also occur, depending on variety and location.
Some varieties 'clean themselves' of (that is, drop) their withered blossoms; others form flower 'mummies' in cold and humid weather that are not pleasant to look at and will have to be cut.
Roses can be combined with clematis; here: Rosarium Sangerhasen / Sachsen-Anhalt
 
 

Suitable cable systems for climbing roses

Please click on the graphics to see a detailed view of each design!

 = suitable         = partly suitable       = not suitable