Ramblers and climbing roses are often confused. Rambling roses are far more vigorous and offer one fantastic flush of flowers, usually in June. Climbers often repeat flower and have larger and less flowers.
Rambling roses need plenty of space as they grow quickly. They’re ideal for growing up a tree or tumbling over a wall. Ramblers can even be used to scramble down a bank.
The plentiful, small flowers are followed by colourful hips in autumn.
Discover how to grow rambling roses in our comprehensive guide.
Ramblers enjoy a position in full sun or light shade where there’s plenty of room to grow. Unlike climbers they’re not as easy to train tight against a wall. Allow space to the front, sides and above. It’s likely that they’ll swallow up neighbouring plants if not kept in check. For this reason it’s rare to find ramblers growing in small gardens.
Ramblers are not suitable for growing up obelisks or over lightweight supports.
A well-drained soil with plenty of well-rotted organic matter mixed in is ideal. Rambling roses will grow in most soils as long as they’re fertile.
Container-grown plants can be planted at any time of the year but must be kept well-watered if planted in summer.
Being so large, ramblers are often purchased in autumn and winter as bare-root specimens. Plant on a dry, frost-free day. Ramblers need plenty of space, so space plants out generously as growth is fast. Dig a hole at least twice the depth and width of the root ball and add in some well-rotted organic matter.
Tease out the roots and position the plant in the hole, ensuring that they’re planted at the same depth as they were in the pot, or look for a soil mark on the plant. Backfill and firm in place with your heel and water in well.
Ramblers are most successfully propagated by taking hardwood cuttings in autumn. They take so well that they can be placed where you want the plant to grow.
Remove a piece of stem of the current season’s growth that is pencil thickness and about 30cm long. Ensure that cuttings are taken from plants free from pests and diseases. Remove the soft tip, cutting just above a healthy bud at an angle that is cut away from the bud. This prevents water from settling around the bud and causing rotting (this will also help you identify the top of the cutting).
Dig a shallow trench in the garden in a sunny, sheltered spot and place a layer of horticultural sand in the base. Insert the cuttings so that two-thirds of the cutting is below the surface and backfill. Ignore them and you should see signs of growth the following spring.
Don’t be tempted to take too many cuttings from ramblers as if you can’t find homes for them they’ll take up plenty of space in your garden once rooted!
Rambling roses should not be planted in the ground where a rose previously lived. Rose replant disease is a little understood problem but plants often struggle to thrive.
As with all other roses, ramblers can be prone to black spot, aphids, dieback and powdery mildew. However, good garden hygiene will reduce the risk of infection. Clear up fallen leaves and prune with clean secateurs.
Rose powdery mildew is a fungus that produces airborne spores. Leaves and flower buds are covered in white, powdery fungal growth in summer. Often occurs when soils are dry, humidity is high and air movement poor. To prevent, water plants in dry summers. Very badly affected stems should be pruned out. Suitable fungicides are available.
Rambling roses will flower well in early years without any pruning. Don’t be tempted to avoid pruning them in the long-term, as plants become bare at the base. Once they’ve flowered, cut side shoots back to four healthy shoots. Remove any dead, diseased or damaged stems right down to the base. Avoid pruning the current year’s growth as this will carry next year’s flowers.
The plentiful flowers of ramblers are followed by hips. Therefore plants do not need to be deadheaded, unless you have chosen a repeat-flowering rambler such as ‘Super Fairy’ or ‘Malvern Hills’.
Train plants against walls by using strong galvanised wires.
Feed plants in spring with a general purpose fertiliser.
Rambling roses for cover
If you have an ugly shed or dead tree stump in the garden then a rambling rose will cover unsightly items. Allow a late flowering clematis to scramble up it to extend the season of interest.
Rambling roses to grow
- Rosa ‘Sanders White’ – fragrant semi-double white flowers in July. Stems are quite thorny. Reaches a height and spread of 3.5m
- Rosa ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’ – very rampant rambler ideal of light shade. Sprays of bluey pink, highly fragrant flowers in June and July. Height and spread 3m
- Rosa ‘The Lady of the Lake’ – a repeat flowering rambler with semi-double soft-pink flowers from June to August. Height 4.5m, spread 2m
- Rosa ‘Albéric Barbier’ – pale, lemon-white flowers in June and July. Slightly scented. Often used to cover small buildings. Height 6m, spread 4m
Rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’ – an incredibly vigorous rambler with sprays of single or double white scented flowers in June. Wonderful autumn hips. Height 10m, spread 4m