Can Climbing Roses Grow in the Shade?

Written by jacob j. wright
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Can Climbing Roses Grow in the Shade?
In too much shade, a climbing rose produces only leaves. (Roses ahnging from a trellis. image by LiteWave from

Gardeners grow and train the long canes of climbing roses to cover trellises, building facades, arbors and fences. Roses need exposure to some direct sun for flowers to form. Growing climbing roses in shade is possible, although how much or deep the shade determines the health, vigour and flowering potential. Partial shade conditions still provide some essential direct sunlight.

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Light Requirements

A general rule for rose culture, regardless of the rose type, is to plant where at least four hours of direct sun rays bask the rose plant -- ideally all at once, not scattered across the day. Not all species or cultivars of roses bloom with the same amount of sun exposure. Some roses may flower in a scant four hours of direct sun, while another may need more than eight hours. Likewise, climbing roses grow more healthfully and produce more flowers when planted where they receive more sunlight and warmth. Too little light increases risk of insect pests and fungal diseases.

Climbing Roses for Shade

The key to growing climbing roses is understanding that "shade" means partial shade. No rose effectively survives if the shady location is too dim or cool during the spring and summer. Bright light may sustain foliage, but flowers rarely occur. Among the best climbing roses for partially shaded gardens, where only four to six hours of sunlight occur, are the cultivars Golden Showers, Shropshire Lad, Sombreuil, Buff Beauty, Lavender Lassie, New Dawn, Cornelia and Kathleen. Patsy Cunningham of the Rhode Island Rose Society attests that even these climbing roses do best if shaded no more than half of the day. The Lady Banks rose, which blooms in early spring, may produce lots of flowers because nearby deciduous trees at the time aren't yet casting shade.

Geographic Considerations

In the southern United States or at high elevations, sunlight intensity is stronger from spring to fall compared to lowland gardens or those near the Canadian border. A climbing rose growing in only four hours of direct sun in Louisiana, Colorado or Southern California may still receive ample light energy to produce flowers. Conversely, this same rose cultivar may not produce any flowers in Minnesota or upstate New York in the same growing conditions because the sun angle is lower and light less intense, even in summer.

Plant Size

If your garden is in partial shade, keep in mind the mature size of the climbing rose. Based on location of trees or buildings that cast the shade, a climbing rose may naturally sprawl its canes into areas that are in deeper shade. For example, the lower canes may receive ample sunlight to produce flowers, but the tips of canes grow into the bottom of a tree canopy. The shaded parts of the rose plant never flower.

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