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About Own Root Roses

Unlike the majority of rose growers in the United States, Heirloom Roses does no budding or grafting at our nursery; we sell only own-root, virus-free roses.  These roses are first-year cuttings that are on their own roots, grown from a leaf cutting of a ‘mother’ or ‘stock’ plant of the variety you want.  Although initially smaller when purchased, they do not take long to catch up to a grafted rose (which are usually sold as two-year-old plants).

Growing own-root roses was initially a response to the prevalence of Rose Mosaic Virus within the industry.  Rose virus spreads through grafting, so producing own-root roses avoids this problem if virus-free stock plants are used.  However, since these roses are growing on their own natural roots and not those of another variety, they provide several other advantages as well.  They are much hardier than grafted roses because their crown has not been weakened.  On a grafted rose, the bud union is the most cold-vulnerable spot, and can be easily damaged during a hard winter.  Own-root roses, in contrast, can freeze all the way to the ground and because they have their own root system, come back as the same rose you purchased.  This makes winter-kill much more unlikely.  Roses that are on their own roots will naturally send up shoots from the soil.  Over time, this creates a much shapelier bush than a grafted rose. Add to this increased vigor and bloom, longer life expectancy, and the elimination of rootstock suckers:  own-root roses clearly provide more value over time.

One season of growth from an Heirloom Roses cutting: the Hybrid Tea rose on the right (photographed in late summer) was planted in spring from the 6" band pot size shown at left.

Average two-year growth of climbers planted from 6" band pot size (planted fall 2008, photographed summer 2010).

Instead of using one bud-eye, an own-root cutting has 2-3 (which means more labor and less production than with grafted roses).  Some varieties produce more viable cuttings than others, making the process somewhat unpredictable (hence no special orders).  But with more refined techniques for taking cuttings, we have produced an inventory of over 100,000 roses, representing more than 1,500 varieties.

Our roses are sold in a tree seedling band that is 6” deep and 3” wide.  The rose will be about 8-10” above the top of the pot, depending on the variety (Miniatures or Minifloras may be shorter and in a smaller pot).  The tall pots allow development of a strong root system, which decreases the transplant shock that often occurs with bare-root roses. 

Most varieties will grow rapidly and their first year growth may be surprising.  There is a saying with own-root roses:  The first year they sleep, The second year they creep, The third year they leap!  So, when an own-root rose is 3 years old, it will be identical in size to a grafted rose of the same age (if not sooner).  But an own-root rose provides many more benefits:  it will have a more uniform shape, as it does not have a bud union to inhibit growth, the rose will bloom more and be more winter hardy.  Growing an own-root rose guarantees that the rose you selected, loved and cared for will always be that same rose, and can be enjoyed for as long as the rose is well cared for.  For anyone living in a cold climate who has lost a rose, or whose beautiful yellow rose has suddenly developed red or white blooms, and those ready to try a superior product, own-root roses are for you!

Comparing the size of an Heirloom Roses own-root cutting to a typical, grafted bareroot rose (left). Own-root roses are well rooted into their deep seedling pots and have a much higher percentage of fibrous roots compared to dormant, bare-root roses (center). This increases the rate of survival at transplanting. At right, an example of a ready-to-ship first year Heirloom Roses band at summer leaf-out. This represents the typical retail size of our own-root roses. Variety shown: the David Austin shrub rose 'Wildeve' with 6-7 inches of growth. Hybrid Tea and Climbing varieties tend to be taller in the band pots (8-10" above the pot) whereas Miniatures and Minifloras may be smaller (4-6" above the pot).

Some roses used as rootstock are:

Fortuniana It is mainly used in warmer parts of the country. Fortuniana is very vigorous, does well in sandy soil but not extremely cold hardy. It is tolerant to nematodes which are pests that invade the roots and are common in Florida.
Manetti A light pink Noisette used extensively at companies in California. Manetti has more flexible roots that do not break as easily as Dr. Huey.
Multiflora Has a tendency to pick up salts and is not happy in alkaline soil. This particular rose is very susceptible to virus.
Dr. Huey The most commonly used as rootstock; it has a long budding season; they store well when bare-rooted and does well in all parts of the country.
De La Grifferaie This rose is used for “standards” or “tree roses” as an inner stock between Dr. Huey and the grafted rose.
Odorata A rose variety used often when the graft is done the same time the rooting of the plant takes place. It is very prone to sucker and crown gall.

No rootstock will improve the disease resistance or vigor of the rose grafted onto it. Budding was the primary method of producing roses in the late 1800’s. ‘La France’ the first hybrid tea rose, had a beautiful bloom but the plant was weak. By budding it onto Rootstock, it took on more vigor and budding soon became the method of producing the modern rose.

An own-root rose has a longer life expectancy than a grafted rose. It will not out grow the bud union and need to be replaced after a number of years, but can be enjoyed for as long as the rose is well cared for. Own-root roses are not be the best choice for instant gratification. However, their vigor, hardiness and the elimination of budding and grafting guarantees that the rose you selected, loved and cared for will always be that same rose.  For anyone living in a cold climate who has lost a rose or your beautiful yellow rose you has now developed red or white blooms, or you are ready to try a superior product, own-root roses are for you!