Own-Root Roses vs Grafted Roses

  • What is an own-root rose? An own-root rose is grown by rooting a cutting from a stock plant. It is more labor-intensive to produce an own-root rose than it is to produce a grafted rose. Own-root roses will reach maturity in three years.
  • What is a grafted rose? Grafted roses are propagated by grafting, a technique that involves inserting a cutting from a named rose variety into a rootstock from another variety. Eventually, the cutting and rootstock fuse together creating a single plant with a thickening or knot in the central trunk. The tough rootstock provides the vigor that allows the less hardy variety to flourish. While grafted roses may be initially larger and provide instant gratification, they are not as winter hardy, produce suckers (canes from rootstock) that have to be cut out, do not bloom as much, and are not as disease resistant.
  • How do own-root roses differ from roses at the local nursery and big box stores? Own-root roses are started in our greenhouses and then grown outside in their pots. Roses at local nurseries are grown in large fields, mostly in California, Arizona, and Texas, and are bare-root roses. They are larger in size initially, but bigger does not mean better. Own-root roses arrive in the same pot in which they were propagated with their roots surrounded by rich soil. Our roses’ roots are not exposed to the elements and will not experience the transplant shock that bare-root roses will, thus ensuring greater success in planting and overall health.
  • Do own-root roses grow differently than grafted roses? The first-year own-root and grafted roses grow somewhat differently. Grafted roses spend the year trying to establish on their new “host” and may appear larger.  Own-root roses produce vigorous canes of a smaller diameter during the first year as they send most of their growth into establishing strong roots. After their first pruning there will be little difference from a grafted rose, but a large difference in the longevity of the plant itself.
  • Will my own-root rose bloom the first year? Own-root roses will bloom the first year with the exception of some Old Garden Roses, Ramblers, and Climbers that bloom on year-old wood. Keep in mind that, because of the age of the own-root rose, the first blooms may not be true to color, size, petal count, or fragrance. These qualities will mature as the bush matures.  If your own-root rose is planted in the fall and your growing area is colder through winter months, you most likely will not see blooms until the following spring season.
  • My own-root rose is smaller than the ones for sale at the bix box stores. How long will it take to grow to maturity? While own-root roses initially appear smaller, they have plenty of vigor and are free of viruses. More than 50% of all grafted or budded roses are infected with rose virus, although they may not show symptoms for a few years. Our roses also experience no transplant shock. Within 2 to 3 years your own-root roses will be as large or larger than the grafted roses available at a big box store and significantly more healthy. 
  • Will any of my own-root roses "sucker"? All roses may send up new shoots from the base from time to time but an own-root rose will always have roots that are the same variety of rose. These suckers from an own-root rose are proving its health and vigor as it is rejuvenating itself in the form of new canes.  Grafted roses send up suckers from the rootstock and not the grafted-on variety.

Purchasing from Heirloom Roses

  • What is the Heirloom Roses Guarantee?  At Heirloom Roses we are committed to growing plants that exceed your expectations. We guarantee our roses are healthy, grown on their own roots, virus-free, and true to variety. We are so confident in our roses that we warranty them for one year from the date of shipping, as long as they are properly planted per our planting instructions and cared for in growing zones recommended on our website. 

    Learn more about how to place a warranty claim HERE.
  • When is payment due for my roses? Payment is due in full and will be charged at the time of order entry. This will reserve your order and hold until your selected ship date. We accept Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and PayPal. All payments are to be paid in US funds. Oregon has no sales tax. If your state has sales tax, the payment total will include applicable sales tax due. 

Soil Prep, Watering & Fertilizing

  • Should I fertilize my roses? What should I use and how often? Yes! Roses love to eat.  If you plant your rose in the fall, wait until spring to begin fertilizing. Start fertilizing with liquid fertilizer at ½ strength or use our Heirloom Brand Founders Fish Fertilizer at full strength. If you plant in the spring or summer, begin fertilizing about one month after planting and continue every 4-6 weeks until about 8 weeks before the first frost in the fall. Make sure your last fertilizer application is 8 weeks before the first fall frost so that the roses may harden off for winter in preparation for dormancy. In the second year, you may continue to use a liquid fish fertilizer at full strength or begin to use a granular fertilizer like Heirloom Boost and Bloom per instructions.  In the third year, you can use granular fertilizer and use all fertilizers at full strength.

    Read more about fertilizing roses HERE.
  • What type of fertilizer do I use on more mature plants? On mature roses, we recommend a 5-20-10 to 10-30-20 at ½ cup per bush. Spread out around the drip line 2 to 4 times a year depending on the natural fertility of your soil. We do not recommend a fertilizer with a systemic insecticide in it.
  • Should I use Epsom salts on my roses? Epsom salts contain hydrated magnesium sulfate, two trace elements crucial to plant growth: Sulfur (important to the inner workings of the plant) and Magnesium (which can become scarce in soil due to erosion of the top soil or pH imbalance). By providing Epsom salts for your roses you will encourage sturdier stems, richer green foliage, and deeper, rich petal colors. You can purchase it in appropriate quantities at a feed store if you have a lot of roses to feed, or you can pick some up at your local grocery store. During the first-year, use just a teaspoon or two in the early spring. For mature bushes, use half a cup at the drip line.
  • What should be the pH of my soil? Roses prefer a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.5-slightly acidic soil, but not too acidic. We recommend testing your soil at the beginning of each growing season. This will tell you if your soil is too alkaline or acidic. If the soil is too acidic you can add lime to the soil; if it is too alkaline you can lower the pH by adding garden sulfur. 
  • Should I use Alfalfa on my roses? Alfalfa is rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals and has the ability to fix nitrogen and improve soil structure as it disintegrates. Alfalfa yields an alcohol, triacontanol, which is a growth stimulant that produces basal breaks. Do not apply alfalfa as a heavy mulch on your roses. You only need to use 1 cup around each large rose bush, and less for smaller bushes. Use about three times a year.
  • Should I mulch and with what? Absolutely! Mulch helps to aerate the soil and prevent compaction, helps control weeds, and conserves up to 50% of the water in your rose beds. During the hot summer months, mulch can even lower the soil temperature up to 15 degrees. It also can help to control some insects and fungal diseases by preventing splashing of fungal spores off of the hard ground onto rose plants. 
  • Read about our Mulch recommendations HERE
  • Can I spread bark dust around my roses? Fresh bark dust is fine. Beware of old composted bark dust that may contain fungi. As bark dust breaks down it draws nitrogen from the soil, so just a little extra fertilizer may be necessary.
  • A local store suggested using mushroom compost when I plant my roses. Is this okay? It is okay to put the mushroom compost in the bottom of the hole as a fertilizer when planting your roses. We hesitate to suggest using it as a top dressing, as customers have reported problems with fungi being introduced into the rose garden.
  • Which kind of manure is the best? First of all, manure should be well aged for a year or more to be safe. We do not recommend using manure around the roots. You can plant your roses using Aged Cow Manure if you put it in the very bottom of the hole with soil on top to keep roots from burning, or you can use it as a top dressing around the bush. Manure is the best fertilizer of all and will produce great roses. Apply it on the surface of the soil, once or twice a year, so that it is 2 inches deep. We prefer cow manure. It is best obtained from stables that feed alfalfa hay and do not bed their stables with straw, which contains seeds that will germinate in your garden. Steer manure is also a good choice.

Selecting, Placing & Planting

  • How do I plant my roses? Our recommendation for growing outstanding roses is to dig a big hole (2 feet deep and 2 feet wide). Fill the bottom 6 inches with aged cow or horse manure. Save ½ of the soil that came from the hole and mix it 50/50 with a good mulch or peat moss. Refill the hole then plant the rose in the center of a 2- to 3-inch mound to compensate for the soil settling later. Water well. 
  • Why am I instructed to dig such a big hole? Plant roots tend to stay inside the holes they are planted in so digging a big 2’x2’ hole will give your rose’s roots room to spread. The more area the roots cover, the better the rose can absorb water and nutrients.
  • How far apart do I plant Climbers or Ramblers? We recommend planting Climbers and Ramblers 6 to 8 feet apart. If you want to grow a lot of them, you can plant 4 feet apart, but you will have to deal with their vigor. Planting at wider spacing and training the canes horizontally will encourage more blooms from the lateral growth.  Taking this into account is a must to maintain healthy roses.
  • Can I use a root stimulant when I plant my roses? You may use a root stimulant, but it is not necessary.
  • Can I grow my roses in containers? Yes! This is a great solution for gardening in a small space, on a patio or balcony, or for gardeners with mobility issues. Most roses, except for large Climbers and Ramblers, can be grown successfully in containers. We suggest using a 10- to 15-gallon pot which will provide a nice home for any rose. Make sure your pot has holes in the bottom for drainage then place an inch or so of gravel in the bottom of the pot. You want to plant in 1/3 topsoil, 1/3 peat moss or other organic materials, and 1/3 Perlite. Start fertilizing roses once a month with a water-soluble type of fertilizer the first season. Water regularly and deeply, as containers will dry out faster than roses planted in the ground. Do not use a black pot as it attracts heat and will be too hot for the roots.
  • How long can my roses stay in the pots that they were sent in? Our own-root roses may stay in the pot they arrive in for two weeks. You must keep them well-watered so they do not dry out. Water every day in warm weather. If your ground is not ready for them, we suggest you pot them into larger pots.
  • Can I plant roses with other plants? Yes! Roses love the company of other garden companions. Lavender, pansies, foxglove, delphiniums, catmint, and poppies are just a few that can be grown with roses. Try to avoid bulbs that have to be removed or replanted each year.
  • Can I grow roses in the shade? All roses thrive best in full sun. Most will do well with at least 6 hours a day. You will want to avoid dense shade altogether, as the rose may produce fewer blooms and grow too leggy. The roses that do best in shade are Albas and Hybrid Musks. We have a few shade varieties recommended HERE.
  • Can I grow roses indoors? Unfortunately, we do not recommend it. A rose requires the aid of soil organisms and bacteria to break down the fertilizer into a form it can use. Outside, these organisms are transported through the soil and air. Roses also need good air circulation as it “breathes” through its leaves and pores (stomata); indoors the leaves can become clogged with dirt and dust causing the rose to suffocate. Roses also need an occasional shower to wash the dirt and dust off the foliage. Pests can be a problem when growing indoors, such as spider mites and white flies. An indoor rose will also not receive enough sunlight if kept indoors.
  • How close to the house can I plant a rose? As with planting anything near the house you must consider the available sunlight. Planting on the south side of a white house in warm climates may create an overheated situation. Planted on the north side up against the house will result in much less light. If you are planting a Climber next to the house, keep in mind how you want to handle your rose when repainting your house.
  • Which roses do well for more tropical climates? Most Old Garden Roses need some winter chilling to perform well. The exceptions include: Tea roses, China roses, Noisettes, and Species from tropical climates.
  • Can I plant roses under fir trees? You can plant shade-tolerant roses under fir trees, however, since they get reduced sunlight, they may not bloom as much.
  • Is it ever too hot to plant roses? Should I try to protect them from direct heat? Roses are generally heat tolerant. During extremely hot weather give them plenty of water. With new, young plants, some type of shading using cardboard or shade cloth would be helpful. Take care not to let them dry out. Our greenhouses, on a hot summer afternoon, will sometimes reach 125 degrees with no damage to roses as long as they get plenty of water.

On-Going Care

  • How much growth will my Climbers put on in the first year? This will vary by the vigor of the variety. Climbers and Ramblers will put out from 3 to 8 feet of growth the first year. Ramblers are the more vigorous of the two.
  • How much should I water my roses? Roses love water. Provide 1 to 2 inches of water a week per plant. Ground-level watering, early in the day, is best. If the weather is warmer you may want to increase watering.
  • When and how is the best time to transplant a large rose bush? The best time is when the rose is dormant. 

    Read all about how to transplant your roses HERE.
  • How do I protect my roses in our cold climate? In cold climates, there are many methods of winter protection. The goal is to insulate them from the cold and drying winds. It is important that you plant the correct rose for your zone, so it will survive with little or no protection. 

    Read more about winter care for roses HERE.
  • My rose blooms only at the top of the canes and they are 10 feet tall. How can I make the rose bloom all over again? Sounds like this is a Climbing Rose. Train the canes horizontally to get more blooms. 

    Read more about pruning Climbers and Ramblers HERE.
  • How do I take care of hanging basket roses? Hanging basket roses need frequent watering during warm to hot weather as they dry out rapidly. In areas where winter protection is needed you may bury the pot and all at frost time. Dig them up again in the spring. You can also put them in a garage where the temperature doesn't drop below 28 degrees. Be sure to give them some water once a month during the winter.
  • How and when do you prune roses? There are many opinions on how to prune roses. Our methods are based on 60 years of combined experience having pruned countless numbers of roses. It is important to prune own-root roses to improve the health of the plant, shape the plant, and renew the plant each year.

    You can read about how to prune the different varieties of roses HERE.

Diseases, Pests, and Other Problems

  • I hear that own-root roses are disease-free. Does this mean that I will never have to spray my roses? No rose is perfectly resistant to disease or infection. That is just the nature of gardening. We test the roses in our nursery and strive to offer premium quality, disease-free roses to all of our customers. Roses may be grown in most climates without spraying if you don't mind a few blemishes. Southern regions of the country are more prone to Blackspot.
  • Why is my rose growing a lot but not blooming? Extra vigorous varieties, Climbers, and Ramblers may put all their energy into growth the first year or two and not bloom until the second or even third year. The major cause for this after the first year is over-fertilizing. Another reason for low bloom count could be lack of sunlight. Confirm that your rose is getting at least 6 hours of sunlight per day.
  • How do I treat aphids? While aphids may be disposed of by using insecticides, there are other alternatives. Knock them off the plant with a strong spray of water. Attract birds to your garden to feast on them. Pick them off by hand. If you have only a few roses, picking them off by hand is very easy. The newest buds appeal to aphids the most. Run your fingers along the stem, squishing the bugs as you go. There are other insects that like aphids for a meal, but when you order these they always seem to end up in the neighbor’s garden.

    Read more about pest control and diseases HERE.
  • Why are the leaves on my rose bush yellowing and falling off? It could be as simple as that the leaves are old, and it is time for them to fall off. It may mean your plant needs more water, is overwatered, or that you have Blackspot. 

    Read about yellowing leaves HERE.
  • My rose isn’t as fragrant as I expected. Is something wrong with it? Sense of smell varies from person to person just as the sense of taste varies. Some varieties provide a fragrance that everyone may smell and others may be more subjective. A rose will not develop its full fragrance in its first year.  Temperature also has a lot to do with fragrance.  Warmer temperatures allow the oils to flow and the fragrances to develop more strongly.
  • Why didn’t my rose re-bloom? If your rose doesn't re-bloom it could be a once-blooming variety. Check the variety description on our website to confirm the type of rose you purchased. A lack of blooms could also be due to over-fertilization and the plant is putting all its energy into growth and not blooming. Ensure you have the correct rose and contact our Customer Care team if you have any concerns with a mislabeled plant.
  • How can I protect my rose(s) from deer? Roses are a treat for people and deer, unfortunately. Try mixing a deer repellent and spraying it weekly from spring to September. In a blender, mix 1 cup of water, 3 eggs, 1/3 hot sauce (like Tabasco), and 1/3 cup liquid dishwashing soap. This may help. A big dog and or an 8- to 10- foot fence will also do the job!
  • Help! I think I might have a virus in my plants! Viruses and diseases are an unfortunate part of gardening. All of our own-root roses are guaranteed to arrive virus and disease free, but if an established plant in your garden is showing signs of Blackspot, Rose Mosaic Virus, or other concerns, first determine which disease you are dealing with and treat accordingly. Some plants can be saved depending on the main cause. We do not recommend planting an own-root rose in an area where RMV was determined unless this area has laid fallow for at least 1 year.
    Read about Rose Mosaic Virus, Blackspot, and other Diseases, Viruses, and Pests