My Observation. What Do You Think?

wanttogarden(USDA 9b, Sunset 15, N. Calif.)February 3, 2012

Per advice of many in this forum,

1. I try to bury graft/bud union, if the shank is not too long.

2. I do not allow mulch/ alfalfa pallets/ compost come in contact with the canes.

Most of my roses lost all or most of their original canes to canker or die back. I blamed it to insufficient root system, bad specimen, or just the way roses behaved. They slowly regrew new canes or added structure to what was left, forming bud union above ground. I have not lost a plant yet, but I have many weak ones in the yard.

While I was picking up my roses at Regan last month, I mentioned that to the lady who was helping me. She said that it was because I was planting them too deep and if I wanted own root plant, I should bury bottom of the graft and let the sun hit the top part. Having nothing to loose, I planted them this way this year. No cane loss yet!

Today, as I was moving the pallets which were piled too closely to the canes and center of the plant, I noticed that the roses that went backward, were all planted deep.

Now that I think about it, it kind of make sense. While planting deep, wet soil touching the canes make them rot.

Maybe that's why many say that in warm climates, bud union should be above ground.

What do you think?

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seil zone 6b MI

Yes, in warm climates it's not necessary to bury the graft. The only reason we do it in cold climates is to protect the graft from freezing during the winter and losing the grafted roses to the root stock.

Whether my Mom never heard of this or just didn't do it I don't know but she always planted the graft right at the soil surface and I continue to do the same because she always grew beautiful roses and rarely lost them to winter. Except for April of 2007 when I lost 37 in a freak freeze I too have only lost roses that were already in bad shape going into winter. Some years I do use leaf mulch to winter protect but not always and I still rarely lose a rose even when I don't protect them.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2012 at 5:41PM
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What you describe is what thirty years of growing both own root and budded roses in this climate have shown me. I never bury the bud union (I don't HAVE to) because every rose I've ever grown which was buried by erosion, became geriatric, woody and went backwards. No new basal breaks. Thickening of the main canes with them becoming woodier, thicker, much less productive and eventually just sun burning and dying. Own root or budded, the same performance from both types when soil washed down from above through both irrigation (hose) and rain. They were planted on a slope and the increase in soil depth on the average was only six inches, seldom more, and every one which became buried began their decline into senility until death.

If you don't have to bury the union, don't. YMMV. Kim

    Bookmark   February 3, 2012 at 6:09PM
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stlgal(south z5)

That is exactly what I've seen also, lack of basal breaks and issues with less productive, woody roses over time if they're planted too deep. Despite worry about winterkill, I've gotten bolder and put them more often at the surface as the years have passed for this reason. I sometimes leave a little depression of soil around the plant relative to the other soil. This can be filled in to mulch them, if I'm paranoid about a harsh winter, then washed away in spring and used for watering plants on an incline (so water doesn't just run off).

    Bookmark   February 3, 2012 at 7:43PM
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wanttogarden(USDA 9b, Sunset 15, N. Calif.)

Just wondering why other rose experts recommend other wise?

Paul Z.

Gregg L.


Plus many more on the forum.

Is it too late to dig out the graft of a rose which was planted one or two seasons ago?

    Bookmark   February 3, 2012 at 8:00PM
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Campanula UK Z8

well hey, I know I have a more forgiving climate but, sometimes I bury the bud union, some times I don't. Depends on the site, the soil, my energy and inclination to faff about with big stones, the level of topsoil and subsoil and so on. And honestly, I am not a totally unobservant person, but I have not found this bud union thing to have far reaching consequences. More important is the drainage and the quality of soil in the planting area, plus stuff like ventilation and soil preservation (compaction and competition). Sure, soil rolling down a hill is going to change the original levels substantially and that is, I think, part of the reason for the decline in your rose's health, Kim. If you had buried the rose deep at the original planting, I am guessing the decline would not be so apparent. Still, experts often become 'expert' by sticking to a particular theory and banging on about it to death. In truth, there are few hard and fast rules in gardening since we are all doing it in such vastly different circumstances (with all our own foibles, whims and lazy short cuts). There is, ultimately, simply no better method than trying it out and looking what happens.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 8:53AM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

My recomendations would be:

Gallicas and other hardy suckering roses--don't bury.

Tender roses--bury in zone 7 and colder. Don't bury deeper than necessary. Some prescriptions are excessive. My grafts are just barely covered.

Zone 8b and warmer--plant at the level they were growing in the field with the graft fully exposed and the rootstock roots at the level where they wanted to grow. The rootstock roots will function best at this depth.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 9:40AM
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wanttogarden(USDA 9b, Sunset 15, N. Calif.)

Thanks everyone. I guess everyone's environmental conditions does make a difference on arriving to a conclusion.

Reading older posts, there were people who blamed the uncovered and woody grafts for lack of basals and some said that they got new basals from covered grafts. On the other hand, they were people who said covering the graft prevented them from getting new basals.

I will take pictures of the base of each plant every year for comparison. For planting new roses (if there is any room) I will use the "half buried, half not" method which shows immediate results.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 12:58PM
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I used to bury the bud union of the few grafted roses I had because I wanted them to go own-root. I have stopped doing that because of canker or dieback. If I want an own-root version of a rose I can only find grafted, I let it grow bigger and take cuttings. Once they are rooted, I can replace the parent plant if I want to.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 12:56AM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

It is true that, with very old grafted roses, the exposed bud union can wear out and become incapable of producing new basals. I had this happen once with a plant 20 years old. I haven't had enough experience with those circumstances to know how common it is.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 11:21AM
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This post took me aback, as I bury grafts and never questioned this advice (which I never saw questioned that I can remember either). This isn't a matter of cold climate, since I live in Zone 8, but because I have to buy almost all my roses grafted but want them to be on their own roots. In fact before our cold spell arrived I was out burying grafts of old roses that weren't down deep enough. So, thinking it over, what has been the results of burying the graft or of not burying it?
I grow mostly old or older roses. The once-blooming hardy old roses don't seem to be bothered much by canker or other cane damage (esp. cane girdler) regardless of whether they're buried deep or not, and regardless of the weather, which for the two winters before this was chilly and wet. We have very heavy clay soil, so when the soil gets wet, it's really wet. Warm climate roses, on the other hand, did suffer considerable cane damage (not from freezing; it was chilly but not severely cold, rarely falling below 20F); and several Teas that had flourished in previous, warmer and drier years, lost most of their top growth. Two years ago I buried the grafts of some roses that were several years old and weren't putting out new canes; though both roses came to me misidentified, they're probably 'William R. Smith' and 'Reynolds Hole'. After I did that both roses put out new canes.
Rosefolly's method makes a lot of sense for roses that are readily grown from cuttings. Warm climate old roses are mostly easily propagated this way, in my experience, but I have trouble with a lot of once-blooming old roses. So this winter I've been layering some hard cases, hoping to get new own root plants this way. I tried this a couple of seasons back with 'Queen of Denmark', which I've failed with a lot, and it worked.
Wanttogarden: this is a very worthwhile question; thanks for bringing it up.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 1:56AM
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iowa_jade(C 5b H 6)

I have been found lacking in planting the bud union too deep on most of my HTs. Indeed where some of them have grown weaker after a decade or so, when shovel pruned, showed no growth of any roots above the graft. Others seem to do well.
The grafted roses that I bury for the winter I plant the grafts above the ground as it makes it easier to tip them.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 12:54PM
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ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

In answer to your second question my roses are often buried in mulch/leaves/alfalfa meal and it hasn't seemed to bother them, but I attribute that to my hot, dry climate where roses suffer more from lack of moisture than anything else. So much depends on where you garden, and for your particular location hard-won personal experience is often what is most useful. I think that somewhere in the back of my mind I carry the collective wisdom of the rose forums which I also subconsciously also apply if it seems to apply to my climate and conditions. By the way, I never bury the bud unions but also have only a small handful of budded roses.


    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 3:38PM
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