What is it with root stocks?

andrearkJune 28, 2013

I'm sure that you all realize that I'm a novice. So if I ask a rudimentary question, you'll understand why. I have done a search about this and can't really find a clear and full answer.

Just exactly what are the different root stocks and why are they used and by whom? I know there is Dr. Huey, Multiflora, own root, Fortuniana (sp?). Are there others and if so why.

Please imagine that your are speaking to a 5 year old.


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diane_nj 6b/7a

roseseek will chime in, but in the meantime, read his article linked below at helpmefind.com. Google also presents some other articles on the subject.

As for vendors that use rootstocks, ask. Most roses sold in the U. S. are grafted on Dr. Huey. There are a few vendors (K&M Roses, Cool Roses) that sell grafted on Fortuniana. Vendors who sell grafted on R. multiflora are Wisconsin Roses, Palatine Roses, and Pickering Nursery. Pickering used to also sell grafted on Manetti, I'm not sure if they still do. Vendors who sell own-root roses will say so somewhere on their site.

For additional reading, The Tyler Rose Industry provides an overview of the mass production of grafted bareroot roses in the US.

Here is a link that might be useful: Kim Rupert article on Rootstocks at helpmefind.com.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 8:48AM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

Short form:

Dr. Huey is used by western US producers because it does relatively well in their alkaline soils. Obviously, it is good for gardeners with neutral or alkaline soils. It is OK in acid soils. The downside is that DH produces more rootstock suckers than other rootstocks.

Multiflora will get iron deficiency in neutral or alkaline soils. It is used by the Canadian producers. Their plants are less likely to carry mosaic virus than plants from western US producers. This is because of cultural practices, not the multiflora per se.

Fortuniana is used by Florida producers because it is resistant to the southern root-knot nematode. It is especially vigorous and shallow-rooted. Fortuniana grafts are made on extra-long shanks, which is inconvenient for growers who want to bury the graft.

Pickering in Canada uses Laxa on some of its OGR. This variety makes a deep tap root and is good for roses that won't be irrigated.

These are the only rootstocks you are likely to encounter if you buy your roses. Wayside Gardens used to sell plants on Manetti. This stock is still widely used for greenhouse cut-rose production. It is shallow rooted.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 10:58AM
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I would add that fort has an extensive, net-like root system. According to a rose man's talk I heard years ago, this is why the plants maintain vigor in spite of the todes.

The talk was hosted by my local rose society and the nursery has since closed. :-(

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 1:04PM
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diane_nj 6b/7a

Laxa! Thanks michaelg, I knew Pickering had something other than R. multiflora...

Fortuniana rootstock is also unsuitable for colder climates. A friend tried it here, they plants lived for two seasons, but didn't make it through the third winter.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 1:10PM
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What's left to add? A century ago, small, immature, often mis named own root plants (the more things change...) were pumped out of greenhouse production and sold door to door, as well as through magazine ads "cheaply". You could find ads for "10 roses for $1" in many publications. Own root was the standard method of production across the board. Better producers shipped larger, more mature plants, but "cheap roses" were railed against in the ARS publications consistently. In order to provide a "superior product", J&P and the other major producers began budding their roses. It provided a more uniform crop; larger plants more quickly than rooting; required much less material of the roses to be produced than cuttings; and allowed them to differentiate themselves from the "cheap producers", charging more for their plants and making better profits. You know the difference between a small, immature band and the average, two year old bare root. The various stocks pressed in to use have been selected because they were easy to root where they were used. They were easy to bud and accepted the necessary percentage of buds required to make them commercially viable. MANY varieties were introduced and remained available because of budding, which would never have seen anyone's garden if left to own root production. Some simply will NOT root, period. Even more, will root, but they won't grow well. It took just 80 years for American producers to figure out budding had become too labor intensive and much too costly a business model to sustain, and begin moving more toward going back to own root production. Kim

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 2:44PM
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jerijen(Zone 10)

If the industry really moves ahead with own-root production, that will act to slow the spread of virus into new cultivars -- AND they simply won't introduce things that won't thrive on their own roots.

Better for everyone.


    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 7:39PM
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What Jeri said. There are many many many beautiful roses. I mean, how many lovely pink roses do we already have? I think it would be best for roses if people just didn't introduce those that won't thrive on their own.

Even better, imagine growing beautiful roses that thrive on their own and that don't need spraying! That's a wonderful world.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 9:12PM
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I have been having a lot of trouble with this website. I have used computers in my work for about 20 years and I use one at work for about 4 or 5 hours a day. I have MANY sites that I work with regularly. So I am not a novice with a computer. This website disconnects me and asks for a new log on often. Of course after I log back on, the message or response is gone. Anyone else have this problem. The website people can't seem to find the problem and it's very frustrating.

I will respond to the posts here on this thread in a moment.


    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 11:44AM
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Sorry so late in responding....Problems....

Starting from where I don't understand:

Own root was the standard method of production across the board. Better producers shipped larger, more mature plants, but "cheap roses" were railed against in the ARS publications consistently. In order to provide a "superior product", J&P and the other major producers began budding their roses

Kim, what does this mean? "budding their roses"?


    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 12:14PM
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Instead of rooting cuttings of the roses for sale, they budded them. It's the process of inserting one growth bud under the bark of the root stock. If done correctly, they knit together and the scion (the rose variety desired and whose bud was inserted in the stock) grows. The scion is the rose which forms the bud union (the knob where the two roses are joined) and growth canes above the union. Budding is a propagation method. Inserting the bud into the stock is called "budding". Kim

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 12:24PM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

Budding is a type of grafting. "Bud union" and "graft" are synonyms in rose-land because budding is the only type of grafting normally used on roses.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 1:15PM
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From all I am reading:

Does this mean that the large and mature grafted roses that I have always gotten will be gone? Will the 'own root' roses be smaller and less mature? And are the own root roses superior in any or all ways to a grafted rose?

I would like to know the process for "own root propagation" How is it done and how long does it take? .

Jeri said "If the industry really moves ahead with own-root production, that will act to slow the spread of virus into new cultivars.

Could you tell me the plus's and minus's of grafted versus own root?

Thanks to all and I hope I am not driving you all to distraction. My Kindergarten teacher told my Mother that if I asked 'why? one more time, she would throttle me.

Old habits die hard.


    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 1:53PM
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"Does this mean that the large and mature grafted roses that I have always gotten will be gone?"

Not necessarily. Own root production requires heat. Northern European producers bud exclusively because they don't have the heat required to produce cuttings. Canadian sources don't, either. The mass producers for body bags, inexpensive canned plants, etc., you frequently find at big box stores, grocery stores, etc. are set up for budding. It's a method which produces those large, mature plants quickly and isn't as climate dependent as own root production. Until people either stop buying budded plants or the labor costs make them too costly, you'll likely be able to find them.

"Will the 'own root' roses be smaller and less mature?"

Probably. Smaller, less mature plants have a faster turn-over. They cost less to package and ship. They can be produced and sold in a few months in many cases. Growing them larger is going to require more time, the length of which depends upon the climate and specific cultivar. That adds cost, both in production as well as shipping.

"And are the own root roses superior in any or all ways to a grafted rose?"

Some are, some aren't. Climate plays a huge part in this question. If the variety or type is suitable for its climate and performs well, then yes, own root is likely to be superior. If not, then no.

"I would like to know the process for "own root propagation" How is it done and how long does it take?"

There are many methods. When you've read about "rooting cuttings", that's "own root production". It can vary from very rustic, home grown methods as simple as sticking the cutting in the ground under the mother plant all the way to computerized green houses and production lines (take a look at Greenheart Farms). Depending upon how mature a plant is required and how suitable the method, climate and variety are for one another, it can require from just a few weeks to many months.

"Jeri said "If the industry really moves ahead with own-root production, that will act to slow the spread of virus into new cultivars."

It should. The prime method of infecting a rose with RMV is through budding a clean rose to an infected one. Seedlings are traditionally uninfected. Keep rooting plants from clean stock and the crop remains clean of RMV (Rose Mosaic Virus). Bud any rose with an infected rose and every plant produced from that plant will be infected.

"Could you tell me the plus's and minus's of grafted versus own root?"

Grafting requires one growth bud to produce one plant. Traditional rooting methods require several (two, three, four or more) buds in a cutting. There are methods to root one bud cuttings but they are more involved than many own root producers care to work with. Budding requires much less material to produce a crop, hence more plants can be produced in less time from fewer mother plants. Budding is a two step process. This year the root stocks are rooted. Next year, the scions are budded to them. The two year bare root you're used to has two year old roots and one year old top growth. Budding provides extra vigor to the rose budded to it. Many varieties do not root well and/or do not grow well own root. Harsher climates can play a part in how suitable own root plants are for an individual rose grower. Budded plants may have the strength and maturity required for shorter growing seasons with harsher winters. Budding takes more time, requiring more time to add a new variety to your "catalog".

Anything which kills the bud union (freezing weather, mechanical, insect or heat damage) can leave you with only the root stock. If the variety of rose is hardier than the root stock, the stock can be killed by extreme weather, causing the loss of the hardier rose, unless the bud union has been planted deeply enough to encourage the hardy rose budded to it to root itself.

Cuttings require more material of the rose to be produced than a budded plant, hence it will take longer to generate the appropriate number of plants to provide the necessary cuttings to produce the same quantity of needed plants, compared to budding. Rooting, if done efficiently in a suitable climate, can produce a salable plant in much less time. Own root, potted plants can be safely shipped over a longer period of the year than bare roots as they are actively growing, potted plants instead of dormant, "bare root" plants which have a much shorter period in which they can safely be shipped and planted.

Some roses grow too slowly to permit them to be grown in harsher areas as own root plants. Budding them often gives those growers a head start, helping insure greater success in pushing zones. Budding produces a "retail worthy" product in much less time, speeding the availability of the product, reducing cost and allowing for faster introduction of new roses. The "rose growing public" is far more likely to spend money on the traditional five gallon, bud and bloom plant they are accustomed to as opposed to "baby plants" requiring more time and care in many instances, to mature into a similar plant.

If the rose grows well, quickly enough, own root and is suitable for its climate and conditions, it is likely to be more successful over a longer time than budded. If the rose isn't suitable for its conditions, soil, water and climate, budding can permit growing it where it otherwise would be unsuccessful. Multiflora doesn't like my hot, dry, highly alkaline soil and water. Own root, those of strongly multiflora heritage suffer extreme chlorosis issues. Budding them to Huey permits them to be grown here without those issues.

Many roses sucker enthusiastically, happily colonizing as much soil as they can find. Budding them and keeping the bud union above soil level will prevent that. Many root stocks can sucker, also. Those selected for root stock use tend to be long lived, persistent, incredibly durable, tenacious roses. That is WHY they were selected for that use. They CAN sucker. They WILL sucker if the stocks aren't properly prepared prior to budding. They will also sucker if you grow them badly. Shallow watering encourages all roots to grow up to the water, closer to the soil surface where temperatures stimulate them to form new plants. Cultivating, hoeing the soil under and around the plants to loosen it, breaks feeder roots and encourages them to grow new plants. Disturbing the soil under and around the plants for any reason, CAN break roots and encourage sucker growth. That is very much 'root cuttings', a tried and true method of propagation. Digging in the plants' root zones severs roots, inducing new plants to grow from the severed ends. Transplanting established roses leaves portions of the roots in the old location, often guarantying 'suckers' will grow from the remaining roots. Whenever possible, plant the rose and leave it alone. Mulch the soil and leave it alone. Don't "dig it in" as it is not necessary. Replenish the mulch as it is digested or otherwise depleted. Nature is going to digest the organic material at the soil surface as she has done all over the plant for eons. Water passing through the digesting organic material will pick up the nutrients and pass them through the feeder roots, which are usually just under the soil surface, feeding the plants. Digging anything into those feeder roots breaks them, like damaging your intestines, often with similar results. Failure to thrive; inhibition of immune system making the plants (and you) more susceptible to disease attack; causing the plant to be more susceptible to temperature extremes also occurs. Breaking those root stock roots also encourages 'forests' of Huey (and other stocks). What you DO to and for the plant can encourage suckering as much as improperly preparing the stock in production.

There are other factors for both, I am sure to have forgotten to mention. As you can see, no one method is "perfect" for every rose, every climate, every customer. Kim

Here is a link that might be useful: Greenheart Farms

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 3:19PM
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Jeri, Michael, Diane, and all who have posted answers to my question, Thank you all so much.

and Kim,

I don't think I could have asked for or expected a more thorough treatise on the subject of grafting versus rooting.

You are really a wonderful teacher.

I have read your post thoroughly but in order to digest it properly, will probably have to read it again once or twice.

Have a wonderful weekend . And by the way, my Pristine now has 6 new growths on her bare cane. I will be posting a photo later today on the posting that I originally put the information about the "3 ft long cane".

Hugs to all,


    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 4:15PM
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Andrea, The most comprehensive article on rootstocks I'm aware of was written by Dr. Griffith Buck about 60 yrs ago and published by the ARS.

In addition to its exhaustive survey of, and commentary on, rose varieties that have been used as understocks, the article contains a number of bits of info that I found quite surprising. For instance, I recall that it mentions a specific rootstock that tends to enhance the performance of YELLOW roses (I've not re-read the article recently, but I'm fairly certain that I didn't merely dream that tidbit).

Dr Buck's article is available online at the Heritage Rose Foundation website.

Here is a link that might be useful: Buck on Rose Understocks

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 5:47PM
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Thanks for the link, I opened It, but am grooming my Airedale, getting ready for a dinner party on the 4th, etc.
A very long article that should be read when you have time.

Thanks again,


    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 6:52PM
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nickl(Z7a NJ)

A truism from the fruit growers: The stock(s) affect the scion and the scion affects the stock(s)

Same is true in roses.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 11:27AM
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Are most of the climbing roses sold at garden centers grafted? I ask because my mother who lives in Cleveland thought she lost a lot of roses this winter (which was a doozy), but is elated to see growth coming from the bottom on her Fourth of July and Joseph's Coat climbers. Do they grow these on their own root, or will they come up from the rootstock as that boring red climber? She is 85 and doesn't buy green bananas, so if they are grafted, we'll just go out and buy some new ones so she can enjoy them this season. Also, she thought she lost a Bonica, but that is coming back from the bottom. I don't know a lot about it, but I thought that landscape roses like Bonica are grown on their own root. Are we safe in assuming that it will come back true from the bottom? Thanks for your help. I hate for her to be watching those climber buds and be disappointed when they bloom as something else.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 2:33PM
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Most roses, period, sold at "garden centers" are budded/grafted. While labor intensive, it continues being the fastest method of mass producing rose (and fruit tree) plants. To obtain an own root rose, you need to shop on line or otherwise frequent a nursery which states they produce own root plants. You can usually tell whether or not the plant is budded/grafted by looking at its base. Not always, but most often. Kim

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 2:45PM
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seil zone 6b MI

I have one local nursery that sells own root plants but otherwise Kim is right. Most all nurseries and for sure all big box stores (like HD & Lowes) sell grafted roses.

Depending on how your Mom planted those rose it may be Fourth of July and Bonica coming back or it may be the root stock coming up. IF she planted the graft below the soil surface there is a chance it could be the correct rose regrowing. If the graft is above ground and the new shoots are coming out from below the graft it is probably the root stock coming up. Most likely that is Dr. Huey a once blooming red climber. Unfortunately there is no way to tell for sure until they bloom. But Dr. Huey will probably NOT bloom this season anyway. It usually takes a couple of years before it sets buds.

If you wanted to you could replace them with new roses for your Mom's pleasure but pot these two up and see what they turn out to be. What could it hurt?

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 3:34PM
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caldonbeck(UK (8))

Green bananas :-0

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 5:03PM
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Thanks, folks,
I'll check it out when I visit next week, probably will replace them if it is iffy.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 8:15PM
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