Northern Gardeners Need Own Root Roses

Most rose bushes sold around the world are grafted (budded) onto the easy-to-produce and vigorous rose ‘Dr. Huey’. And that’s not a problem if you live where ‘Dr. Huey’ is hardy, that is, in USDA hardiness zones 6 to 9. But it is a problem if you garden in zones 1 to 5, because if the winter is the least bit harsh, you’ll lose your plant, end of story. Of course, you can try mounding, wrapping, rose cones, trenching, etc. and they do work… sometimes. But inevitably, you’ll lose most of your grafted rose bushes over time, no matter what special winter care you give them.

The laidback Northern gardener should avoid grafted roses like the plague and stick to “own root roses” (non-grafted roses), those that grow on their own roots. Planted in the right zone, own root roots have a nearly 100% winter survival rate! If you live in zone 5, for example, choose an own root rose adapted to zone 5 or to an even colder zone: 1, 2, 3 or 4. If you’re in zone 4, you’ll want a rose for zones 1, 2, 3 or 4. Etc.

But how do you recognize an own root rose bush in the nursery? Look at the base of the plant. Budded roses have a swollen area at the spot where they were grafted (budded), a swelling formed by the reaction of the rootstock to the graft. If you’re not sure, go to a nursery and ask someone to show you: a rose graft is very visible once you know what to look for. If the rose stem shows no swelling, that is, it is smooth from its base to its first branches, it is not grafted and has its own roots. And that’s what you want!

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

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