Buying rose plants can be confusing enough when trying to decide on color, shape or size, but add in own-root rose stock versus grafted, and it can be downright perplexing. Fear not, it's quite easy to determine if a rose is own-root or grafted. As for making the choice which to buy, I'll break it down for you..
Most rose bush plants sold today are “grafted” roses regardless if they are purchased as bare root plants or a container grown rose in a pot. Grafted roses are produced by grafting the named rose variety on top of a hardier root stock variety.
An own root rose is produced by taking a cutting from a mother plant of the same variety and growing the rose on its own root. Own root roses are typically smaller in size when planted, yet will will reach and surpass the growth of grafted roses in just a few growing seasons.
Sounds simple enough, but when buying roses at most nurseries and garden centers it is not uncommon to find the sales staff unaware of what type of roses they are selling. The easiest way to tell which type of rose that you have is to examine the base of the rose. As illustrated in the photos below, an own root rose will not have a graft, but rather grows up from the ground.
Own root roses can be either field grown and harvested as bare root roses, or, as we do at Fresh Garden Living, rooted out into small plugs. The rose plugs then are transplanted into larger containers to develop a more extensive root system before being sold.
The small rose on the right is the first stage of the rooted cutting taken from virus-free rose stock. Next it is potted on and after 4-6 months to a larger plug as shown on the left. Our roses are grown in a custom soil mix that we have developed to produce strong, healthy plants that will thrive in your garden.
Finally the plug is again transplanted into the 5 inch deep tubes that our roses are shipped in. Note the robust roots and good soil tilth which will produce a healthy rose! This whole process takes about 18-24 months (depending on the rose variety) during which the roses are trimmed repeatedly to produce multiple canes and lush growth.
History of Grafted Roses
The first known grafted rose was created in 1867 when rose breeders, budded or ‘grafted’ the popular, yet weak rose La France on to a hardy, strong root stock. This practice of grafting weaker roses onto a hardier root-stock paved the way for the development of new hybrid teas and other hybrid roses in mass quantities. Popular and en vogue rose varieties could be rushed to market with this production line technique for producing rose plants.
In the late 1980’s and 1990’s gardeners began to gain a new appreciation for the hardiness, resistance to diseases and increased vigor of the old own-root rose varieties. As gardener’s demand increased for own-root rose varieties, rose breeders responded by producing new own root varieties and by the propagation of older hybrid teas, grandifloras and floribundas as own root varieties.
Once you start growing own-root roses you won't want to return to a grafted rose again!