Bare root or own root?

vuwugarden(Central TX 8b)August 20, 2009

This is a newbie question. As you all know, I'm starting for the first time a rose garden. Which is better, bare root or own root? What are the advantages and disadvantages? So far my bare root container roses seem larger than the own root container roses. Please help!

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Ah, the question should really be "Grafted or own root?" There can be roses that are own root AND bareroot at the same time.

This question has been argued more than a few times in past threads, so search for them for further enlightment, but here's what I've gathered.

Grafted: Good for varieties that are weak on their own roots, to discourage suckering, to use a rootstock better suited to soil conditions like pH (also to combat nematodes, but that's mostly Florida). There are also varieties that you can only get grafted.

Own Root: Some say better long-term health and vigor, better shrub form, no worries about dying back to the ground in cold climates

I'm an own root person. There are pluses and minuses for each and it can vary by the situation, variety of rose, and location whether own root or grafted would be better.


    Bookmark   August 20, 2009 at 12:14PM
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I just started planting roses last year, but I prefer own root roses. Grafted is more available where I live (even with the cold winters) but I've heard that grafted roses run the risk of infected grafts. I don't know how much of a problem this may or may not be, especially in your area. Has anyone else heard that this can be a problem?

    Bookmark   August 20, 2009 at 1:07PM
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Re the comment that grafted will "discourage suckering" - this is true if the rose variety on top (the scion) suckers naturally, as some roses do. However, in my warm zone 9 garden, grafted roses sucker horribly from the roots. It is a real pain having to dig down to find the beginning of the sucker at the base and cut it off. After a few years dealing with that, I have never purchased a grafted rose again. I have planted some roses very close together to make low rose hedges and ground cover areas, and I can't imagine having to climb into the dense growth of many roses to try and cut out root suckers! I mention this because the original question came from zone 8.

Another good thing about own root roses is that evidently they live longer (up to over a 100 years, I'm told) than grafted plants.

Re "infected" grafts, I have read that sometimes a nursery will unfortunately get hold of root stock with mosaic or other viruses, and then every plant they graft onto it is infected. Perhaps this problem has lessened in recent years, as treatments have become more available.

Having said that, I do understand that in humid warm areas with certain soil issues (such as Florida) grafted roses might be necessary. You should get advice from local rose growers in your part of Texas to find out about local conditions.


    Bookmark   August 20, 2009 at 1:24PM
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Depends on the rose La France own root is'nt terribly vigorus can take ages to establish itself a grafted version I have from Pickerings was 5 ft tall in 3 years. On the other hand I have an own root Kronprincessin Viktoria established it'self very quickly the benefit is there is no chance of a rootstock taking over in a few years this somtimes happens with grafted roses.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2009 at 4:44PM
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bare root and own root are not one the opposite of the other.
Bare root simply means a rose is purchased with no soil around its roots, and the opposite is a potted rose, which is purchased in a vase with soil. A bare root roses can be planted only in certain seasons, a potted rose can be planted virtually always (although summer should be avoided). A bare root rose has the advantage that the rose forms its roots in the same soil where it will have to live, and cannot have been "drugged" by a nursery to look pretty but die the day after you buy it (some nursery are dishonest and make potted roses look pretty but the plant is in reality stressed and over-fertilized).

Own root is a not-grafted rose, the opposite is -clearly- a grafted rose.

I think the grafted vs. own roots question is as ancient as roses.
The answer to what way is best, is an upsetting "it depends!".

For instance, in Italy many English roses are sold grafted, with a graft selected to make them somewhat more tolerant to the Italian summer, much hotter than the British so-called summer.

Many other roses are sold own-roots and this way is becoming increasingly popular, as it avoids suckerings and it avoids the problem of chosing the "right" support for grafting.

Own root roses usually look weak and grow slowly in their first year, but don't be deceived: it's just a common initial stage that is quickly over.

Roses by Meilland can be reproduced only own-roots (and by authorized people, as they are patented).
I know that in the US market the knockout roses were initially sold grafted but this was then abandoned as there were problems.

Personally, I trust and weight much more the fame, reputation and brand of the nursery growing the rose, than the own-roots vs. grafted factor.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2009 at 5:28PM
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catsrose(VA 6)

Again, "it depends." But one reason (among several) that I prefer own root is that I hate the look of grafted roses. Grafts are ugly (to me). Instead of the eye traveling down into natural growth, it gets hit with this big fist punching out of the ground.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2009 at 11:07PM
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gnabonnand(Zone 8 Texas)

I'm an own-root rose person, for various reasons.
Like castrose mentioned, I think the graft on grafted roses is ugly & distracts from the natural gracefulness of
the plant.
And my goal is to plant roses that are well-adapted to my climate and soil. A rose that has to grow on another rose's roots to prosper here probably isn't well-adapted.


    Bookmark   August 20, 2009 at 11:56PM
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90+% of my roses are growing on their own roots. The ones I have that are grafted are mainly my modern HTs, which are growing on multiflora, which is the choice for my part of the country ... YMMV. My favorite suppliers are Palatine and Pickering in Canada. They send the biggest and best budded roses, for a very good price.

When I plant grafted roses, I make sure the bud union is below the soil surface so I don't have to look at the ugly part, and the plant looks a bit more natural.

I like own-root roses best because:

1. I know every bit of growth that plant produces is the correct variety ... no wondering whether that new vigorous cane is the rootstock or not.

2. If the top of the plant is killed by winter (which happened to me this past winter), there's a chance that the rose will regrow from the roots.

3. Though the rose starts out smaller than it's budded counterparts, the own-root roses quickly make up the difference. In two years, it's hard to tell the difference between one on its own roots and one that came as a bare root budded plant.

4. ...and a fairly selfish reason. Own root plants usually come to you in smaller pots, so you can dig smaller holes to plant them. More roses planted in less time.

You are doing the right thing by doing all you can to educate yourself on this stuff. My garden came together fairly quickly, but it was the result of a lot of planning and reading and talking to other rosarians. The thing that helped me the most was going to rose society meetings. Most of the people there have different ideas on rose growing than I do (most grow HTs exclusively ... not my thing, as you've already figured out), but they can teach you things about growing roses that are exclusive to your area.

Is there a house that you've passed that has great roses? If so, stop in and introduce yourself. I have done this a couple of times ... and I have another house that I spotted a few weeks ago that I plan to visit next time I'm out that way. It's a great way to have local rose friends.

What you DON'T want to do, as you're probably already figured out, is fill a shopping cart at Wally-World with puny, cheap bare root roses in plastic bags. Many of those are mis-marked, and will not be the variety you think you're buying. They have all had their roots chopped away so they fit into the tiny little bag. And they have generally been handled by store personnel who see no difference between a box of roses and a box of hose nozzles. Buy good stock, and you will be rewarded with good roses.


    Bookmark   August 21, 2009 at 7:13AM
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harryshoe zone6 eastern Pennsylvania

You can have it both ways!

Most of us began buying roses grafted on Dr. Huey. In the east, DH does not thrive. So we bury them deep and they develop their own roots.

In my initial bed, I planted with the grafts above ground. I later added about 6" of soil incrementally. Plants that I have dug up have a substantial network of own roots.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2009 at 8:08AM
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vuwugarden(Central TX 8b)

Wow! Thanks all for replying. I'm leaning towards the own root kind now from all the pros that you've provided. I just need to keep in mind that the size may be deceiving at first. Goodness -- two years is a long time to wait to fill out one's garden, but if it's the healthiest way, then I'm all for it. I do like the idea that I don't have to dig as large of a hole. Thanks again for all the replies.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2009 at 11:59AM
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le_jardin_of_roses(zone 10)

Good own-root vendors are:

Vintage Roses

Chamblee's Roses

Roses Unlimited

Antique Rose Emporium

Rogue Valley Roses

Heirloom Roses

If anyone out there can add more vendors to this list, please do so. I've decided to support the own-root vendors wholeheartedly.

Also, it's fun to watch the wee ones become full fledged roses over a couple of gardening seasons. Some can surprise you on how fast they can become big rose bushes. The more vigorous varieties can really take off right away. :)

    Bookmark   August 21, 2009 at 12:13PM
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I planted two Fantin Latour roses, from Heirloom Roses, this spring. They were both very small when they arrived, but they're growing very well and they're starting to catch up with my tea roses. Heirloom Roses did recommend I dig a big hole, which I did and I put in a lot of aged horse manure (I have a lot of horses).

My Mom got three bare root roses last spring and they've all done very well. All three look great this summer and we had a really cold winter with a lot of snow.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2009 at 1:11PM
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Hi Vuwugarden

The idea that all roses are best grown ownroot is just plain wrong. Some roses do very well ownroot, old garden roses, some hybrid perpetuals, knockout-/explorer-roses, some Kordes hybrid are not comparable to most modern roses. Now and then even the odd hybrid tea does well(I grow Peace in a container, selfmade from cutting). Even in warmer climates grafted roses can do better, in general grafted roses will grow a bit taller than ownroot. These are results from large test in the fields of many countries and observation has been as much as 7 years or more.

If you live in area with fairly cold winters and a short growing season I dare state that modern roses will perform considerably better as grafted plants. Not all roses does well on the most common rootstocks, but this is something the large nurseries know.

Suckers are not a big problem, if you check your roses two times a season or something like that rootstock will never have the chance to take over. You simply take out some leather gloves and pull them off. Some rootstocks sucker more than others, but you will probably not see more then one or three a year per 60 roses.

Catrose: when the roses gets olde they will all form a "fist" of older wood near the ground. In fact, it is not that easy to tell the difference between a grafted and an ownroot after a few years unless you do some digging. Graftpoint usually is planted a few inches into the ground.
I have several roses both grafted and made from cuttings of the same variety. Growth habit is by far determined by the variety, not the root stuck. Rootstock will give stronger growth, and plants will on average grow taller. They tend no more than ownroots to get leggy, spindly. This is more determined by variety and pruning than rootstock.

Scardan123; As far as I know the Meilland roses we get here are grafted. Where my family and I have been gardening (Norway, Denmark and France) we buy mostly grafted, and all Meilland roses are. There are a few exceptions; some old roses, rugosa hybrids, some park-roses, species and near hybrids, groundcovers, but even the Meilland ground-coverers I have are grafted (probably on laxa). In short, Meilland roses are no less grafted than other roses.

How ownroots will do are dependent on climate, soil, growing season and care given. I am not against ownroot roses, and will happily try to root any variety from cutting. If I where to grow ownroots exclusively I would have to give up most chinas, hybrid teas, floribundas, many climbers and shrubs, at least they would stay small and puny plants. That is mostly due to the short growing season; grafted plats gets an earlier start in spring, grow faster and stronger. These roses will not be more winter hardy as ownroot, if they freeze to the ground they will sprout back, but will have problem really taking of and becoming good plants. Hardy varieties with strong growth will do better.
This is at least my experience on the subject, and I have spend a lot of time and energy on different rootstocks and ownroot roses. I know this is a subject that depend very on climate, soil, care roses get..., but still I am surprised how different experiences we have.

I suspect that there are differences in the rootstocks that are used, USA use other types. It might have something to do with the grafting techniques too. Here oculation is by far the most common, if not the only one; an eye from the cane of the desired variety is placed in a T-shaped cut on the neck of the rootstock. That produces plants where grafting-point is hardly seen after planting, if at all.

My post became far too long, I get carried away by this subject :-)

    Bookmark   August 21, 2009 at 3:17PM
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rosesnpots(z8 Tidewater area VA)


Other vendors that grow only own root roses and are responsible for bringing in some great new roses from Europe are:

Ashdown Roses, in SC

EuroDesert Roses, in CA

    Bookmark   August 21, 2009 at 9:43PM
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treebarb Z5 Denver

You can add High Country Roses the list of vendors. They are on the Utah/Colorado border.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2009 at 11:50PM
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le_jardin_of_roses(zone 10)

Rosesnpots, Ashdown Roses seems like a great vendor. Forgot to mention them. Thanks for bringing them up as well as EuroDesert Roses. :)

Trebarb, thanks for letting us know of High Country Roses. I'll check them out. :)


    Bookmark   August 22, 2009 at 10:25PM
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