David Austin Roses - Own Root vs. Grafted

alameda/zone 8November 4, 2012

I was in Tyler yesterday and picked up the Austin 2013 catalog which is beautiful. They are offering alot of own root roses. I plan to order some - but am wondering - is there a difference in Austins growing own root or grafted? Not sure whether to stick with grafted or try some of the own root. Does anyone have opinions on this? Thanks.....oh, and the catalog is beautiful, seems thicker than in years past, lots of beautiful photos of gardens.


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I have both, though my three ownroot are new they are growing beautifully, my grafted that I have are Golden Celebration, Crown Princess Margareta, Christopher Marlowe, and my own root are Lilian Austin, Prospero, and Queen Nefertiti.My ownroot I got earlier this spring are growing nicely, Lilian is the only one throwing octopus canes, but her flowers are beautiful !!The grafted I've had for years and don't grow too far out of bounds because they are partly shaded,But I love them all!! Hopefully someone else thats better at explaining will chime in but for me they both grow well.I was told ownroot austins didn't grow as fast as grated but mine have proved that wrong.Maybe it's certain one's that grow slowly, since mine grew nicely.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 4:03PM
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ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

The pundits say that own-root may stay smaller and bloom more than grafted, but I'm not sure this is true from my own experience. By this time I'm also not really sure which are which in my garden! I know that the grafted Abraham Darby was a disappointment after the first year, but that could have been the heat here. My own-root Charles Darwin, on the other hand, was also a miserable failure after the first glorious spring blooms. Own-root The Dark Lady, Sophie's Rose, Pretty Jessica and Potter and Moore are flourishing. If I saw an Austin I really crave that was grafted I'm sure I'd end up buying it.


    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 8:52PM
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dublinbay z6 (KS)

I also can't remember which of my Austins are grafted or own-root, except I do remember ordering 3 Molineux from Chamblees and I think they only carry own-root, don't they? In which case, those are own-root. I also know that I have ordered directly from the David Austin site, and their roses are grafted (I think I'm right about that), so a number of mine are grafted.

I really can't tell the difference at this point. Don't have an opinion one way or another. Both seem excellent.


    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 10:37PM
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I also have both own-root and graft. I think that the grafted roses seem to get a quicker start. However a year later and they have all turned out beautiful.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 5:09AM
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I think most discussions of "own root" vs. "grafted" may be nearly irrelevant, UNLESS one is speaking of specific varieties and specific rootstocks. Each rose variety is genetically unique, and so the root system it produces will be different from that of any other rose, and its behavior on a specific grafted rootstock may be different from that of any other rose. So it becomes dangerous to generalize too much.

In reality, every rose is on a "rootstock," whether there is a graft present or not; in an own-root rose, that rootstock is simply that particular rose's root system, which is genetically unique.

Of course it is true that most of Austin's roses are at least somewhat related to each other, but even there, there is enough variability that I think it becomes unreasonable to generalize too much.

As for the rootstocks under grafted plants, there is a tendency for extreme vigor (Fortuniana) or moderate vigor (Dr. Huey or Manettii), or low vigor (odorata or canina), etc., and a tolerance of acid soils (multiflora) vs. alkaline (Dr. Huey). But those are tendencies. Each scion variety will behave somewhat differently on each of these stocks, and each scion variety will behave differently from other scions, on a given stock.

On top of all of that, then, are soil and climate of a specific garden, both of which will affect behavior of a rose on the roots it is given.

So I think it is legitimate to say "in Lakeland Florida, even on our sandy, nematode-infested soils, I prefer Austin's "Graham Thomas" and "Heritage" on 'Dr. Huey' over 'Fortuniana' (since they won't rebloom well) or own-root (since they won't survive long), but I prefer 'Souv. de la Malmaison' and its sports on 'Fortuniana' (a combination that gives excellent vigor, floriferousness, and longevity), but 'Tausendschoen' and 'Crepuscule' are excellent on their own roots," those statements may not be true of other varieties, nor of these same varieties in other gardens, in different climates, and with different soils.

The bottom line, then, is Caveat Emptor. Yes, get others' opinions and experiences, but realize they may not match what happens in your garden with your set of varieties.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 8:08AM
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strawchicago(zone 5a)

Hi Judith: Very good question you asked. BTW, I love Chamblee's, they have the BIGGEST ROOTBALL among the nurseries I ordered. From my experience, these are wimpy and don't do well on own-roots: Eglantyne (Rugosa heritage doesn't like my alkaline clay, and Paul in CT reported its stingy on his acidic soil), Charles Darwin (best as grafted, it's a big water-hog), Jude the Obscure (stingy as own-root one many folks), Mary Rose (best as grafted).

Except for the above, all my other Austin own-roots do very well ... I like their compact sizes compared to the GRAFTED Austins at the rose park 15 minutes away. My own-root William Shakespeare 2000 is really cute 1' x 1' - loaded with blooms, zero octopus canes. First year I was concerned about his being wimpy, but once I moved it to morning sun only it blooms like mad.

Own-roots are not as vigorous as Dr. Huey in picking up moisture, so they are best in pots and partial shade first to establish a bigger rootball before planting in full sun. Both my Pink Peace and Mirandy as own-roots fried in temp. above 90's, until their rootballs got bigger. I killed 3 Knockouts: one Dr. Huey only (super-far reaching roots), one Dr. Huey plus own-root (monster root system, I never water this one, took at least 1/2 hour to kill and get rid of all the far reaching pipes), one own-root (very shallow tiny cluster, took 5 minutes to kill).

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 10:07AM
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ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

Dr. Manners, thank you for that superb explanation. I have few grafted roses but what I've learned in my location is that the rose's tolerance to my alkaline soil, high heat and the position in which I've planted it seem to be the most important factors. For instance, the SdlM planted in morning sun and afternoon shade is one of my most superb plants while the one in morning shade and afternoon sun is a pitiful bush; both are own-root. My speculation is still that the own-root roses may not have as much of an octopus spread as the grafted ones and may bloom more since they seem less intent on growning long canes and leaves, but I'd have to grow them side by side to say that this is a fact.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 11:11AM
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Terry Crawford

I grow both own-root and multi-flora grafted Austins. Both of my 'Lilian Austins' from RVR are own-root plants and were planted directly into the beds as bands, and are thugs. I have one growing up a trellis, and the other just climbs up the hillside. They are both non-stop bloom machines, pretty comparable in size and bloom cycle to the grafted 'Crown Princess Marghareta'.

Other own-root Austins such as 'Pretty Jessica' and 'Pat Austin' are again about 3x3 and bloom in flushes. 'Summer Song' is a total dud; I don't think it matters if it was grafted or own-root. I believe it is the parentage breeding behind each rose and the specific clone I planted as to whether or not that particular Austin is growing well in my garden, as well as the factors Dr Manners stated above. Climate, soil, water, fertilizer, etc. all play a huge role in whether a rose will be happy growing in my garden vs. yours.

For example, I tried 3 times to grow 'Distant Drums' before I could get it to survive over the winter. The first two times I planted own-root plants and they never made it through the winter. The last time I planted a grafted multi-flora DD. It's survived 5 years now and is glorious. Right plant, right rootstock, and sheer stubborness.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2012 at 11:36AM
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I grow all of a dozen or so Austins own-root, and they are all doing fine except for the Crocus Rose. It was a band a year and a half ago when it was planted, and still is one today. I suspect that in my climate, own-root Crocus Rose might lack rigor, but maybe I got a runt.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2012 at 3:10PM
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Ingrid, based on a sample of one, I agree with you. I had WS 2000 grafted growing in the ground and it threw out octopus canes. A cutting of that rose which I rooted and grew in a pot never did that.

On the other hand, it may have been the pot.


    Bookmark   November 6, 2012 at 7:02PM
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strawchicago(zone 5a)

I also agree with Ingrid's statement that "My speculation is still that the own-root roses may not have as much of an octopus spread as the grafted ones and may bloom more ...." My own-root William Shakespeare 2000 in Chicagoland is the size of a mini rose in its 2nd year, but with 7+ blooms now after many frosts.

The grafted Austins at zone 5a rose park (15 minutes away) are monsters with octopus canes: Abraham Darby (7' x 6' in late fall), Jude the Obscure (6' x 4'), Lilian Austin (4' x 6'). Compare that to my own-root Lilian Austin at 1' x 1.5' in 2nd year. I asked Predfern in my Chicagoland for the dimensions of his own-root Austins: it's 3 feet for Abraham Darby, Jude the Obscure, and Brother Cadfael ... all cuties as own-roots after several years.

After spending time killing that @#$% monster-Dr-Huey roots of Knock-outs, I'll never plant Dr. Huey again. There's that huge Dr. Huey at the corner which is a public eye-sore, one would need a chain-saw to chop it down. At least own-roots don't leave behind eye-sores which look really bad in zone 5a winter ... like Dr. Huey rambling monsters in foreclosured houses.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2012 at 10:42AM
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Terry Crawford

Stawberry Hill, my own-root 'Lilian Austins' are much larger than the grafted ones at the park. However, my soil here is very rich clay. When I dug up one of the Lilians earlier this year (I had 3), the roots were massive in size.

Based on my growing experience, I haven't found that I can conclude that categorically all Austins are either better grafted or own-root. It just depends on the individual plant, growing conditions, and so many other factors.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2012 at 11:34AM
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strawchicago(zone 5a)

I agree with Terryjean 100% ... she's in a bit warmer zone than I am. Just a note regarding the size of own-root Austins in my garden: I'm in the extreme wimpy zone for own-roots: zone 5a with brutal wind, winter lower than minus 20 F. with wind chill factor. Lilian Austin is planted in a windy location & with die-back to the crown this past winter. Plus my soil is rock-hard heavy clay that broke a shovel and a rototiller machine.

Despite my extreme-wimpy zone, I still prefer own-roots over grafted. It's just a personal preference, I like my tiny Norwich Sweetheart mini rose with its heavenly scent way-more than my 6' x 6' own-root Radio Times, since the mini doesn't consume much water, and I get just as much enjoyment with its fabulous scent & many blooms.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2012 at 2:26PM
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