You might assume the roses in your garden are growing from their own roots. Chances are, though, they're hitching a ride on 'Dr. Huey', a sturdier rootstock. When the world fell in love with hybrid teas in the 1940s, growers began budding (grafting) these roses onto other rootstocks to compensate for their lack of vigor. Soon most roses were grown as grafted plants. But in the late '70s, growers began moving some roses back to their own roots. Recently rose growers introduced own-root climbers and floribundas.
Jackson & Perkins (877/322-2300), one of the largest rose producers in the West, is at the forefront of this movement. "The gene pool for roses has improved so much in vigor, production, and disease-resistance that most recent roses can get by on their own roots," says Keith Zary, the company's vice president of research. "Going forward, all our new roses will have that capability." Jackson & Perkins labels them as "New Generation"; other growers simply designate them as "own-root."
Do own-root roses outperform grafted kinds? Some growers think so. Should you make the switch? Consider the attributes listed at right, then decide for yourself.
Reasons to grow them
• New growth that's true. If an own-root rose freezes to the ground, any new growth that emerges will be the same variety. With a grafted rose, what grows back from the base is 'Dr. Huey'.
• No suckers. Grafted roses can put out suckers from the rootstock below the bud union. Own-root roses don't produce suckers.
• Smaller size. Own-root roses grow about 3/4 the size of the same variety on 'Dr. Huey' rootstock ― great for small yards.
• Rounded shape. Own-root roses tend to produce thinner canes but more of them, creating more rounded plants. If you grow roses for landscaping only, this is probably a plus. If you grow them for exhibit, it might not be.
• Slower growth. Grafted roses leap out of the ground their first year. Own-root roses start slower; they'll need a second year or more to show their true forms.