Roses: bare-rooted, pot­ted or grown from cut­tings

The way we buy gar­den roses is chang­ing. JEN­NIFER STACK­HOUSE ex­am­ines how mod­ern roses are prop­a­gated and sold

Gardening Australia - - CONTENTS -

Tra­di­tion­ally, roses are sold when dor­mant in win­ter. Th­ese bare-stemmed bushes are known as bare-rooted plants. Their roots are bare of soil but pro­tected with saw­dust or sphag­num moss, and wrapped in plas­tic. In­creas­ingly, though, roses are also sold year-round in con­tain­ers.

The way roses are pro­duced by nurs­eries is also chang­ing. The tra­di­tional prop­a­ga­tion method that has been used for a rose bush is a type of graft­ing called bud­ding, where a small piece of a de­sir­able va­ri­ety, which is called the scion, is in­serted into the stem of a vig­or­ous rose, known as the root­stock.

Root­stock is grown from a cut­ting planted in soil and grown for at least six months be­fore it is grafted in situ in the field. Once the scion be­gins to grow, it forms the above-ground part of the rose that pro­duces the leaves and flow­ers, while the root­stock forms the base of the stem and the roots. One to two years later, in au­tumn, grafted rose plants are dug up from the soil. The soil is re­moved from their roots, and the roots and branches are pruned, ready for the bush to be packed for sale.

While this tra­di­tional graft­ing method is still the main prop­a­ga­tion method used for roses, more are be­ing pro­duced by cut­ting and tis­sue cul­ture (see page 28).

di er­ent meth­ods

Bud­ding roses in the field is a skilled but awk­ward job. With a short­age of skilled labour in Aus­tralia, many bud­ders are brought in from over­seas, usu­ally from New Zealand. Var­i­ous rose grow­ers have de­vel­oped sys­tems to al­low bud­ders to work at ground level in­stead of bend­ing over to bud each rose. Th­ese sys­tems in­clude bud­ders ly­ing on low trol­leys, so they can move along the rows of roses in the field.

This com­pli­cated and time-con­sum­ing process has been the norm, as many hy­brid roses are not par­tic­u­larly vig­or­ous, so they need the ben­e­fit of an­other rose’s root sys­tem to grow strongly, cope with a range of soils and pro­duce lots of flow­ers.

How­ever, all roses can also be prop­a­gated from cut­tings. In re­cent years, rose grow­ers have been ex­per­i­ment­ing with cut­ting-grown hy­brid roses pro­duced in pots. Re­cent re­leases, in­clud­ing the Flower Car­pet se­ries, are cut­ting-grown. Eas­ier and cheaper to pro­duce than field-grown grafted plants, they are grown in pots and sold year round.

Not all pot­ted roses, how­ever, are cut­ting-grown. Most of those in con­tain­ers in gar­den cen­tres are field-grown grafted roses, trans­ferred into pots to be sold in leaf or flower in spring and sum­mer.

bare-rooted vs pot-grown

Bare-rooted roses are usu­ally cheaper than the same sized grafted rose in a pot. They are also well suited to mail or­der sales, al­low­ing many grow­ers to sell roses di­rectly to the pub­lic from au­tumn to win­ter.

Although bare-rooted roses look like a bun­dle of bare, thorny sticks in win­ter, once planted they be­gin to grow and flower when spring ar­rives. Graft­ing also al­lows many plants to be grown from a lim­ited amount of prop­a­gat­ing ma­te­rial. To grow the same num­ber of roses from cut­ting re­quires more prop­a­ga­tion ma­te­rial.

One down­side of bare-rooted roses is that un­less you are fa­mil­iar with the va­ri­ety, for ex­am­ple hav­ing seen it grow­ing in a rose dis­play gar­den, you have to rely on the label, or information on the rose grower’s web­site, to see what the rose looks like. For those who want to know what they’re buy­ing, a pot­ted rose in flower in a gar­den cen­tre has in­stant ap­peal.

An­other im­por­tant down­side of grafted roses may be en­coun­tered once the bush is planted in the gar­den. The vig­or­ous root­stock may out­grow the grafted va­ri­ety, lead­ing to a large but un­re­mark­able rose plant grow­ing in your gar­den. One com­monly used root­stock rose is a va­ri­ety known as ‘Dr Huey’, which has thorny growth, light green leaves and small, dou­ble, crim­son flow­ers in spring.

When growth ap­pears from be­low the graft, which is usu­ally be­low the soil, this in­di­cates that the rose plant is stressed. Root­stock growth should al­ways be re­moved as soon as it is seen. If this hap­pens to your plant, give it more wa­ter and fer­tiliser to en­cour­age more vig­or­ous growth above the graft.

The big pluses of buy­ing a rose in leaf in a pot are that th­ese plants are avail­able year round, and the over­all ap­pear­ance of the plant can be as­sessed, from its green leafy growth to the colour, shape and fra­grance of the flower. As more va­ri­eties are de­vel­oped that suit the cut­ting-grown sys­tem of pro­duc­tion, there will be more of th­ese pot­ted roses avail­able for sale at gar­den cen­tres, and they may be cheaper than grafted plants in pots.

Re­gard­less of how a rose has been prop­a­gated, they all ben­e­fit from the same care and man­age­ment, par­tic­u­larly in their first year of growth. Smaller plants with small root sys­tems will need care­ful wa­ter­ing.

Above Gar­den roses are bud­ded onto un­der­stock (left) or cut­ting grown (right). Be­low e Flower Car­pet se­ries of roses are all cut­ting grown and sold in pink pots.

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