Good Roses and Bad Roses: the root of the matter
March 30, 2014

We've had (are still having) a very cold winter. No doubt there will be some casualties to be discovered when the snow melts. Roses are prime candidates but before you start blaming yourself you should know the fault may not be the rose but the rootstock its growing on.

If you were to ask your average gardener "Are roses easy to grow?", the answer would probably be "No". Many gardeners often think of roses as finicky, fragile creatures that demand loads of chemicals, fertilizers, and pruning. Worst of all, they think that roses are tender plants, likely to die over the winter. This is a real shame because roses are actually easy. You see, the problem isn't roses per se but the BAD ROSES those gardeners have tried. Bad Roses are disease prone AND/OR roses on the wrong rootstock.


Most roses sold in Canada are grafted to meet demand and to produce plants at a reasonable cost. The variety of rose you are buying is grafted to the rootstock of a different rose. Herein lies the problem. Almost all roses grown in the United States are grafted to a rootstock called 'Dr. Huey'. As a rootstock, 'Dr. Huey' performs wonderfully PROVIDED YOU GARDEN IN ZONE 7 or warmer! In Canada roses grafted to 'Dr. Huey' are only hardy on the west coast of BC and the balmy climes of southernmost Ontario. Huge numbers of American roses are shipped to Canada every year and the majority of these will either die the first winter or linger on for a season or two in a weakened state and fall prey to disease. If the people selling the rose don't or can't tell you the rootstock, DON'T BUY IT, it's probably on 'Dr. Huey'. If you learn that it is grafted onto 'Dr. Huey' rootstock and you live in an area colder than zone 7, DON'T BUY IT! There are perfectly hardy rootstocks for Canada, namely Rosa multiflora, Rosa laxa or ungrafted roses on their own roots.

GOOD ROSES = grown in Canada

The latest trend in rose breeding is to produce floriferous, vigorous plants that are disease and require no spraying whatsoever. Some are new but many older, classic roses are great as well. Just make sure your rose is on a hardy rootstock.

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