Grafting roses onto rootstock

Own-Root Roses

What are Own-Root Roses?

Own-root roses are roses grown from cuttings taken from stock plants. Unlike grafted roses, the roots of own-root roses are the same variety as their flowering tops.

Heirloom Roses does no budding or grafting at our nursery. Unlike the majority of rose growers in the US. we sell only own-root, virus-free roses. Our roses are first-year cuttings that are grown from a leaf cutting taken from a “mother” or “stock” plant. Own-root roses may be smaller when purchased, but quickly catch up to grafted roses (which are usually sold as two-year-old plants).

A Solution with Benefits

Growers initially began producing own root-roses as a response to the prevalence of Rose Mosaic Virus within the industry. This nasty virus was spread through grafting. Growers found that they could greatly reduce the spread of RMV if they used virus-free stock plants. Soon the industry discovered that roses grown on their own natural roots (and not those of another variety) had other advantages too:

  • Own-root roses are hardier than grafted roses because their crown has not been weakened. The bud union of a grafted rose is vulnerable to cold and can be easily damaged during a hard winter.
  • Own-root roses come back true to variety if frozen to the ground, because they have their own root system. Winter kill is less likely.
  • Own-root roses are shaplier because they send up shoots from their own roots. This creates a fuller plant over time, which adds to increased vigor, bloom, and life expectancy.
  • Own-root roses have no rootstock suckers, meaning more energy is sent to the main plant.

One season of growth from an Heirloom Roses cutting: the Hybrid Tea rose on the right (photographed in late summer) was planted in spring from the 6″ band pot size shown.Average two-year growth of climbers planted from 6″ band pot size (planted fall 2008, photographed summer 2010).

Stronger Plants for You

Some rose varieties produce more viable cuttings than others, making the process unpredictable (hence no special orders). Refined cutting techniques have enabled us to produce an inventory of over 100,000 roses, representing more than 1,500 varieties.

Most varieties grow rapidly their first year, though they seem smaller than their grafted counterparts. There is a saying with own-root roses:

The first year they sleep; the second year they creep; the third year they leap!

When an own-root rose is 3 years old, it will be identical in size to a grafted rose of the same age (if not sooner).

Comparing the size of an Heirloom Roses own-root cutting to a typical, grafted bare root rose (left). Own-root roses are well rooted into their deep seedling pots and have a much higher percentage of fibrous roots compared to dormant, bare-root roses (center). This increases the rate of survival at transplanting. At right, an example of a ready-to-ship first year Heirloom Roses band at summer leaf-out. This represents the typical retail size of our own-root roses. Variety shown: the David Austin shrub rose ‘Wildeve’ with 6 to 7 inches of growth. Hybrid Tea and Climbing varieties tend to be taller in the band pots (8 to 10 inches above the pot) whereas Miniatures and Minifloras may be smaller (4 to 6 inches above the pot).

Some roses used as rootstock are:


Mainly used in warmer parts of the country. Fortuniana is very vigorous, does well in sandy soil, but is not hardy in extreme cold. It is tolerant to nematodes, which are pests that invade the roots and are common in Florida.


A light pink Noisette used extensively at companies in California. Manetti has more flexible roots that do not break as easily as Dr. Huey.


Has a tendency to pick up salts and is not happy in alkaline soil. This particular rose is very susceptible to virus.

Dr. Huey

The most commonly used as rootstock. It has a long budding season. They store well when bare rooted and does well in all parts of the country.

De La Grifferaie

This rose is used for “standards” or “tree roses” as an inner stock between Dr. Huey and the grafted rose.


A rose variety used often when the graft is done the same time the rooting of the plant takes place. It is very prone to sucker and crown gall.

Q: Can a rootstock improve the disease resistance of a rose grafted onto it?

A: No, but it can improve the vigor.

Budding was the primary method of producing roses in the late 1800s. ‘La France,’ the first hybrid tea rose, had a beautiful bloom, but the plant was weak. By budding it onto rootstock, it took on more vigor and budding soon became the method of producing the modern rose.

Longer Life Expectancy

Own root roses live longer than grafted roses. They will not out grow the bud union and need to be replaced after a number of years. Your own-root rose will thrive for as long as it is well cared for.

Own-root roses are not the best choice for instant gratification. However, vigor, hardiness, and the elimination of budding and grafting guarantees that the rose you selected, loved, and cared for will always be that same rose. If you live in a cold climate or have a rose that started off one color and is now another color (because the top died and the rootstock took over), give own-root roses a try. They are a superior product.

The Antique Rose Emporium

Earth-Kind, Pioneer, and old garden roses on their own-roots in two-gallon containers. The display gardens are available for special events. Mail order, wholesale, and retail. 800 441-0002


Rose Petals Nursery

Located in Newberry, Florida, this mail order nursery specializes in Old Garden Roses grown on their own roots in one gallon pots. The Bermuda Mystery Roses are also available here. 352 215-6399


Located in Alachua, Florida. Owner Pam Greenewald specializes in rare and unique Antique roses as well as Modern roses. Inventory changes daily at this mail order nursery, so if you see a rose is out of stock give Pam a call at 352 359-1133

Cool Roses

Roses budded onto Fortuniana rootstock– newest must-haves, hybrid teas, mini-floras, David Austin, and Delbard roses. 561 684-2421


Fritz Creek Gardens

I sometimes receive questions about hardy roses for cold climates. A reader just sent me this incredible source. It must really be cold up there, because they won’t be open again until April 15. They only sell and ship zone 2 and zone 4 roses, and on their own roots. They have good luck with Explorer and Parkland roses, even as far north as the North Pole! 907 235-4969


Palatine Roses

An extensive rose list includes Fairy Tale, Vigorosa, and Freelander budded on multiflora seedling rootstock. 905-468-8627

If you have a favorite mail order nursery that I’ve missed, please let me know.

How to select bare root roses

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  1. Julie Rice, on May 23rd, 2011 at 1:48 pm Said:

    I think people should just keep growing Dr. Huey if they lose the grafted top. I love it. Right now we are 2-3 weeks ahead of schedule. My Agnes (which is really probably a Harrison’s Yellow since it never reblooms) and another rugosa is in bloom, also two of the Canadians, John Cabot and one other, also several of the Griffin Buck roses, bred in Iowa for cold prairie winters and my wonderful Stanwell Perpetual which gets a little bigger every year but nothing like the ones at the Old Rose garden at OARDC in Wooster Ohio. These are all on their own root stock so should last for 100 years if no one takes an ax to them. Nothing in my yard is ever as small as it is supposed to be. My Send in the Clowns is threatening to take over the whole back and side of my house. Reminds me of the briar hedge around Sleeping Beauty’s castle. I will send you an e-mail with links to good nurseries that do heirloom roses on their own root stock that I’ve had good experiences with. Hugs from here, Julie

  2. Kathryn, on May 23rd, 2011 at 2:11 pm Said:

    Hi, Julie, Thanks again for your wondrous and abundant help. It’s good to imagine you surrounded by roses! I LOVE your comment about everything being bigger than one expects (and sent it out on Twitter, I liked it so much!).
    Gardeners will relate. I do. Dr. Huey will not appeal to formal garden folks. I’ve learned that right here in town. I found one growing at the NURSERY and she told me to come “dig it up” which I’m going to do. Ha! Kathryn xoxo

  3. Jane Trueblood, on May 23rd, 2011 at 2:17 pm Said:

    Kathryn, You’re so right about Dr. Huey! It’s just as pretty as the pictures, and unbelievably tough.

    When I moved into my house 3 years ago and planted my vegetable garden in a recently cleared space in the yard, a rosebush kept trying to sprout amongst the vegetables. I kept trying to eradicate it. Finally last fall out of respect for its tenacity I let it grow, and now it’s blooming beautifully next to the strawberries.

    Definitely a keeper.

    I wonder if it was originally a rootstock for something else?

    Dr. Huey led me to your site and I’ve just subscribed.

    Cheers! Jane

  4. Kathryn, on May 23rd, 2011 at 2:31 pm Said:

    Hi, Jane and welcome! I’m glad you are a Dr. Huey fan. I had the exact same experience with Dr. H. sticking his little leaves up in my vege garden. I said, “What’s that? A ROSE??” and let it grow, and now it’s a big fixture next to the rainbow chard! I can pretty much guarantee you that your Dr. H was, indeed, rootstock for something long gone. 🙂 Thanks for subscribing! Enjoy! Kathryn xoxo

  5. Rose, on May 24th, 2011 at 2:40 am Said:


  6. Kathryn, on May 24th, 2011 at 6:45 am Said:

    Hi, Rose! This comment had me in giggles, and it’s early morning here, so I’d say you just did same for me. 🙂 Thanks! Kathryn xoxo

  7. Antonia, on May 24th, 2011 at 9:14 am Said:

    Gorgeous pictures! Gorgeous roses! 🙂

    Love you,

  8. Kathryn, on May 24th, 2011 at 9:26 am Said:

    Hi, Sweetheart, Thanks so much! Love you back! Mom xoxo

  9. Dee Nash, on May 28th, 2011 at 7:35 pm Said:

    Kathryn, it seems as if it isn’t Dr. Huey they grafted upon here. He is much too attractive. Ours is a dark almost black rose part of the time. Did you also know they sometimes use R. multiflora as rootstock? The bad part about this is R. multiflora is the carrier for rose rosette disease and can spread even further into our rose beds. I’ve always thought rootstocks were interesting. We should have respect indeed.~~Dee

  10. Kathryn, on May 29th, 2011 at 7:05 am Said:

    Good morning, Dee! Know you are a rose lover so glad you saw this post. These are what Dr. Huey looks like in CA. Verified at our oldest nursery. Wonder if soil can influence color of roses? Do you know? I thought it was interesting that David Austin’s site says all their roses are grafted onto Dr. Huey, but then their marketing person said, “The site is not up to date.” And their technician says they are using “laxa” in the UK, so not sure now what they are using in TX. Yes, I saw in researching this post that R. Multiflora is used, w/ warning about “chlorosis”; also R. odorata and Fortuniana, R. Rugosa and R. Canina. I know there are small pink roses growing on this property that I now recognize as old rootstock, but no clue what they are. Fascinating! Think I will stick with original roots from now on in my purchases! Kathryn xoxo

  11. joey, on June 7th, 2011 at 7:40 pm Said:

    Count me in as a fan of Dr. Huey, dear Kathryn. Great post and June ((hugs)).

  12. Kathryn, on June 8th, 2011 at 6:35 am Said:

    Welcome, Joey and thank you! Glad to hear you appreciate these lovely red roses! Happy spring! Kathryn xoox

  13. Lisa and Robb, on August 6th, 2012 at 5:38 pm Said:

    I suspect one of the sad old rose bushes that came with my house in East Oakland may be Dr Huey. It’s really struggling, and I wonder if I could move it to a happier location?

  14. Kathryn, on August 7th, 2012 at 10:24 am Said:

    Hi, Lisa and Robb, and welcome! My first hit is to cut it back (each cut to a five-leaf configuration) and fertilize it. Dr. Huey is tough and you are saying “old”. There’s a reason why they use Dr. Huey as rootstock. 🙂 Water at ground level. Don’t get leaves wet at night. Bet it thrives! (This is assuming it gets sun!) Good luck! Kathryn xoxo

  15. Claire, on April 10th, 2013 at 6:46 am Said:

    The Ebb Tide I bought at Sam’s succumbed to our TX weather last year, but the Dr. Huey root stock is spilling out of the large pot I had used. I glad to see what it’s going to look like when the buds open.

    I had a feeling that this was a rambler or climber and was going to be BIG! Thanks so much for the info and lovely pix!

  16. Kathryn, on April 10th, 2013 at 9:00 am Said:

    Hi, Claire, and welcome! I’m glad this post served you! Enjoy! I love my Dr. Hueys! Kathryn xoxo

Dr. Huey (Rambling Rose)

Bare root or Container? The differences explained

Roses were first sold in pots, as were most plants, to fulfil the demands of the instant gardener, but the traditional method of supply is as bare root plants in the winter months, often by mail order. There is little between them as far as the ultimate plant is concerned, but there are advantages and disadvantages to both.

Container roses

Containerised roses are available throughout the year (although there are more available in the summer months for various reasons) and are roses that we have planted into containers during the winter months, when the plants are dormant. If purchasing a container rose early in the year, it is advisable to wait until at least early May before planting out into the garden. This is to give the roots of newly potted roses a chance to establish. In summer months containerised roses must be watered daily to ensure good health and maximum blooms. The advantage of buying a rose in a pot is that you can select the plant yourself during a visit to our nursery and gardens, giving you the opportunity to see the rose in flower prior to purchasing. Containerised roses are available for delivery within 7-10 days.

Bare root roses

Throughout the winter months, from November to March, the roses are dormant and can be cut back and safely handled in bare root form. Many established rose gardeners call this the peak time for purchasing and planting roses, as a rose planted in February has many months to put down a great root structure to support the blooms and the plant for the years to come. Most roses planted in February will put out a great display of blooms the same year. Bare root roses are obviously live plants so do need fairly immediate treatment upon arrival. This can be difficult in times of heavy frost or snow. It is prudent in these conditions to prepare an area in which to heel in the roses (more advice on heeling in can be found within our planting advice pages). We would never advise buying a pre-packed rose from a supermarket for you have no idea how long they have been packaged and may well have dried out. Bare root roses are available to order throughout the year and are normally delivered between November 1st and March 31st, during the bare root season.

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