Part of a rose

How to Kill Rose Bushes

red rose bush image by green308 from

Rose bushes often are a gardener’s pride and joy; however, when it’s time for a change or your roses are not thriving, the task of removing and killing them for good may seem daunting. Even though roses are hearty plants, if you combine pruning, excavation and the use of an herbicide, you can get rid of your unwanted rose bushes.

Cut down your rose bush so about 2 to 3 inches remains above the ground. Use lopping shears or a saw for the larger branches. Discard the limbs at your local yard waste facility, if possible.

Poke around the root ball with a sharp spade. As you feel roots, move a bit farther out and dig. Cut in toward the center of your rose bush to get under the root ball.

Lift the root ball up and out of the hole with your spade by pushing down on the handle. Be careful not to break your spade. You can also pull up on the bush from the top.

Remove as much of the remaining roots as possible. Dig deeper in the hole and on the sides to locate and remove the feeder roots. Wearing gardening gloves, feel around with your hands to locate more roots, if necessary.

Spray any new growth in the fall after it matures with an herbicide that contains glyphosate. This will kill any remaining roots that survived the excavation.

Roses are incredibly beautiful flowers that have long been considered a symbol of love. With over one hundred and fifty different species (and thousands of hybrids), they are one of nature’s most exquisite creations with their full blooms, enticing fragrance, and lush foliage. Right now, you may be wondering to yourself, ‘what are the parts of a rose plant?’

The two main (and most important) parts of a rose plant are the stamen (male component) and the pistil (female component). Other parts include the petals, sepals, leaves, and stems. Each of these also contains sub-parts that are all responsible for the growth and reproduction of the plant.

Below we delve into the details of what each of these parts is responsible for in the life cycle of the rose.

What are the Parts of Flowers?

The parts of a flower (such as the rose) include the following:

The Stamen

The stamen is part of the male reproductive structure of a flower. It consists of both the filament and the anther.

The Filament

The filament is the stalk-like part of the plant that attaches to the base of the flower. It also supports the anther, which houses the pollen.

The Anther

The anther is the sticky part at the top of the stigma. It is usually orange or yellow in color, oval-shaped and produces pollen that is essential for the continued life of the plant.

The Pistil

The pistil is part of the female reproductive structure of a flower. It is typically found in the center and consists of the ovary, style (or stalk) and stigma, all of which are referred to as the carpel. The term pistil is often used in reference to a single carpel or several carpels that are joined together.

The Ovary

The ovary is part of the female reproductive system of the flower and contains the female egg cells known as the ovules. The ovary is located above or below the petals or at the point where the petals meet the sepals. In the rose, each ovary produces a dry seed or ‘achene’.

The Style

The style is the long, slender, tube-like structure of the flower. It connects the stigma to the ovary. The style is vital to the fertilization process for two reasons. One, it is where the pollen tube is formed and two, it stops incompatible pollen from penetrating the ovary.

The Stigma

The stigma is the stem at the top of the pistil. It is part of the female reproductive system in the flower and the location whereby pollen germinates, essential for procreation and growth.

The Petals

The petals refer to the blooms of a flower. They are comprised of cellulose and other organic material. They are basically, modified leaves that surround the reproductive structure of the flower. Collectively, the petals are known as the corolla.

The Sepals

The sepals are the green foliage surrounding the flower. They protect both the petals and the buds, which are small knobs that eventually develop into blossoms. They also support the flower and allow for optimal growth. Sepals are comprised of chloroplasts, which is where photosynthesis takes place.

The Leaves

The leaves are the above-ground foliage that aid in gas exchange and as well as photosynthesis. They are often green, flat and absorb most of the sunlight necessary for the development of the plant. Leaves often contain stomata that open and close like pores, receiving air and carbon dioxide used during photosynthesis.

Roses have compound leaves made up of several leaflets. Old garden roses can have seven, nine or more leaflets depending on the age of the plant. The top leaflet is known as the terminal and is attached to the others by a small stem called the ‘petiole’.

The Stipule

The wing-like appendage at the base of a flower leaf is called the stipule. It is used to create energy for the plant and protect the leaves and buds as they grow. They also safeguard the flower from animals.

The Auricle

The very top or tip of the stipule is called the auricle. It is the small ear-like bump at the base of the leaves or petals on a flower.

The Stems

The stems of a flower are usually found above the soil surface but some can grow underground as well. Roses will produce stems of varying lengths depending upon their class. They have four main functions which include:

  • supporting the leaves and elevating the flowers
  • transporting water between the roots and the shoots, which consist of the stems, leaves and flower buds
  • storing nutrients from food sources
  • producing and developing new living tissue

New growth emanates from the point at which the leaf meets the stem. This is called the bud eye. The piece of the stem located between the highest point and the flower itself is called the peduncle.

The Peduncle

Peduncles are the thornless, soft-wooded areas of the stem and vary in both length and thickness, according to the type of rose. A small structure that is leaf-like in appearance and found partway down the peduncle is referred to as the bract.

How Many Ovules Does a Rose Have?

Each pistil of a rose contains an ovary. Each ovary contains a multitude of ovules. Some plants can have as many as sixteen hundred ovules per flower!

How Many Leaves Does a Rose Have?

Garden roses usually have five leaves whereas stem or ‘wild’ roses usually contain seven leaves per stem. Flowers of cultivated roses have double the amount of leaves with multiple sets of petals.

How Many Petals Does a Rose Have?

There is no exact number regarding how many petals a rose has. A ‘wild’ or ‘single’ rose typically has one row consisting of five petals but can have as many as twelve. The exception is the ‘rosa sericea’ which has only four petals.

Roses with thirteen to twenty-five petals in two or three rows are called ‘semi-double’ roses. Roses with more than twenty-five petals in two or three rows are usually called ‘double’ roses. Examples of these include the ‘tea’ or ‘china’ rose.

Roses with more than twenty-five petals in three or more rows are called ‘double’ roses. Extremely full flowers consisting of forty-five to fifty petals in numerous rows are called ‘very double’ roses. Some mutated species may have more (or less) petals but they almost always come in multiples of five.

How Many Pistils Does a Rose Have?

Most flowers in the rose family, especially those of the subfamilies, have several pistils. The number of pistils depends upon the type of rose.

How Many Sepals Does a Rose Have?

Roses typically have five sepals. The only exception is the ‘rosa sericea’, which, like its petals, has only four sepals.

How Many Stamens Does a Rose Have?

Each rose contains at least five stamens, however, the majority often contain many more! Stamens are almost always present in multiples of five. The total number of stamens depends upon the type of rose.

What Are the Characteristics of a Rose?

There are specific characteristics pertaining to the rose. These include the following:

  • contains multiple stamens
  • has leaves that grow in alternate patterns on the stem
  • is symmetrical in shape
  • has unconnected petals that number in five or multiples of five
  • contains prickles or thrones on the stems, which vary in size, shape and amount and can be used to identify one species of rose from another
  • has bisexual reproductive parts
  • comes in a variety of colors including red, pink, yellow and white


In summation, roses are often classified by the shape and color of their blooms. The two main parts of a flower are the stamen (male element) and the pistil (female element). Other parts include the petals, sepals, leaves, and stems, each of which contain sub-parts that collectively contribute to the growth and reproduction of the plant.

Knowing and recognizing the various parts that make up this beautiful flower will only add to your appreciation and enjoyment of it. So go ahead, embrace the old adage and ‘take time to stop and smell the roses.’

Learn more about roses

Check out these posts about roses, for even more information –

Why Do Roses Have Thorns?

9 Flowers that look like roses

Natural Black Roses

Roses For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Know Your Rose Lingo

To grow roses successfully, you need to know the lingo. These rose terms describe parts of the rose plant, petal forms, color types, and more! Get to know these terms and start sounding like a master gardener:

  • Bareroot: Sold in winter to early spring while dormant and without soil on their roots.

  • Bicolor: A two-colored rose, usually with two or more colors on opposites sides of the petals.

  • Blend: A multicolored rose with two or more colors blending together on both sides of the petals.

  • Bud: An unopened flower. A bud eye is dormant vegetative growth that forms in the upper angle where a leaf joins a cane.

  • Bud union: A swollen or knobby area on the lower trunk of a rose plant, usually near the soil surface, where the flowering variety joins the rootstock.

  • Cane: A structural branch of a rose plant, usually arising from the base of the plant.

  • Deadhead: To remove spent blossoms from a bush and channel more energy into new flowers.

  • Double flower: A rose with more than one row of petals.

  • Hardiness: The capability of a rose to withstand cold temperatures without being killed or injured.

  • Hip: The seed pod that forms after a rose’s petals fall off. Some may turn bright orange or red and are quite colorful in fall and winter.

  • Leaflet: A part of a leaf. Rose leaves are usually divided into 5 to 7 leaflets, but some have as many as 19 or as few as 3.

  • Own-root roses: Roses that grow on their own roots and are not budded onto a separate rootstock.

  • Reverse: The underside of a rose petal.

  • Rootstock: The roots onto which a rose variety is budded. A rootstock increases the adaptability of the rose, giving it increased hardiness, vigor, soil tolerance, and other advantages.

  • Semi-double: A rose having two or three rows of petals.

  • Single: A rose having a single row of petals.

  • Sucker: A vigorous cane that arises from the rootstock of a rose. Its leaves look different from the rest of the plant, and you should remove it.

  • Variety: A specific type of rose. For example, ‘Mister Lincoln’ is a variety of hybrid tea with fragrant red flowers.

How to Identify a Rose Bush

rose bush image by Yurok Aleksandrovich from

Roses are an ancient plant. Fossil records show that roses grew wild 35 million years ago. Those ancient roses bore very little resemblance to the plants that gardeners grow for beauty and perfume in gardens today. There are around 150 species of rose that grow through the northern hemisphere that can be divided into climbing plants, trailing plants and shrubs. With so many rose species in existence, identifying roses can take some detective work.

Observe the rose plant from a distance to determine its overall shape. The shape of a rose helps to determine its classification. Climbing roses have long canes that must be tied to a support. Shrubs have a low-growing habit. Hybrid tea roses have an upright growth and bear a single flower per stem. Grandifloras resemble hybrids in that they have an upright stem. But grandifloras produce clusters of flowers. Polyanthas are large shrubs that spread several feet high and wide and bear tiny, compact flowers. Floribundas are compact shrubs that bear lots of tiny flowers all season long in clusters along the tips of the shrubs. Miniature roses are produced on shrubs that never grow larger than 36 inches in height. The flowers are proportionally small as well.

Watch a rose throughout the season to determine if it blooms in one single flush, or if it continues to bear blossoms all season long. Also take note of the age that the rose canes are when they bear blooms. Some rose plants will only bear roses on two year old canes. Chinese roses and many hybrid roses developed from Chinese varieties are roses that bloom repeatedly.

Run your finger along the rose cane carefully to determine the size and shape of the thorns. Roses such as damask bear large, abundant thorns while others only have small prickles.

Pick a rose blossom from the plant and examine the rose’s shape. The structure of a rose’s blossom is a strong indicator of the subgroup of rose. Some examples of rose structures include European varieties with single blooms that have only five petals. Centifolias, a cross between damask and Albia roses that are sometimes called cabbage roses are an example of flowers with many petals.

Note the color of the rose blossom. Many rose variations are named due to their colors. Albia is an old rose with a name that literally means white.

Inhale the fragrance of both the flower and the rose stem. The fragrance emitted by roses is another indicator of the rose’s identity. Moss roses are notable for their balsam scent. Chinese roses have a weaker scent than European roses. Tea roses are called such because their scent is reminiscent of black tea.

Consult a master gardener program, county extension agent, field guide to roses, rose society or nursery to help confirm your classification of roses. Use a rose cutting or photo of a blossom with you for comparison against the photos in a book or to show to an expert.

Identifying Rose Classifications

By The National Gardening Association, Bob Beckstrom, Karan Davis Cutler, Kathleen Fisher, Phillip Giroux, Judy Glattstein, Michael MacCaskey, Bill Marken, Charlie Nardozzi, Sally Roth, Marcia Tatroe, Lance Walheim, Ann Whitman

Rosaceae is the third-largest plant family. This family includes many ornamental landscape plants, fruits, and berries, including apples, cherries, raspberries, and pyracantha, characterized by the shape of the hypanthium (the part of the flower where the seeds develop) and by petals in groups of five. Roses are members of the plant genus Rosa. Within that genus, roses are grouped into classifications based on the characteristics that each particular plant displays.

Your choice of rose depends on how you plan to use it and on your personal preferences. Some rose gardeners grow only one or two types of roses, and others grow many types. Try growing one or two in each class and see which rose types you prefer.

The following list shows you the basic differences among the various types of roses.

  • Hybrid teas: These roses bear large flowers that commonly grow one to a long stem and bloom continually throughout the growing season. The bush can grow quite tall, with an upright habit (a term rosarians use to describe the shape or look of a plant). Hybrid tea roses are usually budded onto a vigorous rootstock, and are a great choice if you like large flowers with a pleasant rose form and if you like to make rose arrangements or have cut flowers in the house.
  • Grandifloras: These are upright plants with hybrid tea-type flowers. The flowers often grow in clusters, but the stems on each flower within a cluster are long enough for cutting. Grandifloras normally grow to between 3 and 6 feet tall. They’re almost always budded and are a good choice if you like lots of blooms for color in the garden and stems for cutting, all on the same plant.
  • Polyanthas: A forerunner of modern floribundas, the plant itself can be quite large, covered with small flowers. Their usual habit is compact, hardy, and generous-blooming. The variety you see most often is ‘The Fairy’ — a wonderful variety, covered with small pink flowers on a plant that can spread to several feet in height and width.
  • Floribundas: These plants have flowers that are smaller than hybrid teas and which grow in clusters on short stems. The bush is usually quite compact and blooms continually throughout the growing season. Most floribundas are budded, but commercial growers are beginning to grow them on their own roots. Choose floribundas if you need fairly low-growing plants that produce great numbers of colorful flowers.
  • Miniatures: Extremely popular small plants, miniatures are usually between 6 and 36 inches in height, with their leaves and flowers in perfect proportion. They customarily grow on their own roots, and aren’t budded, which makes them hardier in cold climates. Most mini varieties bloom profusely throughout the growing season and are a great choice for lots of color in a small space. You also can grow miniatures indoors in pots under a full-spectrum fluorescent light or grow light. Merely putting them on a windowsill won’t work—they won’t get enough light to thrive and blossom.
    Recently, the American Rose Society classified roses thought to be too large to be miniatures and too small to be floribundas as “mini-floras.” The name hasn’t yet been completely accepted by nursery workers, so these varieties are grouped as miniatures.
  • Climbers: These plants don’t really climb like clematis or other true vines that wrap around or attach themselves to supports. They do, however, produce really long canes that need to be anchored to a fence, trellis, or other support. Otherwise, the plants sprawl on the ground. Flowers bloom along the whole length of the cane, especially if the cane is tied horizontally, such as along a fence. Some climbers bloom only once in the spring, but many modern climbers produce flowers throughout the growing season.
  • Shrubs: Because most are quite hardy and easy to grow, and great for landscaping, shrubs have become very popular in recent years. They’re generally large plants, and most, particularly the modern shrubs, bloom profusely throughout the season. If you want to fill a large space with color, the shrub category offers a great many choices.
  • Old garden roses: Often referred to as Antique roses, these roses were discovered or hybridized before 1867. The classification “old garden roses” is made up of many subclasses of roses, including alba, bourbon, China, hybrid perpetual, damask, and the species roses. Many old garden roses bloom only once during the growing season. Old garden rose aficionados enjoy the history and study of these lovely and often fragrant plants.
  • Tree roses, or standards: These aren’t included among the basic categories because nearly any rose that is grafted (or budded) onto a tall trunk is a tree rose. Most often, hybrid teas, floribundas, and miniatures are used as tree roses. These plants really aren’t even trees. Most just have that lollipop tree look, as shown in Figure 1, but are only 2 to 6 feet high. They’re wonderful either in the ground or in containers but are very susceptible to winter damage, and in cold climates, you must either bury the entire plant in the ground or bring it into a cool garage.

Figure 1: A rose trained to grow as a “tree rose” or “standard.”

When you go to a garden center to choose your rosebushes, knowing which classification of rose you want is important. The classification gives you hints about how you can use it in your garden. The variety you choose depends on your personal preference as to color, hardiness, and so on. You don’t want to plant a once-blooming old garden rose in a spot where having season-long color is important.

Rose Suckers: How to Identify and Get Rid of Them

Rose suckers are a fairly common problem.

They ‘suck’ the majority of nutrients away from the main rose bush. This weakens the main plant, sometimes to the point where it dies.

If you see suckers on your roses, you must get rid of them. However, simply cutting them off isn’t enough.

So in this article, I’m going to explain what rose suckers are, why they grow and how to identify and remove them.

Table of Contents

What Are Rose Suckers?

Rose suckers are shoots that grow directly from the rootstock of a rose bush.

They’re usually caused by frost damage or by nicking the plant with a spade or other gardening tool.

You can easily identify them as they’re long and slender, they have thorns and leaves which are different from those of the main rose bush. They often appear to grow from the soil, sometimes several feet away from the bush. Make no mistake though, they will be attached below the surface.

In nearly all cases, rose bushes that suffer from suckers are grafted, or ‘budded’.

In order to fully understand what rose suckers are, why and how they grow, it’s best to understand what a grafted rose bush is.

What is a Grafted Rose Bush?

(Click Image to Enlarge)

A grafted rose bush contains two parts of two different species of rose.

Often times the top part of a rose bush isn’t hardy enough to cope with our climate when grown on its own root system.

To get around this, the top part of the bush (the stems, leaves and flowers) are grafted, or budded onto the rootstock of an extremely hardy species of rose. This results in a rose bush that has the look and hardiness you desire.

In the image above from Treloar Roses, you can see the anatomy of a grafted rose bush. The part where the top part of the plant joins the rootstock is called the ‘Bud Union’ which often looks like a nobbly knot of wood.

It’s just under the bud union that rose suckers grow from.

3 Types of Rose Suckers

As you can see in the images above, there are three types of rose suckers.

  1. Off Root Suckers – These grow from the actual roots
  2. Above Ground Suckers – Grow below the budding union but you can see where they stem from
  3. Below Ground Suckers – Exactly the same as above ground suckers but you’ll have to remove the soil to see where they stem from

The way to deal with them is exactly the same.

Why it’s Important to Remove them as Soon as Possible

It’s important to remove rose suckers for two reasons;

  1. They’re Unsightly – Suckers grow differently and look completely different from the rest of the rose bush. They have a habit of growing tall and out of control, have a different leaf structure and colour and they don’t bud or flower. Suckers simply ruin the look of the plant.
  2. They Can Kill the Plant – If left to grow, rose sucker canes will ‘suck’ the nutrients needed for growth and development from the rose bush. This weakens the upper part of the bush, sometimes to the point where the whole thing dies.

The sooner you spot a sucker on your rose bush, the quicker you can deal with it and the healthier the bush will be.

How to Get Rid of Sucker Canes

Getting rid of rose suckers isn’t difficult, you just need to know how to do.

Like everything, however, there is a right way and a wrong way. Choose the wrong way and you’ll make the problem even worse.

So let me start by telling you how NOT to do it.

How NOT to Remove Suckers From Your Roses

Many people try to remove sucker canes by cutting them with a pair of secateurs.

Don’t do this.

Simply pruning rose suckers will only encourage them to grow back with more vigour.

In order to get rid of them and prevent them from growing back, you need to be bit more brutal.

The Correct Way of Removing Rose Suckers

If you follow these steps, you’ll get rid of the sucker cane and prevent any more from growing back.

Step 1: Dampen the Soil

Firstly, dampen the soil by watering it.

If the soil is hard and dry, digging it to reveal where the sucker is coming from will be difficult. This could result in you nicking the rootstock with your spade or trowel which will likely result in another sucker.

Dampening the soil will make it easier to dig.

If need be, dampen it over the course of a few days.

Step 2: Reveal Where the Sucker is Coming From

Dig the soil back to reveal where the sucker has sprouted from.

If possible, get a pair of gloves on and dig the soil by hand. Like I said, nicking the rootstock with a trowel or spade could result in more suckers being produced.

Digging by hand will ensure this doesn’t happen.

Step 3: Twist and Pull to Remove the Sucker Cane

Once you have revealed where the sucker is attached, break it off by twisting and pulling it.

You’ll need to wear a decent pair of gardening gloves to protect your hands from any thorns on the sucker cane.

The idea being the twisting and pulling is to damage that joint to the point where the sucker can’t recover.

Step 4: Seal the Wound

When you have removed the sucker, seal the damaged area with a tree wound sealer to protect it from ingress of disease.

I like Bayer Garden’s Arbrex Seal & Heal.

Simply paint it on to the affected area.

Step 5: Replace the Soil

Now you have removed the sucker and protected the damaged area of the rootstock, just replace the soil to cover the area.

Removing a sucker from a rose should really only take a matter of minutes. That said, it’s time well spent!

Removing Rose Suckers – Tips On How To Get Rid Of Rose Suckers

When you hear the word suckers, the first thing that comes to mind is most likely that sweet treat enjoyed from childhood. However, in the rose bed, suckers are ornery growths that spring out of the hardy rootstock of grafted rose bushes, just below the grafted knuckle union. Keep reading to learn more about sucker growth on roses.

What is a Sucker on a Rose Bush?

A grafted rose bush consists of the above-ground rose bush you desire and the below-ground rootstock. The above-ground portion is typically not hardy enough to survive in all climatic conditions. Thus, it is grafted (budded) onto another rose that is extremely hardy so that the overall rose bush is capable of surviving in most climates.

A truly great idea this was and is! But like all great ideas, it seems there is at least one drawback that must be dealt with. The drawback, in this case, would be rose bush suckers. The hardy rootstock most often used in the United States is Dr. Huey. Japanese rose (R. multiflora) or Fortuniana rootstock in the Southeastern United States are also popular. Any of these may get overzealous and decide not to support their new grafted companion, sending up vigorous growing canes, which we call “suckers.”

Removing Rose Suckers

Sucker canes will, if left to grow, suck the majority of nutrients necessary for good growth and performance from their grafted counterparts, weakening the upper part of the bush – many times to the point that the upper portion dies. This is why removing rose suckers as they sprout is important.

Sucker canes will usually take on a totally different growth habit from the rest of the rose bush. They will grow tall and a bit wild, much like an untrained climbing rose. The leaves on the sucker canes will differ from the leaf structure and sometimes vary a bit in coloration too, with few to no leaves. Rose bush suckers typically will not set buds or bloom, at least in the first year of their growth.

If a sucker cane is suspected, take a closer look at it and follow the cane down to the base of the plant. Grafted roses will have a bit of a knuckle at the grafted union. If the cane is growing out of the top part of that knuckle union, it is likely the desired rose bush. If the cane is coming from below ground and underneath the knuckle union, however, it is most likely a true sucker cane and needs to be removed ASAP.

How to Get Rid of Rose Suckers

To remove rose suckers, follow them down as far as possible, moving some soil back to the point where it connects to the rootstock. Once you have found the point of connection, prune the sucker cane off as close to the rootstock as possible. Seal the area of the cut with either some Tree Wound Sealer, which is a tar-like product. Note: the spray-on sealers are not good enough for this. The cut can also be sealed with white multi-purpose Elmer’s Glue or the white Tacky Glue from craft stores. If you use the glue, let it dry well before moving the garden soil back in place.

Not pruning back far enough only allows them to grow right back. The rootstock may continue to send up more that need to be dealt with in the same manner. Some will continue to have this problem for the entire life of the rose.

If you have a rose bush that comes back from its winter nap but does not seem to have the same growth pattern it had previously, it is highly likely that the desired upper part of the grafted rose died and the hardy rootstock bush has taken over. In such cases, it is best to dig it out and plant another rose of the same kind that you had there or plant another one.

Wild roses and the old heritage type roses are not grafted roses. The rose bushes grown from cuttings are grown on their own root systems. Thus, whatever comes up from the root system is still the desired rose. The good news is that many of the newer rose bushes are grown from cuttings and do not produce sucker canes.

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