How to Grow Own Roots Roses

How to Grow Own Roots Roses

Own Roots Roses are very difficult to grow. Most of what you will read online about how to grow own roses will not help you at all. The basic principles of rose growing apply to own roots roses, but there are a few more things that you need to know. The first thing being do not plant “the bands” which are the bareroots into the ground at once unless you have a perfect climate and perfect conditions. If you live somewhere like Santa Monica, California you may be ok with planting them in the ground. The reason to plant them in pots is so you can move them away from hot sun which is a killer of bareroots roses. Do not let them dry out in the hot sun, but over watering can kill them. The water makes the roots rot. In an effect to protect from hot sun you can end up killing them. I would suggest moving the pots into a greenhouse or even into the house to protect from the combination of hot sun plus over watering.

Once the rose is more than one year old, and or looking strong and healthy, then you can consider planting the rose into the ground. You will need an ideal location for the own roots rose. Own roots roses like morning sun and afternoon shade. Unlike own roots roses, grafted roses can take hot sun if you give them enough water.

You need to dig a planting hole much larger then the roots of the rose. Dig as large a hole as you can without hurting your back. Dig a tree planting size hole and fill that with healthy soil, and you can also mix in some of your native soil in with the store bought soil, but not too much. Adding some native soil will help the plant. But, if your native soil is poor, do you add too much. In some parts of the country native soil is very healthy. If you native soil is loam, you can mix in as much as 50 percent native soil. If your soil is poor mix in only 30 to 20 percent native soil. If you use too much poor native soil you may notice ,when you water, that the water is only staying on the top of the ground and not getting to the roots. Test the soil by digging a small way down and see how damp the soil is after watering. If the soil is still dry two inches down, you have a problem and you will need to dig up the plant, mix in more healthy soil and start again. The plants dislike being dug up, so you should avoid this by starting with health soil. You can also use homemade compost in the planting hole to amend the soil, but don’t put compost into pots as it is too rich for potting plants.

Even if the roots of your rose never grow beyond the planting hole, a larger hole will help to create good drainage. Your potting mix should be high quality. When you dig the hole to plant your own roots rose into the ground, you will need to amend the soil to a high level. If your soil is mostly hard clay you need to replace most of it with bagged soil such as a rose mix or other brands of high quality soils with good ingredients. Good ingredients consist of forest type woods and peat moss, and maybe a few quality ingredients such a perlite or a wetting agent. You can also make your own healthy soil by mixing healthy ingredients yourself, but it won’t save you any money unless you are buying the ingredients in bulk like for a full-scale farm. Own roots roses have more delicate and sensitive roots then grafted roots roses. Remember that grafted roots roses which are most of the roses that one can normally find at any garden center or big box store have very tough roots because they are grafted into the roots stocks of very hardy roses such as Fortuniana, Manetti, Dr. Huey or Multiflora. Multiflora is often used on Knock Out or other easy care roses and is more likely to get Rosette virus. Rosette virus can be spread by mites which bite an infected rose and then travel to a health rose and infect it. Own Roots Roses are free from viruses when you buy them, but can still pick up a virus from mites or by pruning and cutting tools that cut an infected rose and then cut a health rose. You should use bleach to disinfect your tools, and do not plant your roses nearby locations of wild patches of Rose Multiflora.

Rosa multiflora
Rosa Multiflora growing in The Anderson Valley

Don’t be fooled by terms like mycorrhizal fungi in bagged soil mixes. Mycorrhizal fungi is not good for a potting mix. Mycorrhizal fungi can be created in a healthy soil long-term, but there is no magic bullet for your soil. Just buy the best quality potting soil you can afford without too many ingredients. Some soils throw in everything, but the kitchen sink.  I made those same mistakes when I was first starting to garden. My soil was native and I thought the more ingredients I used the better. If I read any kind of advice online about soil, I would add it. Banana peels, eggshells, lime, Epsom salt, or whatever. I would buy add it, and my soil became like a messy closet without organization or goals. When you amend soil you need to know what your soil needs before you start. Simple is better. You can always add more of something but you can’t remove things you added. Add a small amount first and see how the plants do.

Some bagged soil have so many ingredients that they become too rich for the young plant roots, for example bat guano, rock dust (rock phosphate), and kelp will be burn the roots of own roots roses. Non Organic Potting mixing sometimes have too many chemical fertilizers which can burn the delicate roots. Chemical Lawn fertilizer is very harsh and it can burn your lawn and the roses that grow near it. Even Organic natural fertilizers can burn plants if you add too much of them. Organic Planting Mixes can have too many natural fertilizers like blood meal or bone meal. Blood meal is an animals product, and so is bone meal. Blood meal can have too much nitrogen that creates burning. Bone Meal can raise the PH of the soil too much. I once added bone meal to help flowering, and all the flowers on my asian magnolia turned brown that year. I also never buy soils that have chicken or steer manure because these mixes are too high in sodium and they are very cheap to produce. Cheap potting soil is like junk food for your plants. It usually has a lot of manure and straw. Using cheap ingredients may work for planting crops in a field on a farm, but it’s not good for small gardens that grow ornamental plants. They may survive a junk food diet, but they won’t be very healthy.  Don’t buy mixes with added lime. Most soils are too alkaline and need more acid. This is at least true in California. Neutral soil is ph 7, but 6.5 is the best range for roses. There are very few soils that need added lime. Those soils are mostly located in pine forests. You can test your soil, but sometime those tests don’t really work. You can spend a lot of money to have your soil tested by a lab, but is it worth the money and effort? Different parts of your yard may have different soil ph and so you need to test many parts of your yard soil. Since chemical fertilizers like Miracle Grow are composed of salts they will raise your PH. Most people use them every year. If you don’t have a lot of rain in the winter to flush out the salt, those salts can build up.  This is why drought can hurt your garden in more ways then just lack of water. Always read the labels on products you buy for your garden and think about what you are applying.

You will have to baby your own roots roses along, and if you are working full-time, you will not have enough time to attend to their needs. Own roots roses are good for expert gardeners or retired people. If you have a harsh climate you may have to keep them in pots forever, but they look great as patio plants in pots. A harsh climate is almost everywhere in the USA. If it snows in the winter you have a harsh climate. If summers are hotter than 100 degrees that is also a harsh climate. If there are strong winds you should protect them with wind breaks.

abracadabra rose
Abracadabra Rose growing on Own Roots

Don’t Believe the Hype
You may see the following online about own roots roses: “The first year they sleep; the second year they creep; the third year they leap!” But, this is not true. If you can get own roots roses to survive past the first year, they may grow slowly or quickly. It depends on which variety of own roots rose you buy.  If you buy Mr. Lincoln, a very hardy rose, he will do better than Sterling Silver a very weak rose. I tried Sterling Silver as an Own Roots rose, but it died in the summer heat. I should have brought it inside the house, but air conditioning is not good for roses either. It is hard to know what to do. Heat kills quickly. Cold and salt are rose foes. If you have snow you can cover your roses with straw or with buckets and straw. Jerry Baker has many good ideas for roses and winter protection. I don’t have snow in my zone 9, so I don’t really know what to do with snow. In some places the roads are salted in the winter. This salt can come into your soil and kill your roses. If you think they will salt in front of your house, grow your roses only in back. Roses can do well in containers which you can move away from any peril. Mr. Lincoln is an awesome rose with huge red flowers. I bought him at Kmart because he was cheap and he had a huge flower. Rose File Com is a large rose website that is non commercial. The grower Steve, started by growing his roses in Texas and then he moved to New Jersey. He took notes on how his roses did in both climates.  About Mr. Lincoln he wrote

Mr. Lincoln – died for no evident reason

I have to wonder if Mr. Lincoln is often infected with virus because he is sold everywhere and very cheaply. Mr. Lincoln is a great red rose if you can find him virus free. If I was growing just one more Own Roots Rose, I would try Mr. Lincoln as Own Roots Roses do not come with viruses. The virus come from the root stocks which are infected, and need to all be destroyed and grown again virius free to protect the future of roses.

UC Davis did some research on keeping virus infected roses at 100 degrees day and night. The study showed some promise in killing the virus. The reason I kill any rose in my garden that I think has a virus is I worry about infecting my non infected roses. At this time, I do not seen any signs of virus on my current roses. Roses with mosaic virus will still grow fine and there is no reason to kill them unless you are worried about infecting your other roses. I stopped buying roses at places that have shown me to have mosaic virus in the past. But the choice is up to you. However, Rosette virus is fatal and you have to destroy any roses infected with Rosette. I would have bought a new Mr. Lincoln, but I found another rose called Let Freedom Ring which looks just like Mr. Lincoln, but the flowers are a little smaller. I don’t wish to grow both Let Freedom Ring and Mr. Lincoln as they look very similar.

Another Hype about Own Roots Roses is that they live longer then grafted roses. This is also not true. Own Roots Roses would only live longer then grafted roses, if the grafted roses had a virus. I would like to see a side by side test of two roses of the same time to see which lives the longest. The test would take a virus free Mr. Lincoln Own Roots and a virus free grafted Mr. Lincoln them side by side and test their life spans. I think the grafted rose being tougher and less likely to succumb to bad weather would live the longest. Each rose would need to receive equal amount of nurturing and the same soil and conditions for the test to be a fair test. I don’t like to read about fake claims for Own Roots Roses because I don’t like scams. I always look for evidence and run garden test before I believe claims about plants. I also keep notes from my garden. I started keeping notes in a notebook in the 90s. In 2003, I starting using computer files to keep garden notes. Notebook are ok, but it is hard to find particular information in a note-book. Keep your notes in documents so you can search for info by plant using the indexing of your computer.  I see paper notebooks as a quaint way to keep notes from the past. Note books can be romantic, but are not practical. Keeping notes about what you planned each season helps keep from making the same garden mistake more than once. You will remember when you planted each plant and how it died. Store your garden notes in the cloud in case your computer crashes, and your house and back up are destroyed by fire or flood. Even if all is destroyed, the photos and notes you saved in the cloud will help you create your new garden.

Sterling Silver is considered one of the weakest roses, but I like him because of his lovely color. I have grown Sterling Silver three times. I am now growing Sterling Silver on grafted roots. I found a shady location for him. He has to be sprayed for fungal.

sterling silver own roots

I bought Mr. Lincoln at Kmart, but he turned out to have Rose mosaic virus, and I had to destroy him. Sometimes roses with Rose mosaic virus can grow ok, but I was worried about inflecting the other roses, that I had bought at a better nursery with mosaic virus.

Rose Mosaic Virus
Rose Mosaic Virus leaves from Mr. Lincoln which I purchased at Kmart on 4/2/2016

Stores in which I would not recommend buying roses are Walmart, Kmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s or any home improvement stores, Rite Aid or any drug store or grocery store. If you notice wax on the end of the canes of bare roots roses, this done to stop the roses from growing and allow to last longer in cold storage. But, the longer the rose remains wrapped in plastic and not growing and soil the weaker it becomes. I have never had a rose with wax on it live. But, if you are not very fussy and you are not going to work hard on your roses, there is no harm in buying from a big box stores. Just try your luck. I got one rose from Lowes that did well, and one that had a virus and died. It’s a gamble. In 2002 I bought a Peace Rose at Kmart for bare root for only $1.99 and it lived a long time and was a great virus free rose. In the past these virus were not so common? I have had hostas die of hosta virus, and hydrangeas that are infected, from even good nurseries. This year, I found some crocus in my garden had a virus as well.  My cannas show signs of yellow stripping on the leaves that may be a virus.

Don’t believe the sites that tell you that own roots roses are more cold tolerate then grafted roses, because they are not. Roses grafted on Dr. Huey will be the best choice for cold climates. They also mention that the rose will never come back as Dr. Huey in cold weather, but even worse in cold weather with snow, the rose may not come back at all. Most of these site saying Own Roots Roses are the best thing since sliced bread are selling Own Roots Roses. Also they can still get a virus once planted in your garden.  Most reputable rose growers no longer use virus root stocks to graft roses. But, stores big box stores that sell roses at discount prices have viruses. The next time you go to big box store look carefully at the roses they sell. You will notice signs of Rose mosaic virus on the lower leaves. These leaves are yellowed in a mottled pattern.

The types of roses that do well on Own Roots are fairly hardy to begin with. Some are carpet type roses, shrub roses that are not grafted hybrid tea roses. These smaller hardier roses are never grafted at all, so it is no special surprise about them living well on their own roots. Right now, the Jackson & Perkins website seems to have a good selection of own roots roses. I like Rogue Valley because they give you a lot of own roses at a low price. I like Angel Gardens in Florida because they have a reasonable price.

If you have the own roots roses shipped to you in a pot with soil, it will cost you a lot more, but be more likely to survive. There are all kind of regulations involving the shipping of plants with soil on the roots because of soil borne diseases. Often only bare roots are allowed to be shipped. A bare roots rose is a rose that is dug up, stripped of all its smaller hair like feeder roots and then wrapped up in plastic and mailed to you. The rose has already been injured, and so the chances of it coming back to life are not that great. This goes so even more with weaker own roots roses. The ideal way to grow own roses would be to clone them yourself, so they don’t have to be stripped or go into shock when being shipped. But, cloning roses is not something I know anything about, and I know it is not as easy as rooting a plant in water until it grows roots. Often shipping can be expensive. I would rather buy from local dealers if possible and help support them. I live near a good rose nursery called Kings in Santa Rosa. Regan Nursery sells roses in Fremont.  Regan Nursery has a list of new roses that come out each year. I like to look at the list, and see what’s new. Most new roses are here today and gone within a few years. Think of them as limited editions. Only a smaller number of roses survives the test of time. It’s easy to learn the names these common roses that you can find almost everywhere. The biggest names in Roses are Peace and Mr. Lincoln.  I have grown them both. Can you think any others? Leave a comment here.

joyfulness rose
Joyfulness is a hard to find rose, so I bought it on Own Roots

Joyfulness did well at first, but then died. You can see in this photo how there is no graphed root portion and the leaves simple come out of ground on small stems.

mystery rose
The unknown Mystery Rose was the only Own Roots Rose that survived planted in the ground

To sum up: easy come easy go with own roots roses. Don’t pay too much for them, because they are not likely to live. I would suggest buying them in bulk, and hoping that some of them will survive, rather than spending 40 dollars on just one own roots rose. Everyone who grows roses should try an own roots rose at least once. Own Roots roses are becoming more easy to find and buy as time goes on.

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