What Is a Sucker on a Rose Bush?

Written by mary beth magee
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What Is a Sucker on a Rose Bush?
(leonexis: Morguefile.com)

When your favourite yellow rose bush is suddenly displaying a branch of deep pink blooms, prepare to do battle with a sucker, a branch from the root of the rosebush. Remove the offending shoot or risk allowing it to overwhelm the rest of the bush over time.

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Significance

Branches that grow from the root of the rose bush rather than the base of the bush are suckers. A vigorous sucker will take nourishment away from the main bush.

Rootstock

Demand for many rose varieties surpasses the ability of growers to reproduce the rose from cuttings. "Most roses that are purchased commercially have been bud grafted onto selected pre-prepared rootstocks" says Irene Roth in Rose Magazine. The rootstocks are the "base of the plant onto which the variety of rose is grafted. Some common rootstocks are Dr. Huey, Multiflora, and Rosa Canina." When the rootstock of a bush sends out a branch, the branch is a sucker. Any blooms on the sucker reflect the genetic root, not the grafted upper bush.

Own-root

Spot new branches coming from the soil, away from the main body of a rose bush. Those are suckers, also. A rose propagated through cuttings or seeds, rather than grafting onto rootstock is considered a root rose or own-root rose. Root roses can have suckers from their own roots. Rugosa roses are particularly susceptible to own-root suckers.

Pruning

Search for and remove any suckers growing from your plant. Trace the sucker to where it is begins on the root and sever it from the plant. Cut it at ground level and the sucker will grow back. If left alone, it will suck vital nutrients from the host plant and hinder its growth process.

Prevention/Solution

Berkeley Horticultural Nursery suggests planting grafted roses with the bud union (where root stock and graft join) 2 inches under ground.

Considerations

Plant a sucker, when it is available, as a method of propagating a rose bush. The sucker already has roots and so eliminates the need to root or graft cuttings.

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