Certain types of roses are preferred for use as rootstocks, meaning they become the foundation plants for grafted rose buds that are usually of a less hardy variety. To graft a rose, a small piece containing the bud is cut from the cane, or the large rose stem. This bud is attached to the rootstock of the host rose. Once the wound heals, the grafted rose will be the variety that blooms. The type of rose used as rootstock depends on climate, length of budding season and the adaptability of the variety in question.
California celebrates the rose each New Years Day with the Tournament of Roses Parade. Dr. Huey roses are the most commonly used rootstock in this state. This variety has a longer budding season, meaning that it effectively transports nutrients to the grafted rose until well into the fall. Dr. Huey roses are also easy to propagate, making more rootstock available. The plant is also adaptable to a wider range of soils and climates, and tends to ship well. Mildew is an issue with Dr. Huey roses, but the problem is confined to the rootstock and does not affect the grafted rose. The blooms are dark red and tend to have about 15 petals. This variety has been around since 1914.
The rose of choice for rootstock in Florida and other parts of the Southeast is the fortuniana or double Cherokee. This variety is drought resistant, having an extensive root system that spiderwebs out from the plant to draw up any available water. Fortuniana is also resistant to nematodes, a garden pest common in Florida. Discovered in 1850 by English plant expert Robert Fortune, fortuniana is a climbing rose with large white blossoms. This rose adapts easily to many types of soils but is intolerant of the cold. Freezing temperatures can severely injure the plant's tissues and/or kill the rose outright.
Sporting small white blooms the multiflora is a prolific rose variety found throughout many parts the United States. It is so hardy that it grows wild in open pasture, forests and even along highways, earning it a spot on the Plant Conservation Alliance's invasive plant list. Multiflora is a native of eastern China, Korea and Japan. It is commonly used for rootstock in colder climates including Canada because of this hardiness and can tolerate damp, cool conditions and acidic types of soil. Multiflora establishes its root system quickly, something that is needed in the shorter growing seasons in the north.