Garden & Home Builder, 19(6): 337-338 (July, 1914)
Roses: Are budded plants really better than own roots?

Dr. W. Van Fleet, Experimentalist, and raiser of New Roses. Now with Department of Agriculture, Rounds Up the Question:

The question of own root as against budded roses is largely a matter of the grower's ideals in rose culture. If he goes in for exhibition type flowers with their long stems and massive foliage, he will want all the help he can get from the extensive root system of the most congenial stocks on which his weak-growing varieties can be worked. He will be willing to sacrifice individuality of plant and bloom for the sake of size and vigor of individual shoots.

On the other hand the rose lover who regards his plants as individualities to be studied, humored, and coddled as well when necessary, but to be considered as a whole in every aspect, of habit, stature, leaf, branch, bud, and bloom, will likely prefer, as experience is gained, to have as many of his pets as possible develop unaided on their own root systems. Of course, there are rose varieties, and fine ones too, that do not form sufficient roots when propagated by cuttings or layers to make vigorous plants, and these are best budded, grafted or inarched on congenial stocks such as Manetti, multiflora, briar or Rosa laxa. The use of R. rugosa, R. Carolina and other species sending out long underground shoots or stolons that come to the surface some distance from the stool should be avoided for bedding and indoor roses. All rose stocks, in common use, are given to suckering from the base unless the union is deeply planted, but Manetti usually offends least in this particular and is, under ordinary circumstances, a strong and persistent grower. I have had better success with roses worked on Manetti when planted in heavy and medium soils than on any other stock yet tested. For sandy soils multiflora de la Grifferae seems well adapted, but the suckering tendency is a great nuisance though not to be compared to the trouble caused by the stolon-producing species. Rosa laxa makes a fair stock but does not show especial vigor under our climatic conditions.

A great proportion of the rose plants imported into this country are budded on dog rose or briar (Rosa canina) which generally does well in Northern Europe, but is not particularly adapted for this country as regards maintaining vigor of growth in many of the bedding roses for which it is compelled to furnish the root systems; and it certainly is a nuisance in the way of sending up suckers in late summer, just when reserve growth for the oncoming winter should be made.

The demand for big, showy plants, regardless of their lasting qualities, particularly among the dwarfer varieties of the ever-blooming sections, is doubtless the main incentive for the profuse foreign output of budded rose plants. Practically every introducer of a new variety feels it incumbent to bud or graft many thousands of his novelty on the stock that is likely to produce the rankest vegetative growth with little regard to its fitness in preserving the individuality of the plant as a whole, or its possible lack of permanence, and these over-developed monstrosities are distributed far and wide, leading often to very erroneous conclusions as to the characteristics of the variety. It would appeal that the art of cutting propagation was all but lost in certain quarters, but it is well preserved in this country and we can still procure an exceedingly wide range of rose types and varieties so propagated as to develop excellent root systems of their own, and these plants in the long run are far more likely to give satisfaction than similar ones worked on nurse plants, though more time may be needed for their full development of the former.

A bed of Hybrid Perpetuals from rooted cuttings, planted by me in 1894, still contains some of the original bushes, now almost old enough to vote, but still in fair condition, though many successions of budded plants of the same varieties have fallen by the wayside. When Teas, Hybrid Teas, Remontants, Noisettes, Wichuraiana and Multiflora climbers and a host of garden roses can be had with good roots of their own, I would unhesitatingly recommend them in place of budded or grafted plants, whether home grown or imported, unless the desire is for immediate transient effect or for the production of very long-stemmed show blooms, and for the latter purpose there are many varietal exceptions to the rule of stronger growth on profusely rooted host plants.

When, however, the grower wishes to develop a Baroness Rothschild, a Victor Hugo, or a Lyon Rose, among the bedders or a Marechal Niel under glass, he had better have the former worked on Manetti and the Niel on Cherokee or Rosa Banksia. All will root from properly selected cuttings or layers, but the subsequent growth is not always vigorous. And if he wants tree or weeping standards of Conrad F. Meyer or the new climbers, he should have them budded high on strong canes of rugosa, for while the latter is exceptionally objectionable for dwarf varieties, it can be strongly commended as a stock for tree effects. The canes seem to be longer lived than dog briars so much in favor abroad, extremely hardy as to cold and they withstand the hot suns and drying winds of our climate far better, while the root system is less given to sulks, but hustles early and late to gather plant food for the developing tops. Suckers, always an intolerable nuisance among bedding roses, are easily seen and quickly suppressed about the bare stems of the tree standards. When generously and continuously fed the rugosa stock goes far to justify the highly artificial and formal fad of tree rose effect. Rosa Carolina and R. Californica ought to be tested out for tree rose stocks in this country, the former for the North and the latter for Southern localities.

J. D. Eisele, Manager of the Nurseries, Henry A. Dreer, Inc., Pennsylvania, says:

With the many years' experience which we have had in growing roses, both on own roots as well as grafted or budded plants, we, in every instance, give preference to the budded stock,as it produces not only stronger plants, better flowers, and more of them, but, when properly planted, it is longer lived.

While there is no perceptible difference with some of the stronger-growing Hybrid Perpetual, Wichuraiana, Rambler and similar sorts, there is a vast difference in choicer and more delicate varieties. This is particularly noticeable in the Hybrid Tea class.

Not only the great percentage of Hybrid Tea roses, but also some of our choicest Hybrid Perpetuals make practically no growth when planted in the garden on their own roots, except in such favored localities for rose growing, as on the Pacific Coast and in some of the Gulf States But, even in these favored localities, not only the commercial grower but also the amateur, who has had any experience at all, gives preference to the budded tock.

The average amateur has an abhorrence for budded or grafted plants, and a greatly exaggerated fear of the possibility of wild suckers starting from the stock on which the choicer varieties are budded. This danger of suckering, while always possible, by the use of suitable types of stocks, properly prepared, is reduced to a minimum, and the occasional wild shoot which does appear is so distinct in appearance that any amateur, who is sufficiently interested to plant a choice rose, will readily recognize it and remove it as soon as it appears.

At very little cost every amateur can settle this much-agitated question for himself. Take any one or all of the following list selected at random from varieties recommended in every American catalogue as being excellent bedding or garden roses: Caroline Testout, Jonkheer J. L. Mock, Killarney, Kaiserin Augusta Victoria, Lady Ashtown, Mme. Jules Grolez, Mme. Leon Pain, Mme. Ravary, Prince de Bulgarie, General MacArthur, La France, Duchess of Wellington, My Maryland, Mrs. Aaron Ward, Lady Alice Stanley, Mrs. Wakefield Christy Miller. Secure a strong two-year-old, own-root plant from a reliable source, at the same time procuring a good two-year-old budded plant; plant the two side by side, and we are certain that, long before the season is well advanced, you will be convinced of the superiority of the budded stock and will plant only budded plants when obtainable.

J. T. Scott, Professional Florist and Commercial Plant Grower in N.Y. State, Says:

In answer to your question "Which is the better — own root or budded roses" I would, true to Scotch tradition, answer your question, at least in part, by asking another: "Why budded roses?"

The roots of the present-day Hybrid, Tea, and Hybrid Tea roses are very sparse. Some Tea roses, particularly, have but one main root and a few straggling laterals, and every one who tries to transplant roses that have been growing in one place for several years knows what poor roots they have when lifted, and how hard it is to successfully transplant them. Because their roots are sparse and wiry they naturally need a heavy, stiff soil — or as we say in horticultural parlance, "a rose soil" — and heavy feeding with various fertilizers to bring out their best qualities. Such natural soils are frequently found, and on their own roots roses flourish in it to perfection. But unfortunately all soils are not good rose soils.

Rose soils can be made, but usually the expense is greater than the thing is worth.

The roots of our wild roses, the canina, rubiginosa, etc. (which are used for budding on) are fibrous. They naturally grow on rough, gravelly, shallow, and poor grounds. They belong to a hardier race and can stand abuse and neglect. Roses that are budded on such roots can be planted in any kind of a soil and will give good results — but be it remembered that any kind of a plant responds to good treatment. Budded and grafted roses respond much quicker than own root roses do. A two-year old budded plant is bigger than a three-year old own root plant, and a young grafted plant will be larger at the age of two months than an own root plant will be at the age of six months.

I well remember the time about ten years ago when Robert Simpson, of Cliftondale, N.J., read a paper in Philadelphia before the American Rose Society on the advantages of grafted roses for greenhouse use. The largest rose growers of the country attended that meeting and almost every one of them ridiculed Mr. Simpson's theory. Every one of those men is today planting grafted roses. In less than five years they all fell in line. Mr. Simpson's story told the truth: "You get much quicker results; you do not have any more root trouble with eel worm; you can water grafted roses every day."

A prominent and successful rose grower was asked recently if he was not afraid of souring his ground by using so much water, to which he replied, "If it sours we will wash it out." Any one can water grafted roses but it takes an expert to water own root stock successfully. These are the facts that converted the skeptics, and the rule that applies to indoor roses also applies to outdoor stock. But of course there are exceptions to every rule.

Yellow roses as a rule do not take kindly to any of the stocks mentioned. Sunburst, one of the finest yellow roses, will not do well either grafted or budded. The stock and cion do not seem to agree. They do better on the Banksia stock but this is not hardy and cannot be used outdoors in our climate. Sunburst is naturally a strong grower and does well on its own roots.

The hybrids of rugosa, such as Conrad F. Meyer, Blanch de Coubert, etc., are equally as good on their own roots. Frau Karl Druschki, Gruss an Teplitz, J. B. Clark, Ulrich Brunner, and the naturally strong growing roses can all be successfully grown on their own roots.

A number of Tea roses when once established are better on their own roots. This applies to the Cochets, George Nabonnand, Belle Siebrecht, and the stronger growing varieties.

The complaints and criticisms that we hear about budded stock do not arise purely from the fact that they are budded, but from how they are budded. Much of our home grown and particularly our imported roses are budded too high. They are often budded eight to ten inches up the stem. When planting the graft or bud should be buried at least six inches below the surface of the soil, and in order to do this (with the high budding) the roots must be at least from fifteen to eighteen inches below the surface. This is much too deep.

These long stems are also continuously throwing suckers, and if unchecked arrest the growth of the true rose. It is from this that the complaints arise. If they were grafted two inches or budded three to four inches up the stem, this would be very largely eliminated.

When planted with the bud exposed to the atmosphere, as we often see, failure is a foregone conclusion. But when the bud or graft is buried six inches, the true rose forms auxiliary roots and in this way the best results are obtained.

The rule of exception applies very fully to all the Rambler rose family. They naturally are as strong stock as could possibly be used, and there is no need or reason for budding them. They are also easy to propagate, from green wood in summer or from dormant wood in early spring.

George H. Peterson, Rose Specialist of New Jersey, Writes:

My experience in growing roses covers two periods of ten years each, first as an amateur, and then as a commercial grower. As an amateur I confess that I was at first an own root theorist myself, but actual tests of budded roses of the same varieties and in the same beds with own root stock convinced me, admittedly against my will, that in theory I was wrong. Budded roses gave me more growth and flowers, and more vigor to endure the cold of winter.

As I could see it, there was but one objection, i.e. occasional suckering from the wild root; but after a little observation I could detect at a glance the wild growths and remove them quickly while young and soft. And so, while still an amateur grower, I grew to prefer budded roses to own root, and in almost every class of roses except the Hybrid Wichuraiana climbers. The wild rose stocks make much stronger, more fibrous roots, and hence increase the feeding capacity of the plant.

During my period as an amateur rosarian the three stocks most generally used were Manetti, canina, and rugosa; and, it is true, they all suckered more or less. But to-day we have a form of multiflora from Japan which has a wonderful root system, and is practically suckerless.

Of course, there is always more or less inquiry for own root plants, and to endeavor to meet this demand I have made thorough attempts to grow own root roses out-of-doors, both at home here and in North Carolina and Georgia; but even with the most thorough preparation and care, the results have been a comparative failure. Three years ago I abandoned the attempt entirely. If own root roses could be grown successfully out-of-doors it would be profitable for the commercial grower to so raise them as the method of propagation is most simple and quick, and much time would be saved.

On the Pacific coast and in the extreme south, own root roses as a rule are much more successfully grown than over the balance and greater portion of our country, but even there, properly budded roses will do still better.

Many of the very finest varieties of Hybrid Teas today are too weak of growth to be grown on their own roots, and were it not for budded plants we would have to do without them.

Part 1