In the Garden | Penstemons will brighten your landscape

Mary Fran McClure

With spring having finally arrived, planting excitement abounds and lots of appealing roses are pleading for your purchase in local stores and online.

Before succumbing to temptation, let me share some thoughts on grafted vs. roses grown on their own rootstocks. There is more to consider beyond beautiful petal color, fragrance and a catchy name.

Why are roses grafted anyway? The answer: they are cheaper to grow, allowing a fast turn-around time. Grafting a vigorous old rose with plenty of roots to a small cutting makes a saleable plant about a year earlier than patiently waiting for a cutting to develop its own root system.

An exception is a few cultivars that exhibit exotic attributes, yet have poor disease resistance or poor rooting abilities. These thrive better grafted.

Grafted bare root roses are dug and overwintered in cold storage, then shipped dormant in late winter-early spring. Whether they’re viable or not won’t show up until a month or more after planting.

The real headache with grafted roses is suckers that often pop up near the base of the plant and can quickly take over, since they have a more vigorous root system than your above-ground beauty. In addition, freezing temperatures may kill the graft union while that protected root system survives just fine underground and next spring pops up with a wildly proliferous and unbeautiful rose bush.

With a grafted rose, as soon suckers appear near the base of the plant, dig down and cut them off as near the main stem as possible. If you only clip them off at ground level, they’ll persevere and you’ll be forever fighting those suckers.

I’ve ordered non-grafted roses from Northland Rosarium near Spokane and have been pleased. Yes, they are small and do take an added year or so to become a nice-sized rose, but it’s sure a joy to have no ongoing suckering challenges.

More than just roses, this display garden, greenhouse and nursery can be contacted at (509) 448-4968 after April 10, or go online to

Jackson and Perkins offers roses both grafted and on their own rootstocks, but I’ll bet you need to order the own-rootstock ones. Go online at or call (800) 292-4769.

Own-root roses are hardier, live longer and have a better chance of being virus free. Oh yes, and absolutely no suckering!


A WSU Master Gardeners of Chelan County column appears weekly in The Wenatchee World. Mary Fran McClure is one of four columnists featured.