Suckered! What to do with Suckers on your Roses

About a year ago I posted an article on rose tree suckers ( ).  As I was writing the article, I had no idea that it would be so popular.  To date, I have had over 50,000 hits on this one article.  I guess a lot of you have suckers on your rose trees.

As a horticulturist, I know that roses are one of those plants that you have to say many prayers with when planting.  They die… and easily!  It doesn’t make it any better when your super-premium tea rose is grafted on to a far less superior rootstock (like Dr. Huey).  Winter comes, the tender tea rose scion dies, and next spring you have millions of small rose buds on a fast growing plant and are scratching your head and going, “huh?”

Or maybe your rose didn’t die.  Maybe you just have rose suckers that are coming up because your rose bush is going crazy?

Either way, what are you to do with all these suckers?  Thankfully, there are a few simple things you can do take care of these issues:

1.  Identifying if this is the plant you want if the suckers are the same as the main ‘mother’ plant (own root) or identify which of the canes is not a rootstock shoot (grafted).

**NOTE**: What you will have mostly found by this point is that you have a grafted rose that is having suckers rather than a own root rose with suckers.  Why?  Because there is about a 2% chance that an own root rose will sucker.  It’s not impossible, but just means that the rose has gone through some trauma and is trying to overcompensate for it by sending up multiple shoots.

2.  Use clean, sharp equipment.  Have a bucket of bleach and water (1 part bleach to 9 parts water or a 10% bleach solution) nearby so you can clean your tools as you go along and prevent possible cross contamination between individual stems or between different rose bushes.  What I have found to be very handy is to put the solution in an old milk or orange juice jug with a handle.  Cut a portion of the top out with the handle still intact so you can easily dip your tools in.  (And just make sure you don’t splash yourself or else your clothes will be a bit white!)

3.  For rose trees or roses that have been trained with a relatively bare stem near the ground that is having small suckers, cut the suckers off at a 45-degree angle about 1/4 inch above outward-facing bud.  The cut should slant away from the bud.

4.  Remove all thin, weak canes that are smaller than a pencil in diameter.

5.  For suckers that are coming up out of the ground (grafted mostly, but also for that 2% of own root), remove the growth below the soil surface. The best way is to dig down to the root where the sucker is originating and tear it off where it emerges. Cutting suckers off only encourages regrowth of several suckers where there once was one.

6.  After making cuts, it is suggested to seal the ends of the cuts to prevent the entry of cane borers. White glue works well (I use Elmer’s School Glue) as it will keep it sealed until the wound heals itself, but washes off once a good rainstorm comes.  If a precipitation event occurs too soon (within 24 hours of pruning), DO NOT reseal it, as you will now be trapping bacteria or fungal spores in that area (from the rainwater) and making a perfect habitat for their growth and destruction.




© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


4 thoughts on “Suckered! What to do with Suckers on your Roses

  1. Pingback: Suckered by Dr. Huey: A Rose Rootstock Invasion « Horticulture Talk!

  2. Pingback: Suckered Again by Dr. Huey! « Horticulture Talk!

  3. Pingback: What to Believe? Determining Fact From Fiction for Rose Pruning Advise « Horticulture Talk!

  4. I thought this post was good. Thanks for so much good information on suckers – gives me something to think about for spring if it ever arrives. I do not know who you are but definitely you’re going to a famous blogger if you are not already 😉 Cheers!

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