Plant Grafted Roses The Easy Way

– Posted in: Roses

Last October, when I planted some grafted roses, I explained how the graft needed to be four inches below soil level. And I pointed out how, with the roots extending a foot or more beyond the bud union, I wound up digging some pretty deep holes.

Never again! Yesterday I heard Lee Ginenthal, who owns Der Rosenmeister Nursery in Ithaca, talk about rose basics. You may remember from my visit to Der Rosenmeister that Lee specializes in cold hardy roses. He agreed that you should plant the bud union three to four inches below soil level, but he pointed out that you don’t have to plant the roots straight down.

Not Straight Down, But Sideways

Instead, you plant the shrub at an angle, with the graft at the proper depth and the roots angling downwards, but more horizontally than vertically. (Those of you who plant tomato seedlings at an angle so that the stem is buried up to the first set of leaves will immediately know what I am talking about.) This means you will be digging an especially wide hole instead of an especially deep hole, which most folks find easier to do. It may also mean temporarily relocating other plants and replanting them over the buried rose roots, if your beds are as crowded as mine are.

Buy A Lopsided Shrub

pink roses and catmint (nepeta)

Click to enlarge

If you use this method to plant grafted roses, then when you go shopping for one, you don’t want a shrub that branches evenly on all sides. You want one of the lop-sided ones where all the growth seems to be growing in one direction. When planting the rose sideways, you will be able to take advantage of that lopsidedness by positioning the growth so that it all points upward. Another advantage of planting sideways is that more of the roots will be in the most fertile and aerated layer of the soil. Lee also said that eventually the grafted rose will root at the graft and the rootstock will die off, giving you, in essence, an own-root rose after three to four years.

Learn More From Lee at Der Rosenmeister’s Blog

I learned a lot from his talk and you can learn from him, too. Lee has started blogging and his posts are very informative. He told me that he has a completely revamped website in the works, so stay tuned!

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

When dealing with frost it is always best to be paranoid. In the spring never think it is too late for one more frost to come. And in the fall never think it too early.

~Rundy in Frost

Comments on this entry are closed.

Alistair March 3, 2011, 9:26 am

Hello Kathy, Well we are always learning something new. A few years ago here in the Uk we were told to have the Rose graft above ground when planting. In more recent years the information is to have the graft just below ground level. This I have been doing for some time now, I am going to have difficulty getting my head round this method which you talk of today in spite of its reputable source. I will wait and watch with great interest.

Kathy Purdy March 3, 2011, 9:47 am

Alistair, Lee did mention that in the past it was thought that if the bud union was buried, the grafted rose would die. We now know this is not the case. The primary reason for burying the bud union 3-4 inches deep is to protect it from what you would consider (and many here in the States would agree with you) extreme cold. Follow the advice for your climate; I bet many southern rose growers here would agree that just below ground level is just right.

David Warren March 3, 2011, 8:40 am

Trees also are better planted in a wide mound than in a deep hole….., which I learned after digging deep holes, with pick, digging bar, and shovel through shallow topsoil through shallow soil and clay , to plant grafted fruit trees . This was on land where the volunteer, naturalized pears were thriving in the shallow soil over the hard-pan, getting wider benefit from the rains without drowning in the holes – where no moisture may penetrate in a dry season. My own solution was to graft onto the resident pears. The resulting trees grow much faster than the planted ones. I have planted my blueberries in mounds, as I would also with trees. Unless the topsoil is very deep.

Kathy Purdy March 3, 2011, 8:54 am

You are right: scientists have found that most tree roots remain in the top foot of soil, and spread beyond the crown of the tree. The “new” wisdom also says you should not amend the soil at planting time, but rather use an organic mulch that will improve the soil from the top down. However, if you remove as many good-sized rocks from a planting hole as I do, you will need to add something to the backfill to insure you have enough to fill the hole back up, even with the newly buried roots taking up some of the room.

Layanee March 3, 2011, 7:26 am

Very interesting. I will give this a try the next time I buy a rose or two.

Gail March 2, 2011, 8:27 pm

Kathy, This is really great information! Thank you Lee Ginenthal and thank you for sharing it with us. Nice to know that the graft will root and lessen the chance of the rootstock growing up into the rose. gail