Rose suckers - what they are and
how to get rid of them.
Most garden roses have been budded on to a vigorous
rootstock system, which to all intents and purposes is not seen and is not
generally visible as part of the plant.
The exception is if the rose was
planted a little high in the soil, or if there has been some erosion of soil
around the root system. In this case, a brown 'stub' can be seen at the
bottom of the bush, protruding from the soil. (The rootstock is from one of
the vigorous Briar type wild roses, and has no other purpose than to support
the choice rose which is budded onto it.)
Increasingly, roses are being grow by other
methods - which do away with the rootstock - and also the
It is from this root stock that rose suckers can emerge.
The suckers are simply stems forming from the vigorous rootstock. These
suckers are much more vigorous than the cultivated rose, and will soon rob
the choice rose of its food supply unless dealt with.
The new basal growth of rose stems also emerge from the rootstock, but from
With bus roses, the suckers emerge from ground level or
below. With standard roses, suckers are sometimes seen emerging from the
The dark stem at ground level is the
rootstock. It is from this rootstock, and the rest of the root system that
Suckers normally emerge un-noticed, then suddenly seem to
shoot above the rest of the rose bush in a matter of weeks. They are quite
easily distinguished from the real rose, in that they have 7 leaflets making
up the leaf, are very thorny, and also generally have light green and
slightly ribbed foliage, as distinct from more bush roses foliage which is
glossy and a darker green with 5 leaflets making up the leaf.
The picture clearly shows the sucker growths
- seven leaflets, slightly ribbed leaves and very thorny stems.
They are best dealt with by pulling and twisting them off -
rather than cutting them with secateurs. You may have to remove some of
the soil around the root on bush roses to get at the source of the
sucker. The sucker can emerge several feet away from the main bush -
sometimes in lawn areas! Make sure that you wear thick leather gloves
for this task, for the fine thorns can prove difficult to remove from
your skin - flesh!
Suckers are generally caused by damage to the root
stock - either by forking or other cultivation damage, being scuffed if
the root system is near to the surface, or as is the case in the lawn,
where the rose has been planted near the edge and the root system gets
'scalped' with the mower.
Miniature roses and many modern roses do not suffer from
suckers, as they have been produced from cuttings rather than being budded onto
the wild root stock.
By David Hughes -