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Sunday - October 07, 2007

From: Carmine, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Shrubs
Title: Care for heritage roses
Answered by: Barbara Medford and Joe Marcus


Dear Mr. SmartyPlants, I took some cuttings from an antique rose my grandmother had.I had good luck , had some of them grow for me. Some of them have blooms and others are long and lanky stems but no blooms. IS there a male and female rose bush??? Or what do I do to get them to bloom??? I live in Fayette Co, Texas. Thank you for your help.


How wonderful to have the heritage of roses from your grandmother's garden. It is puzzling that some are doing well, and some are not. There are several possibilities to consider. First, even though this was an "antique" or heirloom rose, it may still have been grafted onto the root stock of another rose. Root stock is often a very tough, old variety of rose, of which the major advantage is the toughness. It may not be a "blooming profusely" rose. Rose grafting has been done for a very long time to increase the vigor of weak-growing, but otherwise desirable roses. The problem here would be the location from which you removed the cuttings. If you took the cuttings high on the bush, you would have gotten clones of the hybridized rose, with its desirable qualities. If you took it from sprouts low on the rose, near the ground, you might very well have clones of the older, tougher, not so desirable rose. Many of the "antique" roses are on their own root stock, and therefore there is no danger of accidentally cloning the wrong rose.

The second possible answer is the location in which each bush is growing. A rose needs a lot of sun and good air circulation. A clue to this is your use of the phrase "long and lanky stems". In most plants, that is a sign that it is not getting enough light and air. Roses getting too much shade or too crowded are susceptible to mildew and black spot, enemies of a healthy rose.

Finally, there are rose viruses which can cause some of the problems you mentioned. The good news is that they will not spread from plant to plant. The bad news is there is no reliable cure, as the virus is in the plant, and will go to the clones of the plant. Usually, unless they are severely affected, they will continue to bloom and do no harm. One story we have often heard, but don't know of any scientific evidence to this effect, is that you cannot plant a rose in soil where another rose has grown, because it will leave the virus behind to infect the new rose roots. Again, true or false? We don't know, but probably would prefer to plant something not from the Rosaceae family in dirt where a rose had once grown.

Lovely though they are, roses and their related plants in the Rosaceae family are prone to fall victim to many problems, more so than just about any other group of plants. Here is a link to a website that lists the problems and possible treatments that have been found over the years.

Every rose flower is "perfect" in the botanical sense. That is, it has a full complement of both male and female parts.



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