Rose damage


I planted a rose bush last year. This spring it appeared like the plant died but finally a shoot appeared from the bottom of the cane. Unfortunately this growth was accidentally broken off. Will the plant produce another shoot or shall I replace the plant?




First, it is important to know whether you have an ” own-root” or “grafted” rose plant. A rose may be grown on its own root (i.e., the root and the above-ground parts of the plant are the same rose) or grafted onto rootstock (the rootstock below ground is different from the rose growing above the graft).

In the cases of grafted roses, “suckers” may grow from below the bud union (the swelling at the base of the stem where the graft joins the rootstock). As the suckers essentially come from a different plant than the rose that grows above the graft, these should be removed by tearing or ripping them from the main stem (cane).

It is not clear what type of rose plant you have – but it is possible that the “shoot” that broke off your plant may have been a sucker. If that is the case, it may be that only the rootstock survived the winter, so the plant should be replaced.

On the other hand, the “shoot” may have been your rose’s new growth, which would have bloomed true-to-form. If the plant is still alive, breaking off a shoot should not kill it. After the hard winter we’ve had, your rose may still send out a few shoots a bit later in the season, although we cannot predict this with certainty.

There are a few other “tests” you can conduct to see if the rose bush is still alive.  If there is still no new growth on the plant (which would tell you that it’s alive), try scratching the cane’s skin with a fingernail to see if it is green underneath.  If not, it’s probably dead.  And if you try bending the cane and it cracks or breaks, the rose bush is likely dead.  If the cane is still flexible, it’s probably alive.  Finally, if you prune the cane back and the inside colour is brown and brittle, it’s dead; if it’s green, it’s alive.

If you are curious and want to see if the rose bush will recover, water it well and fertilize it now (it’s June 21) with rose-specific fertilizer.

If the plant does survive (or if you plant a new rose bush), as we head into the next winter season, consider protecting the plant, e.g., see the University of Illinois Extension’s Winter Protection (roses) for suggestions.