The Q&A Archives: Dead Roses? Suckers, No Growth On Canes

Question: I checked your library of Q&A but did not see an answer regarding my question.

I have a hybrid tea rose bed on the West side of my home (about 6 hours of sun, more in the middle of summer). This spring, I replaced two of the seven roses in this bed because I did not see good growth on them. Since then, the replacements have grown fine but the remaining five either grow from one or two canes on only one side of the plant or they don't grow at all from the canes. For the ones that don't grow at all from the top of the plant, they do have suckers that grow wildly but never any growth where they are supposed to.

Based on this description, I have two main questions:
1. Are the roses with suckers but no top growth essentially dead? Will they ever come back?

2. Is the uneven growth due to too heavy of pruning in the fall and spring? (I minimally prune in fall to get them under the cones and then do heavier pruning in spring after the thaw.)

I'm thinking of scrapping the remaining five roses and starting fresh in 2001 but would hate to have that kind of investment go out the window if the roses can be saved.

Advice? Thank you in advance for your reply.

Answer: I suspect you are losing the grafted tops and seeing suckers from the root stock. Once the part of the plant above the graft is dead, only the root stock will continue to grow. As a result, you no longer have a hybrid tea rose but a bush of whatever the root stock was, instead.

Many hybrid teas are not all that winter hardy. They may be suffering from a variety of problems that could weaken them and add to decreased chances of survival. Putting the cones on too early or too late, removing them too early or too late, and so on could also contribute to winter kill.

For more detailed information about caring for hybrid teas (including pruning and winter protection) you might want to take a look at a book or two on roses. One I particularly like is "Roses for Dummies" by Lance Walheim, Dummy Press, 0-7645-5031-4.

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