The Q&A Archives: Identifying Suckers On Roses

Question: I'm having a hard time determining what is a "sucker" and if they need to be pruned. Can you give me sure tips on how to identify a sucker and what they will do to my plant if not pruned?

Answer: Hybrid roses are generally grafted onto a vigorous rootstock. The graft union is easy to identify, just follow the main stem down to the soil level. Somewhere just above the soil line you'll find a swollen area. That's the graft. If canes or stems are growing from below the graft, they should be cut down. Otherwise the vigorous rootstock sprouts will eventually overtake the grafted rose and you'll end up with something quite different than you expected. We sometimes get questions from people who swear their rose bushes have changed color over the years. What has actually happened is that the hybrid portion of the shrub has died back and growth from the rootstock has taken over. Don't allow this to happen to your shrub! Cut off those shoots that are growing from below the graft.

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