Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Don’t let rose suckers sap energy from the parent plant

The summer can bring many pleasures for gardeners, not least of which being the full bloom of many pretty flowers. 

This can be one of the most rewarding times of year – but it is important not to get complacent, as there is still plenty of work to be done in order to maintain these plants. 

For instance, roses can be plagued by suckers – stalks that emerge from below the flower union and can produce buds of their own. 

These often come about when a rose is grafted on to a hardier root stock – an action that can make it hardier in colder climates and when the weather turns later on in the year. 

However, this can mean a sucker will emerge from the exact point where the rose is grafted onto the new root. As the extra growth is growing from this part of the plant, it will not usually bloom like the top part of the rose bush. 

Despite this, they will continue to sap energy from the rose and absorb some of the nutrients that are intended for the more attractive flowers at the top. Because of this, many gardeners choose to simply remove them. 

The only way to tell if the new growth is definitely a sucker is if it is coming from below the bud growth union – although there will be many suckers with leaves that are clearly distinguishable from the rest of the plant. 

Professional gardener and writer Helen Yemm warned that there is no definitive action that can be taken to remove suckers permanently that won't also cause damage to the rest of the rose. 

In an article for UK national newspaper the Daily Telegraph, she said the best way to deal with them is to simply tear them off at the roots, which will hopefully also destroy any future growth points. 

She suggested clearing suckers until they are temporarily out of sight and returning to deal with them again when the bush starts to clear in the winter. 

However, Ms Yemm wasn't entirely concerned about suckers herself. 

"Suckers from wild rose roots tend to take over their host eventually and produce pink or white flowers – pretty enough, in a wildish garden – and although their flowering period is brief, they are often followed by lovely scarlet hips," she explained. 

"You can tell a wild rose sucker from the real rose from the moment it is produced by the colour and texture of its leaves, which are pale and matt, rather than dark and glossy," Ms Yemm continued.