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Roses are plants, too!

When Planting Roses; Bury The Bud Union

One of the older roses in my garden with lots of canes to anchor the base
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses
One of the older roses in my garden with lots of canes to anchor the base
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses

One of the most often asked questions I get is: When I’m planting a budded (or grafted) rose should I bury the bud union?

YES!

I don’t care where you live, what your climate is or what your neighbor says.  Always bury the bud union on a grafted rose.  Why?  Two words.

Wind Rock.

This happens when winds coming blowing through your garden and the tops of your roses start whipping back and forth.  Down at the base they are also affected by the winds, and if the bud union is too far out of the ground they start rocking down to their roots.  This loosens the soil and could tear the smaller roots.

Loosening the soil means air could get down there and dry the roots out.  Tearing small roots can impair the plant’s ability to take up nutrients and water.  Worst case scenario the plant itself could completely tip over and rip out of the ground or break off.

Budded roses generally have a long stem between where the roots flare out and where the canes flare out.  If you plant the bud union (where the canes flare out) above the ground then the only thing supporting that entire plant is that long stem.  It’s too thin and can’t do it.

By burying the bud union, the area where the canes flare out is below the ground.  So at soil level the plant has three, five or more canes to anchor it when those winds come howling.

And that prevents wind rock and potential damage to your roses.

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Comments

  1. Rosarian 02/10/2011

    HI Paul. Being in the cold part of the country for roses(Ontario,Canada),I tend to plant all my grafted roses with the bud union between 4-6 inches below ground.
    I do no other winterizing in our rose beds.

    Cheers

    Bill

  2. viktoriamullin 02/28/2011

    Hi Paul, thank you for the very useful topic. I've been growing my garden roses for 7 years, and once read that it is better to keep the rose bud union above the ground, I do it with all my 15 rose bushes. They are all different kinds of roses, so, now I'm a little bit puzzled what and which ones to bury.

  3. PFZimmerman 02/28/2011

    Hi viktoriamullin

    Bury them all regardless of which kind of rose it is. The old thinking was keeping bud union above the ground and that is rapidly changing.

  4. JefferD 03/09/2011

    What I like about burying the bud union is the chance that the the grafted rose will send out its own roots and the rootstock will die away. I have a couple HTs that are now own root.
    Cheers!
    Jeff

  5. rose_hunter 04/04/2012

    I had 6 grafted roses, all with the bud union above ground, & all died over the winter in spite of being protected with straw & having an abnormally warm winter. All of my roses on their own root stocks are thriving! We are in a valley & are subject to greater temperature changes during the day than people on hill tops. IF YOU LIVE IN A VALLEY BURY THE BUD UNION!

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  7. winbx 04/15/2013

    Hi Paul,

    I got some rose plants by mail. On one, where the bud union is, one graft is broken off (it has three separate grafts). Can I still plant this rose plant. If I can plant it, should I use some sort of chemical to cover the exposted part of the bud union, where the graft has broken off? Please help!

  8. PFZimmerman 04/30/2013

    Hi There,

    Sorry I didn't see this sooner. Yes, you can plant the rose and I would advise getting something to seal that wound. The same stuff you would use when you cut a tree limb. Garden Centers will have it.

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  11. Rrowe13 09/25/2013

    Hi Paul, so now I have a few hybid tea roses in a raised bed and the bud union is above ground. They were planted about 9 or 10 yrs ago as bare roots. Do I dig them up and bury them deeper? And if so when is the best time to do this? I am in NJ zone 6. Winter? After first flush? I dont get blooms as nice as I used too.

    Thanks,
    Rachel

  12. PFZimmerman 10/03/2013

    Hi Rachael,

    As the plants are 9-10 years old I wouldn't change anything at this point. From what you are saying it sounds like they may be wearing out naturally and you might think about replacing them. At that point you can bury the bud unions on the new ones.

  13. philomenamaria 05/19/2016

    Hello,
    I was hoping I could ask anyone a question about planting roses.. I'm
    getting conflicting information so i'm unsure. I live in central
    Florida. I include a picture of what I have for reference.. a Rio Samba
    rose plant. I notice in your article here you suggest burying the rose union. I've seen many suggestions to do
    this but the nursery where I got it is telling me to just plant it so
    the root ball is level with the ground.. Typically I trust him and I
    tried this but it seems just wrong the way it is now.. my root stock
    from the root ball to the bottom of the union is 4".. from root ball to
    top of union is 6".. so it's sticking out of the ground that far.. I
    would feel better about putting it so the union is at least at ground
    level.. anyone.. I would appreciate direction as i'm new to planting..
    never done a rose before..

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