My rose bush has completely changed.

Asked May 13, 2013, 1:11 PM EDT

Hello, I planted a rose bush "beloved" several years ago. I did the typical mistake of putting it in the wrong place. It didn't get enough sun or circulation. I transplanted it to a better spot and didn't have any blooms that year as I expected. This year I eagerly waited. Yes rose buds and so many!. They have started to bloom and I am a bit shocked. They are completely different. They went from being a single stemmed rose to having several small blooms per stem. Does this happen? Unfortuanately I don't have any before and after photos to show you. Just wanted to know if a rose bush could completely change. I have heard that you can have shoots from the rose they grafted it from but they usually don't produce roses at all. Any ideas? They are beautiful anyway but I miss my "prize" roses. Thank you, Gwen Home

Multnomah County Oregon horticulture

3 Responses

Thank you for your question to Ask the Expert.

Did you prune your rose very hard when you transplanted it or at another time? Or, did the original canes die at some point?

It sounds like the shoots and flowers that are currently growing are from the rootstock and thus look different from the rose that you originally planted, which was grafted onto the rootstock. Are there two types of shoots and flowers growing? If you are not seeing any of the originally planted growth, then it is likely that you will not see that rose again and, if you want that type of rose, you should replant another bush in the desired location.

Please let me know if you have any questions.


HI Weston,

I took the master gardeners class back in '09. I was pregnant at the time and couldn't continue to volunteer when my daughter was born. It was the summer that I was volunteering that I noticed a problem with my rose not blooming as much. Another volunteer told me to look where the canes were coming from. If they were coming from under the graph it was most likely a cane from the grafted root. She said they often shoot up with out any blooms. Cut them back so the plant can use the energy to make flowers.

The winter before was the first winter I had pruned it back hard and of course it snowed damaging some of the canes. I was afraid to lose the whole plant so I marked the stems that flowered for future reference. I did not hard prune it when I transplanted. I left the stocks approximately 2.5 - 3 feet long. The transplanted bush grew foliage but did not flower last year. I assumed it needed to reestablish roots.

Early spring I pruned it back again. Not hard but removing branches in the middle for circulation and any canes that were reaching out into the path etc. I also used a rose fertilizer. The first rose that bloomed looked like my old blooms. All the rest are smaller and multiple. At least 2 of the canes I marked have roses on them and a few of the others that didn't bloom before have roses on them, Maybe it's split!. I know I lost some of the original canes that one winter. Without an expert here to look at it i'm not sure I can tell what happened. I don't doubt that the root plant could have taken over. I see similar looking roses in the neighborhood on unkept rose bushes. It might be to early to tell.

If I didn't prune them back enough would it cause a bushier plant? Do roses cross pollinate? How do they come up with new cultivar of roses? (if that is what you call them).

Thank you,

Gwen Home

Hi Gwen-

Roses are typically propagated asexually, so it is likely not a case of hyrbridization and a new cultivar. My guess is that the cane with your original bloom is from above the graft and the other canes are from below the graft. Some roses (ramblers) bloom on second year wood, so that might explain why you did not get flowers on some of the canes if the rootstock is a rambler type rose. Here is a good publication that explains some of the different growth patterns and pruning techniques:

If you want to send some pictures of the plant, I might be able to help further.

Regardless, if you are happy with the current rose, you could keep it and (potentially) keep the canes with the original flowers that you like. If you are not happy with it, remove the plant and start from scratch.

Please let me know if you have additional questions.