How to Choose a Rose Supplier
Let the Buyer beware
AbeDarbyTrim Phot

Suppliers are listed on three pages.

Within each table suppliers are grouped by country, then arranged alphabetically by country. If you are looking for a US supplier you can click on the first letter of the name to get close:


That a supplier is listed is not an endorsement. We assume that suppliers will generally meet the needs and expectations of their customers; but we recommend that customers buying from new suppliers use some caution. More than one supplier has recently gone out of business due at least in part to some indifference they have shown to the needs of their customers. This proves two things. One is that it's vital to be responsive to customers and meet their needs and suppliers who fail in this do not survive. The other is that this is not always a task each rose supplier is necessarily completely up to.

One supplier may send huge, two year old plants that make a mountain of flowers the first year while another may send plants that are just barely rooted cuttings that will require several years of nurturing in a special spot to be as productive. Better developed roses are almost always more expensive than less well developed ones, by as much as a factor of two. Suppliers with very small catalogues who ship only popular roses may ship two year plants at a significantly lower price. Just be sure you know what you ordered.

Some suppliers are more scrupulous about avoiding rose viruses than others. Each will cater to a slightly different set of needs. The big houses may focus on pushing new introductions because that's where the big money is. The smaller ones will offer roses that have longer histories - many will be tested by time and proven to be worthwhile by that measure. They will not be the all the rage. You will not impress anyone at rose conventions, but you might find yourself with a better garden.

Choosing a Supplier

One way to start is by choosing the supplier closest to where you live. This has the advantage that the roses you buy there are, presumably, suitable for your own location. And a person new to roses can do worse than to start this way. If you choose one that is in a zone that is as warm or warmer than your own, you can be assured that bare root plants will be ready to ship when you are ready to plant them. If they are bare root, though, you also wish for them to be dormant when you are ready to plant, so the supplier cannot be too far south in this case.

If a supplier is too many USDA zones to the north of you as a customer, there is a possibility that the roses will arrive late in your planting season. This will mean that extra special care may be required to keep the roses from drying out as the weather turns warm before feeder roots are developed. This is the primary way I have lost roses; and I have lost probably four or six dozen by this means alone.

A second way is to choose cultivars one likes, then find suppliers for those. This takes more effort, but one is not so constrained in which cultivars to plant. This is a good way to proceed if one has had some success in growing roses and wishes to do some legwork. This site is built to help people do just this; assume this approach for the rest of this discussion.

Here are some issues to consider when choosing among suppliers of a cultivar.



Special Issues

The first issue that comes up is environmental tolerance. In the north, it is cold hardiness. In the southeastern and northwestern US it might be resistance to fungal diseases. Local ARS chapters can help in selecting cultivars that have the required levels of cold hardiness and disease resistance. Local suppliers should be of some help as well.

The second issue is that of rootstock. Some swear by own-root plants. Others by grafted plants. If you live where the ground freezes solid to several inches deep each year, then consider own-root plants since they will come back true-to-form each year. Hard frosts can kill grafted plants.

If you intend for the rose to be an integral part of the landscape more than 20 years hence, consider own-root roses. If you like roses that have slimmer and more flexible canes consider own-root roses.

On the other hand, if you live where the soil is poor, or are in a hurry to your plant to bear armloads of blossoms then consider grafted plants. Be aware that many rose cultivars do not grow well on their own roots, so if you insist on own-root roses your choice of cultivars might be limited.

Dr. Huey is the rootstock of most budded roses grown in the US. In Gulf Coast states there has been much work in raising roses budded to R. fortuniana rootstock. These plants have extra vigor and resistance to various soil problems unique to that region. Rootstock in Canadian nurseries is typically R. multiflora grown from seed to obviate the problem of roses acquiring mosaic virus from rootstock.

The third issue is that of viruses. Three decades ago it was widely believed that the mosaic viruses had little effect on roses, so they were ignored by propagators. As a result a huge portion of the roses propagated between then and now in the United States have been infected with the virus. It has been found peerhaps a decade ago that the virus does weaken plants, lowering resistance to disease and reducing bloom count and size. Most suppliers are now acting responsibly to minimize the problem; but some writers still estimate that half the rose plants raised in the US have a rose virus.

Own-root plants have a better chance of being virus-free, assuming the bud is from a virus-free plant. Roses budded onto rootstock grown from seed as is done in Canada will have less chance of viral infection. Try to understand how your suppliers deal with the problem.

In bare-root plants it is best to choose Number 1 field-grown plants. In potted plants there is no standard, but larger plants tend to be able to tolerate the hazards of transplant more gracefully than do small plants. Be sure to understand the supplier's size standards. Some will not commit to size; not a good sign.

If in doubt about the status of a rose, ask. Many suppliers will have a list of 'clean' cultivars. It's best to buy from that list. And if the roses are grafted, try to be sure that the rootstock is either virus indexed or else grown from seed. If you get an infected plant, there is no need to worry, for the transport of the virus from one plant to another is very unlikely, even if you do not sterilize your pruning shears.

Be aware that suppliers have vastly different cultural practices so even plants grafted onto the same root stock might behave differently. It's best to try several different suppliers early on and then to try to stick with ones that provide plants with superior performance in your own garden.

I am not in a position to endorse any suppliers. I have had very good results ordering from Antique Rose Emporium, David Austin Roses, Edmunds' Roses, and Vintage Gardens Roses; but have ordered little from few other suppliers.

Americans buying roses from overseas will need to obtain an import permit. And you will have to sequester them for a year. If you have less than about two acres of land, it's not a practical idea. Contact your local agricultural extension service for details. Allow a minimum of 16 weeks for this process to work itself out before placing an order.

Roses for Every Garden