Dr Huey Rootstock

Dr Huey is best known for its rootstock qualities, and perhaps for the way it will take over your beautiful grafted roses, if given the chance.

Dr Huey taking over a rose bush
Dr Huey taking over a rose bush

A Hybrid Wichurana rambler, Dr Huey was bred in 1914 by Captain George C Thomas, and introduced to the public in 1920. Very vigorous and rather prone to blackspot and fungal diseases, it has a single flush of early summer dark red to port wine colored blooms. While very few people plant this deliberately, it has become extremly common due to its habit of reverting back to the original when used as a rootstock.

Flowers are smaller semi double (averages 2-3″, 15 petals) with yellow stamens. It has long flexible canes and can be trained to climb. This is unlikely to be a rose that you would want to plant as a specimen rose in your garden. The good points (vigor and not many thorns) are outweighed by the bad points… invasive, no scent, very prone to blackspot and other diseases, and only one short flush of blooms in spring. For the rest of the year, it is little more than bare defoliated canes (blackspot will get it!) that do nothing more than suck up all the goodness in the soil that could be used for growing something decent.

Dr Huey flower
Dr Huey flower

Dealing With Dr Huey Suckers

Sooner or later, you will probably see some Dr Huey suckers coming up from the base of your grafted roses. The time to deal with these is in spring or early summer, when the flowers make for an easy identification.

It’s best to do this as soon as you become aware of it. Suckers get first crack at all the goodness being transferred upwards from the roots, so the main plant will suffer. Left long enough, the suckers will take over and kill your grafted rose.

What you need is: a good pair of gloves, and some secateurs or a pruning saw, depending on the size of the suckers. Follow the canes back to their origin, this will be at the base of the plant, beneath the graft. It might even be below ground, so you will have to clear away a bit of soil to get at it.

Try to yank the sucker off, rather than cut it. If you cut it off, then you can be encouraging it to grow back. So if you can, try to yank it off, taking everything. Don’t worry about leaving a scar, that will heal. However, if it’s too big, then you will have no choice but to cut it off. In that case, be prepared for new growth to appear, which will be small enough that you can yank it off. Once you have cut it off as close to the main trunk as you can, use a sharp knife to cut and scrape away as much of the remaining growth as possible.

Check out the gallery below, to see how to remove a rootstock sucker.