General gardening topics

What are rose suckers and how to get rid of them

Last updated on April 5th, 2022

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Roses make beautiful plants, flowering prolifically all summer if you take good care of them with the correct steps of pruning and feeding. The problem is when they start to produce unwanted stems, which are also commonly known as suckers. These are stems that come from what is known as the rootstock, which is actually the root from a different rose type that rose growers use to graft different varieties of roses onto because they make the roses stronger and more resistant to diseases.

What are rose suckers?

Rose suckers are any growth that comes from the ground near the stem but is not actually part of the main shoot. They are easily identifiable because they are generally longer and more slender than the rose bush you originally planted, with different thorns and leaves. 

There are 3 types of suckers you usually see:

  1. Off root suckers that grow from the roots of the rose bush (This is the grafted root from another rose).
  2. Above the ground suckers that grow from a bud and along the stem.
  3. Below ground suckers grow from a bud that is below the soil, where you can’t see it.

How you remove them is the same regardless of type. And the reasons you want to remove them include the fact that:

  1. They grow and look different than the rest of your bush, often out of control. They also don’t often flower but if they do they often look like wild roses, so they take away from the aesthetics of your rose bush.
  2. They can kill your regular rose bush by taking away vital nutrients and weakening the upper part of your bush until such time that the entire plant dies.

How to remove the rose suckers

The sooner you get rid of rose suckers, the better. 

Removing suckers is a tricky business if done incorrectly. Most people think they can just cut off the sucker from the cane, but doing this will only enable the sucker to grow back as soon as your back is turned. 

To really get rid of them permanently, follow these steps:

Step 1:

Prepare the soil for your soon-to-be-excavation by dampening the soil a few days before you begin your quest to remove any suckers. This will also make it easier to complete step 2.

Step 2:

Find out where the sucker coming from. You will need to dig the soil back by hand so that you don’t accidentally damage the rootstock in your search for the sucker. 

Step 3:

Once you know where the sucker is attached, you can remove it by twisting and pulling it off. When doing this, make sure to wear gardening gloves so that your hands are protected from thorns. The best way to do this is to twist and pull enough to damage the joint where the sucker has sprouted so that it has less chance of being able to shoot again. 

Step 4:

Now it is time to seal the wound. The damaged area needs to be protected against diseases with a healing product, named as such. You can use these products by painting them onto the affected area, the same as you would apply a waterproof plaster to a cut. Usually, you can get products such as prune seal for this, which is usually sold for sealing branches on a tree that have been pruned.

Step 5:

Once the sucker is completely removed and the damaged area protected, you should replace any soil that you removed trying to locate the sucker so that the entire rootstock remains covered. 

Getting rid of a sucker from your rose bush should take a matter of minutes, and is well worth the investment of your time.

Other rose related articles that you may find interesting

How to treat roses suffering from black spot

The 4 best fungicides for treating black spot

Common rose problems and diseases to watch out for

Why are the leaves on your roses turning yellow? And how you can resolve the issue

Welcome to my site, my name is John and I have been lucky enough to work in horticultural nurseries for over 15 years in the UK. As the founder and editor as well as researcher, I have a City & Guilds Horticultural Qualifications which I proudly display on our About us page. I now work full time on this website where I review the very best gardening products and tools and write reliable gardening guides. Behind this site is an actual real person who has worked and has experience with the types of products we review as well as years of knowledge on the topics we cover from actual experience. You can reach out to me at

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