Can this damaged rose be saved?

rose in bloom in Lancaster NY
We can see why Debbie Hageman hopes to save her rose. It’s gorgeous!

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Debbie Hageman of Lancaster e-mailed us this question:

“I’m looking for information on winter damage for a rose (I think it’s an old fashioned rose) that split where the two main canes come together. Can they be glued or taped? Thanks for any information.”

Yes, they can be taped, answered John Farfaglia, Extension educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Niagara County.

“Basically you want to get those two pieces to hold together long enough for the tissue to repair itself,” Farfaglia said.

The process is something like setting a broken bone. You can use bamboo stakes or something similar as splints, then tape the splints so the two stem surfaces are in direct contact with each other– it’s important that they’re in direct contact, he emphasized. The splints will help prevent wind or other forces from pulling the two pieces apart.

broken rose in Lancaster NY
The damaged rose

You can buy the kind of tape that is used on tree trunks, but duct tape or electrical tape will work, too.

The repair should be done as soon as possible after the break occurred. If the break occurred earlier in the winter, repairing it now might still work, Farfaglia said.

In June, if the plant is leafing out and looks like it’s growing normally, you’ll know that the repair is working. During the summer, carefully remove the tape if it hasn’t already pulled away on its own. You don’t want to keep the tape on too long because insects can get underneath it, he said.

“My number one recommendation is to try” to repair the break, Farfaglia said. “The only other alternative is to cut the plant back.”

taped rose in Lancaster NY
The repaired rose

Depending on how deep the break is, you may be cutting into the root stock. That could be a problem if the plant is grafted, he explained.

With a grafted rose, you may have, for example, a pink rose grafted onto the root stock of a hardier wild rose. You have to think of the root and the stem as two separate plants. If you cut into the root stock, instead of getting a pink rose, you may get a wild rose.

Almost everything that’s been recently released is grafted, but  an older rose may not be. (As you can see from the photos she sent us later, Hageman’s break isn’t near the root.)

“A lot of the old roses are pretty resilient,” Farfaglia said. Trying to repair the rose is “definitely worth a shot.”

By the way, Hageman isn’t sure what kind of a rose she has. If anyone can identify it for her, please leave a comment. Thanks!

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10 Comments on “Can this damaged rose be saved?

  1. Rosie, They might survive. And if they don’t, at least you tried something. Of course, I don’t know anything about gardening in Texas. He might want to contact the extension program in his state. Best of luck!

  2. Dr Connie: My friend was cutting down a big tree here in Texas. It fell on his old roses. Can we tape them so his wife isn’t angry when they die?

  3. Rene’, I’m sorry that I don’t know the answer. I’m not an expert gardener and I don’t know anything about the growing conditions in South Africa. In the United States, most, if not all, states have extension services that help gardeners. These are usually associated with a university. I turn to my local experts to help my readers. I would recommend that you see if there is something like that where you live. You need advice that works where you are. If you can’t find any local advice, go ahead and try joining the stems– it couldn’t hurt.

  4. Dear Connie – can my standard Iceberg rose be saved ? . It is summer here in Durban , South Africa . We have a number of standards in our front garden . Yesterday a huge low pressure came through and snapped one of the standard stems right off – is it possible to join the two ends up of the stems – will they grow together again ? , should i add a little growth hormone ? .

    Please help

  5. Tina, I don’t want to give you information that isn’t going to work for you. This magazine is for Western New York and we’re in a different USDA plant hardiness zone than you are. (The zones have to do with climate and weather.) We’re in Zones 5 and 6; you’re in Zone 7. For your question, that may make no difference at all, or it may make a lot of difference. Clemson University has a Cooperative Extension Program. Why don’t you contact them to see what information they can offer you? I just don’t want to steer you wrong.

  6. I don’t know the answer to your question. I’m a writer by profession who interviews knowledgeable people in order to provide you with great articles on So what I do now when someone asks a question I can’t answer is that I post the question and rely on my readers to share their expertise. If you’d like, I can include your question as a post in a future issue of this online gardening magazine. If you’d like to do that, please tell me what town you live in.

    If you don’t want to wait to get an answer to your question, you can turn to the trained staff at your local garden center or contact the Master Gardeners at Cornell Cooperative Extension. Get more information at the end of this article.

  7. I have just finished a battle with jap. beetles on my rose bush. It is a rose tree that I got for mothers day, so not very long, but the beetles have just about killed it. I have cut back alot of it but there are still green stems with new growth on them. Do you think it can be saved?
    all of the leaves are gone!

  8. Debbie sent me this message:
    “Please let your readers know that taping the rose did not save it.”
    Sorry to hear that, Debbie.

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