Too good but not good enough?

What do you all do with seedlings that are too good to cull but not good enough to be introduced? Do you give them away? Throw them out anyway? Or just keep them?

I keep some of these things for up to three years, giving them a chance to show what they can really do. If they do not perform well (both in the greenhouse AND outdoors in the test garden) and do not have any potential as a breeder, I either discard them or give them to friends. I have found that some seedlings don’t reveal their true nature until year 3 and beyond, and some have some real surprises hidden in them if you can afford to wait.

However, there is no point in hanging on to the seedlings that are clearly “going nowhere”. I cull down to about 300 seedlings per year, from each new crop. That number gets culled down to 100 or so by June the following year. Even adding 100 new test varieties per year is a time/space management issue, so I have become much less inclined to hang on to the “maybes”. If you grow fewer plants and have the room to spare, then keep them for a few years; they may reveal secrets, or be of use as a step along he breeding trail.

That’s my approach.


Paul, I totally agree with you about keeping them if you can. I’ve seen some big surprises as well after year 2. Wow, keeping 100 plants is a killer. I’ve been averaging about 15-20 and even at that it gets difficult.

Judith, Good question. I know that most every hybridizer would have a different answer - probably depending on what they see in a particular seedling, and probably more important how much space they have to keep it. Although it might not have the qualities I want to introduce it, it might have some good characteristics that I like and would keep it for a season or so and either use it for a seed parent or collect some pollen for use later.

Send them to me! :wink:

Ok, Alicia. Expect 4450 roses in the mail this week. LOL!


Henry Kuska has mentioned before that sometimes he donates his plants that fall in the “too good to cull, not good enough for commercial introduction” category to his local rose society for sale as a fundraiser. Sounds like you have enough roses you could make your local rose society very happy with such a fund raiser!


The hard truth is that time and space dictate how many roses you can keep. The rest are given away or thrown away. Some good roses will be lost, but you will keep most of the best ones and that is the most important thing!

Jim Sproul

Jim, but it’s so hard to throw them away! I just can’t do it.

Judith, for the most part - I give those in between roses to our local rose society for their plant sale (many are bought at the plant sale by society members). That is easier than throwing them away! And, for those roses that are “late bloomers”, or take years to show their stuff, rose society members are often willing to grow your babies and report on them. That way you can increase your space so to speak…

Jim Sproul

Jim , when you donate them, do you give them right to register, etc.?

I grow all seedlings for three years in my high density large rose field. Absolutely no selection is done before planting out.

From my experience in a climate that alternatively or not favour every rose desease is that:

first year succeptibility is definitely unreliable.

Open ground testing is needed if one wants to select strong desease tolerant vars. Preferably in the worst for roses climates.

Tolerant is for able of building up without any help other than good soil, first year watering and weeding. Almost no HT or Fl qualify here. Necessity of going back to species is first evidence.

For too many generations the fair enough plants were and are selected among the rare more beautifull flowers that show some novel interesting or different feature.

When an outstanding flower is found; a not so fair plant is acceptable.

For an extraordinary flower a poor plant is considered good enough.

This led to a continuous rise of exigence for flower qualities and steady lowering requirements for plant attributes.

The wanted flowers sophistication is bred backcrossing to the standards as well as spray dependance.

Greenhouse growing and selecting prevent the healthier seedlings to be selected. Selected are the “healthier when spraied”.

Quite different from healthy when not spraied.

Judith, I think that the rose breeder is supposed to register their seedlings.

Pierre, since I do not spray for disease in the greenhouse, I get more disease in the greenhouse than outside. This gives me a chance to cull seedlings before putting them outside.

Jim Sproul


You are presuming that the roses that are succeptible when greenhouse grown seedlings will be as well when full grown in a garden.

No wonder! You are doing like all breeders do since Bennet.

Throwing the greenhouse succeptible and holding the greenhouse healthy.

With the best spraying program and best tender loving care: very , very few greenhouse for cut flower industry selected roses are able to grow in a garden. As these selected for greehouse growing roses are often much more sophisticated than garden roses this is exhibitors experience… years after years. With a very few exceptions even the healthiest when greehouse grown will be allmost impossible to grow if not in the best for roses climates.

I tried mysef as for ten years I was a greenhouse rose grower.

I know for sure that young seedling succeptibility is not reliable.

And we all know that if something is wrong unspraied greenhouse (or protected ) grown seedlings will all be deseased.

You are keeping greenhouse healthy that are not outside and trowing greenhouse deseased that are possibly thriving in a garden.

Greenhouse grown seedlings are quite often desease ridden that will not be field/garden succeptible

even if after up to a first year outside struggling with desease.

I got entire progenies that after a very spectacular summer and autumn desease episode behave for many years as garden healthy with under average care and a quite difficult for roses climate. Still now about one hundred plants.

May be I am alone knowing this…

Do remember I told it.

Pierre Rutten

Pierre, my lack of greenhouse or basement requires all of my seedlings to be grown outdoors almost from birth. No need to cull here since nature does it for me. I have also found that some seedlings will outgrow their mildew susceptability.

All of my seedlings are outside and get full or almost full desert sun from about 1-2 weeks old and are only taken in at night if temperatures go below about 38 degrees.

Still, I would love to have a greenhouse, and whatever Jim is doing, he’s sure doing it right because he’s produced some beautiful seedlings with spectacular disease resistant foliage.


I was not pointing Jim more than every other rose breeder.

May be it is all except you and a very few others.

I have my ideas.

We are all different. It is allright. Sound. Quite good!

Here we are friends sharing our thinkings and findings.

I do and do not aim at infallibility.

Everybody is allowed to believe I am wrong.:wink:))

I am breeding for no spray roses.

====It is an actual problem====.

Here french Riviera spring, summer or autumn early or late there is the possibility of splashing rain episodes. Some up to two week long. Some cold some warm. In bad years foliage is constantly spoiled by repeated episodes. Even the most carefull sprayers have a very hard time then.

Baby Love, Pretty Lady and Knock Out do spot then.

Modern roses show how every desease prone they are.

When many teas and ramblers are strong as trees… If not spraied most HTs or Fls vars decline in a few years with miserable performance. Even those generaly rated as healthy fail if without cooperative climate, tender loving care, ample isolation and good air circulation.

Here and in many other places and climates there are few as touchy garden plants as roses. Think to the ubiquitous Oleanders in our common (if probably not identical) z9!!..

====It is number one concern for roses breeders====.

Actually most gardeners do not intend to spray and within a few years in Europe at least most of the really effective chemicals will be banned from garden use.

This trend is going worldwide inevitably.

The crosses we are doing are aimed at finding a public ten years later.

Actually there is no better marketing argument than claiming for desease resistance. Flower Carpets and Knock Outs are bestsellers when they do not satisfy the traditional rose lover. No perfume and little grace.

I think as all professional do that breeding for the best desease resistance is just good enough and indispensable.

Every rose breeding team is hard working at new breeding pathes and revised strategies.

We are to cooperate toward this goal if we want to be game.

Friendly yours

Pierre Rutten

Hi Pierre,

I very much appreciate your thoughts. It is true that greenhouse conditions are not the same as outdoor conditions.

When I first got my greenhouse, I brought in several very “clean” commercial roses (at least clean when grown outdoors!) These included ‘Sexy Rexy’ and ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ among others. However, in the greenhouse, they get powdery mildew since I do not spray in the greenhouse. In fact, I don’t do any spraying outside either.

I have found that seedlings that are completely clean of powdery mildew remain that way outdoors. Blackspot is much harder to predict since I do not get it in the greenhouse. I do however, let black spot infect my seedlings outdoors.

Two of my favorite parents are ones that you mentioned: ‘Baby Love’ and ‘Pretty Lady’.

I am with you that disease free roses are the best goal!

Jim Sproul

(Sorry to dig up such an old thread, but I was doing a search under another topic.)

Jim, do you feel that the resistance of a seedling is truly indicative of the resistance the more mature plant will exhibit? I have very limited experience, but frequently find that my first year’s impressions will not hold once a plant matures. Roses that showed no problems frequently acquire them, and seedlings of dubious health become stronger. Perhaps this is a consequence of inconsistent care, but I assumed that, just as some physical features change as a plant develops, so can other features. Obviously, if anything is over-the-top bad, then it goes, and if you have too many plants and have to cull, you have to cull… But as a matter of academic curiosity, I’m wondering how representative the first year would be of future developments…


Hi Philip,

I am sure that you will get the full spectrum of opinions based on individual experiences. Though I have seen seedlings mature into being more resistant than they were as babies, I have not seen the reverse where disease pressure is great. That is to say that young seedlings that stand out as being very clean despite disease all around them, these do not develop more disease proneness as they mature (in my experience). When disease pressure is spotty, a random seedling may not exhibit disease as an immature seedling though develop it later when mature, more as a result of not having the opportunity to be infected with disease when it was younger.

It is truly amazing to see seedlings that have NO disease though surrounded by diseased seedlings, even having powdery mildew spores dusting them.

So in summary, in order to get a “good read” on disease resistance in younger seedlings, you have to make sure that the disease you are evaluating is present in great quantities. When I get powdery mildew showing in the greenhouse, I literally flick the infected plants vigorously and spread it around as much as I can. Roses that stand up to that during the time when PM conditions are very favorable will do great outside. I have not seen an exception to that. Please note, however, that there may be other races of even PM that may not be present in our area that will not be tested.

Jim Sproul

Opposite opinion is that greenhouse or basement grown seedling desease liability is not indicative of open ground performance.

Even outside grown seedling health or liability is not directly related to mature performance against deseases. This is from personnal experience with spectacular evidence I wrote about before.

I.e. often grown close together seedlings have all leaves close to ground with an outstanding amount of younger ones. This fact may induce deseases the mature plant will no longer be liable to.

There are other factors such as microorganisms competition that is biased to eliminated at this stage.

Garden desease resistance has been bred out of florist roses. With a few exceptions they are allmost impossible to garden grow even in the most favored places. Certainly unintentionnaly done as all breeders are looking for resistance.

It is my opinion expressed in thread “pedigree breeding and diversity” that early selection for desease resistance is even a factor that is responsible of a highly significative fact: modern roses are more desease prone than all ancestral species but one.