If you have a beautiful rose bush and want to produce more of them like that bush, you can take cuttings and grow them into rose bushes. In essence, you clone the rose bush. You should be aware that most hybrid roses are patented and you are not supposed to take cuttings and grow more bushes. You are supposed to buy them at the nursery. However, if your rose bush is not patented, you can take cuttings and reproduce the rose bushes easily enough.
In order to start the rose, first you have to take the cutting. This is best done in the spring or the early fall. Temperatures near 100 degrees or closer to 32 degrees are not conducive to taking cuttings. Roses are semi-dormant then and won’t grow well.
Cut the terminal end of the new wood six inches below the end. Make sure there are at least three bud eyes on the cutting. Strip all the leaves off the rose cutting except for the top two. Leave those on the cutting. Now scrape an inch of the cambium, the green layer on top of the rose cutting, off of the bottom of the cutting. This wounds the rose and makes it more likely to form roots. Dip the bottom of the cutting in rooting hormone, preferably Hormax #8.
There is a wide choice of steps to take next. Here are the best ways to root your cutting:
- Some people with really green thumbs can stick the cutting in moist soil outside, where they want it to grow. You will need to keep the cutting moist until it roots. This method works best in temperate climates.
- A variation on the stick in the mud is a stick covered with a quart jar to form a humid microclimate that encourages the cutting to root itself. You will have to keep the soil moist by watering around the outside of the jar or the cutting will dry out. It will take a couple of months to develop roots using this method. You can remove the jar when the rose cutting starts to grow and puts out green leaves.
- The baggie method. This one involves putting the cuttings in two inch pots full of soil, then putting the pots in a gallon zip lock bag. Four two inch pots fit in one bag. This one has a poor success rate because of limited air circulation. The cuttings tend to rot.
- A misting chamber. One of the more successful ways of growing cuttings into new rose plants is to build a misting chamber that will keep them at the optimum level of moisture. You place the cuttings in two inch pots. Each pot goes in the misting chamber. You have misting nozzles going into the chamber that turn on and water the cutting. Timers can be used to tell the mister when to turn on, or you can manually turn the misters on when you notice the humidity has dropped. You have to be careful with this model: too much water and the cuttings rot, too little water and they wilt and fail to root. There are commercial misting chambers with controls if you cannot build your own.
- What about the rose cutting and the potato? This method is making the rounds on the internet. You prepare rose cuttings as instructed above. Dig a trench approximately six inches deep. Do this in an out of the way part of the garden that gets afternoon shade so the cuttings do not get too hot. Place two inches of sharp sand in the bottom of the trench. This is available from nurseries or big box stores. Take one small potato per cutting. Make a hole in the potato and place the bottom end of the cutting into the hole. Bury the potato in the trench so that the cuttings are about two thirds covered. Firm the dirt around them and water them in. Supposedly, the potato keeps the bottom end of the cutting moist and fed until it can develop roots. I know of no research that has demonstrated this works, but you may wish to try it with a cutting or two.
What type of potting soil you use in your attempt to root the cuttings matters. The best blend is fifty percent perlite and fifty percent potting soil. This drains well and lets lots of air circulate around the cutting, stimulating it to root. Use this blend of soil in your two inch pots to give your cuttings a better chance of rooting.
Some additional tips:
- Use sharp shears to cut your cuttings from the plant. You do not want to crush the stem of the cutting and dull shears will do just that.
- Do not try to root cuttings from roses with any diseases, even if it is a prize plant. All you will do is end up with a bunch of infected cuttings that may even spread the problem all over your garden. This is especially true of rose rosette disease. The cuttings may look healthy, but the virus is already in them.
- Using the rooting hormone increases your success rate, but you can still succeed without it.
- Be sure and label your rose cuttings as it will be a long time before you can tell which cutting is from which plant.
- Rooting takes four to eight weeks, depending on weather and rose variety. Err on the side of caution if you are not sure the cutting is rooted yet.
- The rose cuttings need to be moist at all times and have good air circulation and sunlight. They will root faster in full sunlight.
Being able to reproduce any rose from what is essentially a stick is a fun and rewarding part of growing roses. Many people drive around old cemeteries and homesteads looking for forgotten roses. When they find one, they take some cuttings and add that rose to their collection. Good luck with you rooting efforts.