There are four different ways of propagating roses – seed-sowing, layering, budding, and taking cuttings (hardwood and softwood).
While all of these methods work, some are harder than others. Seed-sowing, layering, and budding all require quite a bit of technique, just the right growing conditions, and in the case of budding, having good quality rootstock and bud-wood.
But while those methods are harder, the good news is that taking cuttings is the best method because it’s fast, easy, and you can make as many new roses for free to add to your garden as you want. Plus, most roses can be taken from cuttings. There are only two rose types that don’t do well.
The only roses that don’t respond well to cuttings are:
but just about all other roses can be propagated by cuttings including climbers, ramblers (groundcover roses), floibundas, and most shrub roses.
Here is how they are broken down:
Hardwood cuttings are most succesful when taken from:
Ramblers (groundcover roses)
and some older species of roses.
Softwood cuttings are the most effective way to propagate:
Ramblers (groundcover roses)
Most shrub roses has even proved the best way to propagate some of the more difficult species and culitvars such as R. banksiae and R. ‘Mermaid’.
One more advantage of taking cuttings as opposed to budding rootstock is the absence of suckers, because all shoots will belong to the variety being grown from cuttings.
So, because it’s the perfect time of year right now, and because so many more roses do well from softwood cuttings than other propagating methods, the following step-by-step tutorial is going to show you exactly what to do to get the best results, so you can make as many new rose plants as you could ever want!
How to propagate rose by taking softwood cutting:
- Softwood cuttings should be taken from roses in early to midsummer.
- Choose healthy shoots of the current season’s growth that are about as thick as a pencil.
- Remove each by cutting just above a node with a pair of sharp, clean pruners.
- Immediately place the cuttings in a plastic bag or damp newspaper to keep them fresh.
- Cut each shoot into sections, cutting above each node along the stem, so that each internodal cutting has one leaf at the top.
- Throw away the growing tip, it will be too soft to root.
- Trim the leaflets in half to reduce any moisture loss.
- Dip each cutting in a fungicidal solution like a mixture of neem oil and water to prevent rot.
- Then dip the base of each cutting in rooting powder.
Note: You can dip the end in rooting hormone, which comes in powder or gel at 0.3%. The gel is better in some ways because it doesn’t put too much on, but if you use the powder, after dipping the end of the cutting in, tap it firmly to remove any excess. If you get too much rooting hormone on sometimes it will inhibit growth, which is not what you want.
You can also use honey is a rooting hormone. It is also a natural antibiotic, and some people do use it instead of rooting hormone.
You can also make your own rooting hormone:
Make Rooting Hormone With Willow Water
- Plant the cuttings 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep and about 2 inches (5 cm) apart in a seed soil mix that is in a tray, or you can use individual pots. Firm the soil around the cuttings because loose planting in a common cause of failure of the cuttings to root. Make sure the cuttings don’t touch each other.
- Keep the cuttings moist, and maintain high humidity around the cuttings by tenting them in a plastic bag or putting them in a closed case or mist unit.
- Provide bottom heat of about 81°F (27°C) for about four weeks and then reduce to 64 to 70°F (18 to 21°C).
- Harden off the rooted cuttings by gradually reducing the time they are covered.
- Remove any flower buds that might form.
- A good sized plant can be produced this way in about two months, and they are now ready for planting out in your garden.
- Cut back the young plants by about half to make sure they stay bushy.
- Protect them with mulch or treat them as you do your other roses to prepare them for winter.
If you love roses and want to propagate more, using softwood cuttings really is the best way to go.
It’s the fastest and easiest way to do it, plus more roses are agreeable to this process than any other form of propagation.
Also keep in mind that rose cuttings from your garden make great gifts to give to other rose enthusiasts or other gardeners that might like to start or expand their yard or garden.
Once you get the hang of softwood cuttings, you might want to forge ahead into budding, layering, or seed-sowing, and while those methods are harder, they are just as rewarding when you do them successfully.
Those topics however, will have to wait until another article for us to get into! Until then, enjoy.
Questions From Readers About Rose Propagating:
“Does the pencil-thick stem of the rose to be propogated have to bear a blooming rose on top first?”
Marie Twomey, Cork, Ireland
Reply from WeekendGardener:
Good question. No, the rose stem does not have to have a flower on top first. Just make sure to choose a rose stem that can be cut into pieces long enough to plant, and your cuttings will do fine.”