Propagating Roses from cuttings by Peggy-Anne Pineau
A most frequent question gardeners ask of me is ‘How do you make a new rose from a cutting?” The answer is not a medium, cover it with plastic, cross their fingers and wait. The success rate of this lies strictly to luck and most often will result in failure and here are a few reasons why.
To start with, not all roses will root successfully and if they do, they certainly don’t make worthwhile plants. You see it’s all in the genes. Most modern roses like hybrid teas and floribundas, have so complex parentage, that make them very hard to root successfully. Also, after these roses were germinated and grown for a short while, the breeder then bud grafts them onto a robust rootstock to watch their growth attributes for several years. This is to see if the variety is a worthwhile candidate for registering and releasing to the public. So, your particular rose may never have been scrutinized for blooming capabilities and good growth habits on it’s own roots. Hardy, robust rootstocks actually push the rose to perform when it might not if left with simply it’s own roots. So the bud grafted rose you’ve grown for several years will be much more vigorous and robust than the own root cutting you’ve just rooted. Sometimes they can catch up but may take several years to do so.
Many old heirloom varieties also can be very hard to root with some not rooting at all. Examples are the yellow ones that have been bred from the Rosa foetida. That’s why it very hard to find any yellow roses on their own roots. The hits & misses make it simply too costly for the nursery to make it feasible.
Another very important factor is timing– roses need to be in full growth phase with the wood not too juvenile or too mature. Immediately before the buds break into flowers or immediately after is the best time for taking cuttings. Any stress what so ever during the rooting process such as excessive heat and drought will effect how the rose will root. Cuttings taken in the heat of the summer when water was scarce will not root readily.
If you have selected a rose variety to propagate make sure you care for the mother plant well, right from spring till the time the cuttings are taken. Water, sufficient nutrients, disease & insect control all need to be dealt with so that the tissue is healthy and turgid.
How much of the growing season is left after rooting should be considered for the plant has to mature and store enough sugar in it’s cells to get it through winter. Many a successful cutting has perished, as it simply didn’t have the stuff to survive the winter
So here’s the goods on what to do if you’d like to try your hand at rooting some cuttings of your favorite rose.
1. In a shaded, cool place such as a garage have on hand sterile pots at least 4” deep that are filled with sterile pro-mix with lots of peralite. A basin with insecticidal soap and water mixture. A rooting hormone such as “Roots” (not crucial). A spray bottle with tepid water and a clean work space. 2. At the correct time of year and with good sharp and sterile pruners, take a cutting from a cane that’s ready to bloom or has just bloomed with at least four true leaves not counting the buds or the two leaves immediately below them. Make sure to cut ½” below the lowest leaf. (see fig. A). Keep cuttings away from sun and mist constantly. 3. Bring into work area and remove the blooms/buds and two leaves below. This should leave two leaves at the top of cutting and then remove the bottom two leaves by snapping not cutting them off. (see fig. C) 4. Dip cutting into insecticidal soap. (see fig. B) 5. We soak our cuttings for several minutes in a mixture of seaweed concentrate and water before striking into planting medium. This is optional. (see fig. D) 6. Dip the bottom ½” of cutting into rooting hormone. Be sure to knock off excess powder or gel. (se fig. E.) 7. Push into planting mixture so that the bottom two leaf nodes are under the mixture. (see fig. F) 8. Cover pots with cuttings in a clear plastic bag or bell gar to keep moisture high on leaf surface and putin a warm spot out of direct sun but they must have indirect light. It is crucial for the cuttings to have warmth and moisture on the leaves at all times even at night. (heating cables are great). Don’t over water the planting mixture, as this will rot the cuttings. Keep moist only. 9. Hopefully in four to five weeks new growth will be showing and your cuttings can be slowly removed from the plastic covering allowing the leaves to acclimatize until the covering is completely removed. (about a week) You can’t simply remove the covering at once as the leaves will wilt and the cutting will die. (see fig G) 10. When all is done you can plant your new plants out into where you have made a nursery bed for them to grow on the rest of the season. Most new roses plants will need winter protection for the first year before they can be placed in their final spot in your garden. GOOD LUCK!