propagate roses

Propagating Roses

My daughter has the most beautiful old rose in her front yard. It has pink, highly fragrant double flowers and blooms profusely. Not exactly a rosarian, she allows her plants to get more than a bit overgrown, so I pruned all of them last fall. This pink one grabbed my heart, though and I decided to propagate it from cuttings.

I’ve no idea what it is. I am leaning toward it being an Austin; which one I’ve no idea, though as they are all so similar.

At any rate, I decided to take a cutting. Within two weeks my cutting produced foliage. TWO WEEKS! I don’t know about you, but nothing but a pumpkin has ever sprouted this quickly for me. I have decided that fall is the optimum time for taking rose cuttings–just after the flowers have faded.

Take the Cutting

Look for a stem that has bloomed during the season. I chose one that had a dead flower on it. I was mainly interested in seeing that it had a lot of buds along the length of the stem. If you’re new to roses, the buds are those little upside-down “V” shaped structures, sometimes raised bumps, along the stem. Being able to identify a bud is an important aspect of growing roses because you will also use them as a compass, or sorts, when pruning.

Protect the Cutting

Since I live across town from the mother bush I wrapped my cutting in a very wet paper towel and placed it in a plastic bag to keep it moist on the way home. Allowing a rose cutting to dry, even for a short period of time, can ruin your chances of it rooting.

Prepare the Rose Cutting

When I got home, I removed all the foliage from my 6-inch rose cutting. Then I removed all the thorns. I don’t know if this is necessary, but it does make working with the cutting a bit more comfortable.

Plant the Rose Cutting

Now, here comes the interesting part: I completely ignored my training and the advice of every online and print expert I’ve come across. I grabbed a 4-inch pot and filled it with regular, every-day potting soil. Well, okay, it isn’t cheap stuff, but it isn’t perlite and sand either.

I also eschewed the use of rooting hormone. I stuck my new cutting into the potting soil and left 3 buds above the surface. I moistened the potting mix and stuck the whole thing in a zip-lock type freezer bag and left it on my desk, next to my computer.

This little cutting was determined to root from the day I stuck it. The buds began to swell within days. All three popped after the first week and then, at two weeks, I had a fully formed leaf.

I opened the bag during the daytime and zipped it up at night when it got cold and I kept the soil just barely moist.

Final Thoughts

Don’t be in a hurry to check for roots once you have foliage. The cutting needs the foliage to carry out photosynthesis. This will give it the energy to form the roots. If you look at the photo to the right, courtesy of the Missouri Botanical Garden, you will see that the foliage happens first, then the roots.

I’m no rosarian, but the ease of rooting this rose cutting has renewed my confidence as a propagator. So, if you see me around the neighborhood with my pruners in hand, skulking in the bushes, you’ll know what I’m up to.