“A rose is a rose is a rose.” – Gertrude Stein
Propagating from cuttings is by far the most commonly used method of reproducing roses. However, even under optimal conditions a 90% success rate is thought to be “pretty darn good!” Why is it so tricky? Well, the simple answer is that cuttings lack a root system to take up water and nutrients. So, in order to propagate your shrubs successfully, you must create an environment that will sustain them until they develop enough roots to survive on their own. Read on to find out how…
The best time to take cuttings from plants is when they are growing vigorously, typically in early summer (see Take Summer Cuttings). Stems that are neither brand new or fully mature and have fading flowers (or flowers that just lost their petals) are desirable. A stem with a flower bud showing no color is too young.
Start by filling a clean container with a good quality growing mix. Ideally, you’re potting medium should be light and fast-draining, yet contain enough organic matter to remain moist. Quality potting soils can be purchased from your local garden store, or you can create your own soilless mix by combining perlite, vermiculite and peat moss. Water the potting mix so that it is moist but not soggy.
1.) Choose cuttings that are healthy and representative of the plant.
2.) Take cuttings from the upper part of the plant and from the side. For some reason, cuttings taken from the middle of the plant do not root as well.
3.) Select a stem that is four to six inches long and has at least two or three leaves attached. Leaves produce sugars from photosynthesis and hormones that promote rooting.
4.) Using a razor blade or sharp pruning shears make a clean slice at a 45 degree angle to maximize the rooting area. Most cuttings root best if the slice is made just below a leaf node (where branches come out of the stem).
The Dramm Garden Pruner is designed for cutting small woody stems (1/4″ diameter and smaller), and is perfect for those tight angles and hard-to-reach spots. Made with forged stainless steel blades — that stay sharp longer — and includes an easy-open spring action to reduce fatigue while cutting.
5.) Remove flowers or buds from the cutting, as well as any lower leaves. Cut the remaining leaves in half to reduce moisture loss through transpiration. Also, less foliage will maximize the amount of energy the cutting can expend on developing roots as opposed to maintaining the leaves.
6.) Quickly dip the bottom two inches of the cutting into a cloning solution or rooting hormone. Rooting hormone is not always necessary but will greatly improve your success rate.
Tip: Dip’N Grow Liquid Rooting Concentrate is one of the most effective rooting hormones available. Also, because alcohol is used as the solvent for the active ingredients, Dip ‘N Grow is self-sanitizing. Cross-contamination problems are eliminated.
7.) Using a pencil make a small hole in the growing medium for the stem to fit into and gently tamp the cutting into place.
8.) Cover with a mayonnaise jar or put the whole container in a plastic bag to create a greenhouse effect and maintain high humidity levels.
9.) Roses root best in bright light. Set them in a window and provide bottom warmth from a heat mat at all times. Avoid overheating the cuttings.
10.) Keep the growing media moist and wait until roots appear, usually in as little as three to four weeks. Slowly “harden off” plants before transplanting outside. Visit the Royal Horticultural Society for advice on hardening off tender plants.