Rooting stem cuttings is a common way of propagating herbaceous plants. But it also can work with woody-stemmed plants, including roses. Roses root rather easily, though you shouldn't expect every cutting to be successful. Around 10 percent of attempts will likely end in failure, so it's best to take a few extra cuttings. Still, if you take your cuttings from a healthy rose plant and follow the proper steps to root them, your odds of developing new plants will be high.
Equipment / Tools
- Mature rose plant for cuttings
- Rooting hormone
- Sand and vermiculite or a rose potting mix
- Plastic bag or plastic wrap
Take a Cutting and Remove the Flowers
Take a 12-inch segment of the stem, cutting at a 45-degree angle. The best cuttings for rooting usually come from the sides of the bush, rather than the center. Remove any flowers or flower buds along the cutting. The flowers will consume energy, and you want to encourage the stem to refocus its energy on survival by sending out new roots.
Remove Most of the Leaves
Remove all but the top two leaflets on the stem. Then, cut off the stem just above this top set of leaves. Removing the excess leaves helps to divert energy to root production. However, the stem does need to continue to photosynthesize and feed itself until new roots form, which is why retaining a single pair of leaves is necessary.
Prepare the Stem for Rooting
Use sharp pruners to make a fresh cut on the bottom of the stem just below a stem node (a bump where new growth typically forms). Then, slice into the bottom of the stem about a quarter of an inch up, splitting the stem into open quarters.
Use a Rooting Hormone (Optional)
Although not absolutely necessary, a rooting hormone can help spur the plant into developing new roots. Rooting hormones come in powder, liquid, and gel form; a powder is recommended for roses. Slightly moisten the split end of the rose cutting, and then dip it into the powdered rooting hormone. Shake off any excess powder.
Plant the Cutting
Plant the cutting in a container filled at least 6 inches deep with a mixture of coarse sand and vermiculite or a potting mix designed for roses. Poke a hole in the potting medium. Then, insert the stem, taking care not to rub off the rooting hormone. Gently firm the soil around the stem, and water well.
Cover the Cutting
Loosely cover the cutting, pot and all, with a plastic bag or plastic wrap. This helps to retain soil moisture. But don't let the plastic touch the leaves because it can cause them to remain wet, which can result in a fungal disease. Putting a tall stake into the pot can help hold the plastic away from the leaves. The bag also needs to be slightly vented, so condensation can escape. If the bag is sealed too tightly, the stem can rot.
Monitor the Cutting
Keep the soil moist until roots begin to form, which usually takes around two weeks. Check for roots by gently tugging on the stem; if there's resistance, roots are probably present. Your cutting can be transplanted into a pot or the ground as soon as the roots are firmly established or when new leaf sprouts begin to appear along the stem.
When to Grow Roses From Cuttings
Rooting a stem cutting can be done at almost any time, but cuttings taken from new growth (rather than old, hardened wood) are more likely to root successfully. Spring or early summer is the best time to take these softwood cuttings. Select them in the early morning hours when the plant is well hydrated.
Moreover, avoid taking cuttings when your plant is heavily blooming. The plant is putting most of its energy into flower production rather than root development, so a cutting won't readily root. If you must propagate when the plant is blooming, make sure to remove the flowers and buds from the cutting.
Tips for Growing Roses From Cuttings
Sharp pruners are necessary when taking rose cuttings. Dull tools can crush the woody stems instead of forming a clean slice. This can make the cutting susceptible to fungal rot. Furthermore, make sure to clean your pruners before and after cutting to avoid transmitting any diseases.
Many roses are grafted plants, in which a woody stem from an ornamental rose is attached to a hardier rootstock. This creates an attractive, durable rose plant. But if you were to propagate such a plant by taking a cutting from the ornamental portion, the resulting plant would often lack the hardiness of the parent plant. Thus, taking cuttings from grafted plants is something of a gamble because you don't know exactly how the resulting plants will perform.
On the other hand, many shrub rose varieties are native species, not grafted plants. Cuttings from these plants will generally propagate easily and are likely to have the same hardiness as the parent plant. Therefore, shrub roses are often a good choice for beginners in rose propagation.