Did you know that the most successful and oldest way to grow roses in your garden is to start them from cuttings? That’s the way old roses are handed down to family or friends, through cuttings. So, they’re not only beautiful flowers, but legacies as well. Here’s how to grow roses from cuttings.
<strong>When and How to Take Cuttings
</strong>The cuttings can technically be taken at any time of the year, but for most home gardeners it is best to take them in cooler months, usually November through February. Late Fall is always a great time because there are usually still buds on the plants to help you know what kind of rose you’re taking cuttings from.
The best place to take cuttings from is from the tip of the stems that recently bloomed, usually with withered flowers on them or buds beginning to form. The flower head or buds should be removed down to the first set of healthy leaves.
Cuttings should be 6 to 8 inches long and cut with a very sharp knife or pruning shears at a 45 degree angle. Do not let the cuttings dry out or expose them to extreme heat or cold until they are placed in the rooting medium. You can store the cuttings in plastic bags with a small amount of water in a cooler (with ice if it’s very hot out) for several days, but the sooner you get them rooted, the better.
How to Prepare the Cuttings for Rooting</strong>
You can purchase rooting hormones locally in a powder form, but if you want to make your own rooting solution it’s fairly easy to do. Cut a one inch section from a willow tree branch and cut it both horizontally and vertically. Then, soak it in a pan of water that has been brought to a rolling boil. If you’ve got rainwater, use it! Let the willow pieces steep overnight until it looks like a weak tea in color. Take out the willow pieces and then soak the rose cuttings in the water for several hours. This brew helps to induce rooting.
<strong>Where and How to Plant the Cuttings
</strong>This is a very important step, as roses enjoy lots of sun. The only caveat is that you need a location that will be protected from the afternoon sun, which can be too hot for the cuttings. A location with bright light but not direct sun is best. The soil should also be sandy and well drained, but still moist. Choosing an east or north facing flowerbed against the house or some other structure is paramount. Make sure the bed is well tilled or spaded, because you want all that soil and other organic material to be well mixed!
Remove the leaves from the lower half of the cuttings, but make sure to keep any leaves at the top. You are now ready to plant the cuttings. Use a pencil or a handle of a wooden spoon to poke a hole in the soil. You want to stick the cuttings in the ground several inches or about half the length of cutting. Cuttings should be six to eight inches apart in rows and it would be wise to label each cutting so you can remember what variety of rose you have. Now pat the soil down firmly around each cutting and water well.
<strong>Caring for the Cuttings as they Root
</strong>Whatever you do, never allow the cuttings to dry out. You may need to water them frequently, every other day or so, if there is no rain. Also make sure they are protected from extreme cold. During the first month or two after you place them in the ground for rooting, they will develop what is referred to as “callus tissue”. Basically, it’s a swelling on the tip or other areas where roots will develop. As the weather warms, the cuttings will sprout roots and new growth. By late April or May they will be well rooted, but for best results you will want to wait until the next fall or winter before they are moved because the first summer for a young plant can be hard and they need a good root system to make it.
<strong>Moving to a Permanent Home
</strong>The plants should be ready by late fall or early winter to be moved. Because they are dormant during this time the plants can be dug with either a ball of soil or bare root. Make sure to plant in places that will get sun for at least half the day in well prepared soil, and you’ll want to start a regular fertilizer program by mid-spring to get the best results possible. The good news is that your plants will likely produce a fair amount of flowers in the spring and you can begin to enjoy their beauty almost immediately.