Despite their reputation for being finicky, most roses are simple to grow and easy to propagate at home. “Propagate" simply means to reproduce a plant easily from a simple cutting. Unlike seeds, which produce very different plants, rooted cuttings produce replicas of their parent. You don't have to be a trained rosarian to reproduce treasured family heirlooms or favorite garden roses.
NOTE: During my move, I had cut several rose branches and placed them in a grocery paper bag in my garage--only to have forgotten to bring them home for a week. The branches had been in a broiling hot enclosed garage without water, and needless to say, they looked pretty dried out to a crisp. But I didn't want to just toss them out yet (these were the climbing Charisma roses), so I got an empty plastic detergent tub and completely immersed the stems for 2 weeks (no changing water). Then I stuck them into soil and hoped for the best. Well, I got about a 50% survival rate.
Water: Roses require more water than most other landscape plantings, especially during the first year as the plant is getting its roots established. The best way to water your roses is with drip irrigation. It concentrates the water at the root zone where it is needed, and keeps the foliage dry to minimize disease problems. A good, thick layer of organic mulch will help conserve moisture, reduce weeds, and encourage healthy root growth. As the mulch breaks down, it will also add organic matter to the soil.
Roses are flowering perennial plants prized for their beautiful flowers, which are made up of delicate and layered petals. One of the best ways to propagate new roses is to take a cutting from an existing plant and grow it into a whole new rose bush. When you grow roses from a cutting, you cut a stem from a healthy plant and root it in a growing medium so it grows into an independent plant of its own. However, you can also propagate roses by dividing an existing plant, but this requires a little more effort than with cuttings. To propagate by division, you have to dig up an entire rose bush, cut the root system in half, and replant the two halves as separate bushes.
Choose the pod -- or female -- flower that will produce the seed pod. Remove the petals. Identify the fringe of yellow pollen-producing structures called stamens that surround the central style. Cut the stamens off with small scissors so they will not accidentally pollinate that flower and so that the pollen will be available for planned pollination of other flowers.
Everybody has a story to tell of how their grandma would stick a piece of rose stem into the ground and then place a Mason Jar over the stem to make it grow. There are tales of how the early American settlers of the 1800's traveled to the far reaches of the wild west in covered wagons, with grandma bringing along "starts" of her favorite roses from back home. Perhaps the treasures of these "monsters on wooden wheels" were raided, and they discovered the Yellow Rose of Texas hiding under the bonnets of the women. Or maybe the settlers used their precious "starts" to barter for provisions along the endless dusty trails.
The Misting Method: As you get more sophisticated in your rose propagating methods you may eventually want to set up a misting bench. It can be an open-air bench or one enclosed in a greenhouse, or even a small misting box, similar to the one my husband Bob built for me. (Refer to "How We Made Our Misting Box," from Rose Ecstasy. You could choose to rig it up with a manual or an automatically-timed mister, whatever your time, money, or expertise will allow. I am fortunate to have a very handy guy for a husband, who is a good sport whenever I come up with these crazy project ideas.
Why choose an old-fashioned rose over a modern hybrid? Many of the old rose varieties offer more fragrance, more complex and interesting blooms, greater disease resistance, easier care and more interesting forms. But modern roses can offer all-season blooms, and a much broader range of colors and flower forms. Some are also far more cold- hardy and disease-resistant than any of the old-fashioned varieties.
Taking rose cuttings can lead to a new crop of beautiful, successful roses. Like many other plants, it's important to choose a sunny spot for your rose cuttings that has moist soil. Cutting strong, healthy stems right above a set of leaves makes for great growing conditions, and dipping your cutting in a rooting hormone will help the roots take faster. By keeping your rose cuttings well hydrated, you'll have strong roots in no time.
Rose propagating methods have changed over the years, from the simple own-root varieties of the Victorian era, and progressing to the budded hybrids of the 20th century with its many options of exotic understock such as Rosa multiflora, Dr. Huey, Manettii, and Fortuniana. Now, rumor has it that many of the modern hybridizers and commercial growers are interested in returning to the simplicity of yore. Today's commercial rose growers are finding that budded roses are just too labor-intensive and expensive to produce. Because of this, it appears that we can look forward to more own-root roses being introduced and sold at our local nurseries in the future. Own-root roses will eliminate suckering and hopefully will eventually help to eradicate mosaic virus.
The Baggie Method: This was the first method I ever tried. Here you fill 2-inch plastic pots with potting soil, insert the rose stem halfway inside the pot, then put the pots into a one-gallon plastic zip-lock bag. You can get four 2-inch pots into each gallon bag. I didn't like this method because it caused many of the cuttings to rot since the bags tended to fold over and therefore prevented the air from circulating. The success rate of this method is not very good. It may be helpful to place a couple of small sticks inside the bag to help keep it upright and full of air.
Protect the roses over the winter. Roses that are left tall may be damaged by heavy winds and frosts during the winter. Trim the canes down to 2 feet (0.6 m). Tie them together with twine, to help protect them from inclement weather. Heap a mound of compost around the base of the bush, then top it with a layer of straw. When the weather warms to above 51 degrees, remove the compost mound.
This is a fungus called black spot. Left untreated, it can cause all the leaves on your roses to turn yellow and fall off. It will also affect nearby plants, as it spreads by spores. Remove ALL INFECTED material and throw it away or burn it. Do NOT leave it on the ground as this fungus is very hardy. It can survive winter and travels very easily, even after being removed from the affected plant. Spray your plants regularly (bi-weekly) in the growing season with a good fungicide (I like the Bayer products). You can also add a little bit of dish soap and baking soda to a spray bottle with water and spray the entire plant.
Monitor the rose cuttings to ensure they’re hydrated and taking root. Keep an eye on the cuttings to make sure they’re never dried out, as well as to make sure the cuttings are taking root. You can test to see if the roots are growing by gently tugging on the cuttings. You should be able to feel a slight resistance after a week or 2, meaning the roots are growing well.