Just as with many other shrubs, roses can be grown from cuttings. It’s not a fast process – it may take a couple of years before your new plant produces flowers. But if you have a favourite rose, it can be fun to try. The cuttings need to be taken fresh from a healthy plant – don’t try to grow a new rose bush from the bunch of cut flowers you have sitting in a vase. And as roses bushes are pruned during winter, this is the most convenient time to take and pot up your rose cuttings.
Remember that light changes as the angle of the sun shifts throughout the season. If you live in the upper half of the U.S., choose a site that will offer full sun year-round. The more sun you have, the more flowers your plants will produce. In the lower half of the U.S., choose spots with a little bit of afternoon shade. This protects blossoms from the scorching sun and helps your flowers last longer.
If you order bare-root roses from a mail-order company, order early (late winter or early spring). The roses are usually shipped in the spring because bare roots when plants are fully dormant, well before they have leafed out. They’ll look like a bundle of sticks on arrival. Note that they are not dead—simply dormant. Check that the packing material is moist and keep them in a cool dark place until ready to plant.
Although miniature roses have always been grown on their own roots since the 1950's when they were first introduced, Ralph Moore of Sequoia Nursery in Visalia, CA, near Fresno, offered many of the larger roses on own-root along with his vast selection of minis. His Playgirl floribunda has always been sold by Ralph as own-root cuttings in 4-inch pots, as well as a good assortment of other own-root floribundas and old garden roses. Unfortunately, Mr. Moore is now deceased and his nursery is closed.
Remove the rose hips once ripe. The rose hips will start out small and green, then change color as they grow until they are completely red, orange, brown, or purple. You may pick them at this point, or wait until they are just beginning to dry out and wrinkle. Don't wait until they are fully dry and brown, as the seeds inside may have died by this point.
Take a sterile Q-Tip or small sable artist's brush, and dip it into the rose pollen you want to use. Then dab the pollen-coated Q-Tip or brush onto the stigma of the rose you have selected as the seed (female) parent. You could also simply use your finger to apply the pollen to the rose. Repeat this procedure after four hours, and then again after another four hours. Label the rose hip with the name of the seed parent as well as the pollen parent, i.e. Fairhope x Miss Flippins. The name that appears first is always the seed parent (the mother), and the second name is the pollen parent (the father).
Plant the seeds. Some store-bought seeds can be planted immediately. If you germinated your own seeds as described above, plant them as soon as they begin to sprout. Plant with the sprout pointed downward, as this is the root. Lightly cover them with soil, about 1/4 inch (6 mm) deep. Space seeds at least 2 inches (5 cm) apart to minimize competition.
You may even wish to cut your cuttings down to 3" to 4" and double your plants, but they will be more prone to rot or dry up faster if you let the soil dry too long. The cuttings that are 6" to 8" seem to do much better, and if cuttings are even longer, the water has a longer length to travel up and down, and the cutting may end up more dehyrated with the upper part dying off. So 6" to 8" is a happy medium.
Black Spot: Rose plant leaves with black spots that eventually turn yellow have black spot. This is often caused by water splashing on leaves, especially in rainy weather. Leaves may require a protective fungicide coating, which would start in the summer before leaf spots started until first frost. Thoroughly clean up debris in the fall, and prune out all diseased canes.
Grandma's Mason Jar: For the beginner this is probably the easiest way to take rose cuttings. Not much equipment is needed, just a clear quart-size glass jar and some cuttings from your favorite rose. For you modern sodapop lovers, a 2-liter plastic bottle with the bottom cut off will work just as well. Cut a piece of rose stem about 6 inches long, remove the bottom set of leaves, and just stick the stem into the ground (or into a pot) a couple inches deep, and cover with a jar or bottle. You will need to periodically water the soil around the jar, otherwise the rose stem will dry out. It will take a couple of months for the rose stem to take root and begin leafing out with its new growth. The best time of year is spring or early fall. If you live in a mild climate, then winter and summer can also be successful for rooting roses. Intense summer heat of 100 degrees is not conducive for taking rose cuttings, nor are 32 degree or below winters.
Cathryn Chaney has worked as a gardening writer since 2002. Her horticultural experience working in the nursery industry informs her garden articles, especially those dealing with arid landscaping and drought-tolerant gardening. Chaney also writes poetry, which has appears in "Woman's World" magazine and elsewhere. Chaney graduated from the University of Arizona in 1992 with a Bachelor of Arts in English.
Fertilizer: Roses are heavy feeders, and will benefit from a steady supply of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. You can provide these nutrients with either liquid or granular fertilizers, at a ratio of approximately 5-8-5. In most cases, regular applications of compost, rotted manure, fish emulsion and seaweed extracts will provide roses with all the nutrients they need. These organic amendments also help to moderate pH imbalances and stimulate beneficial soil life. Other organic amendments favored by rose growers include greensand, black rock phosphate and alfalfa meal.