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.
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.
Pick a sunny spot to plant your rose cuttings. Where you place your cuttings is especially important if you’re planning on growing them outdoors. Choose a spot that’s sunny but that’s not in direct sunlight — you don’t want them to dry out. Putting the rose cuttings in a pot or container is alright as well, just make sure the container is deep and wide enough for your rose cuttings to grow.
Cover the cutting loosely, pot and all, with a plastic bag or plastic wrap and keep the soil moist. Putting a tall stake into the pot will hold the plastic away from the leaves. If the plastic touches the leaves, they remain wet and can succumb to a fungus disease. Along the same lines, make sure the condensation can escape from the plastic or the stem will rot.
The ripened rose hip is then placed on a clean cutting board and cut in half to remove the seeds. Place the seeds in a clean container. Add some diluted bleach to kill off any bacteria and fungus spores. You can make the bleach by mixing drinking water with two teaspoons of household bleach. Stir the seeds well before rinsing them and using bottled water to remove all the bleach. To further clean and disinfect the seeds, put them in the container and add some hydrogen peroxide. The seeds can be soaked for up to 24 hours before rinsing them with clean water to clear all the hydrogen peroxide.
Water the planted rose seeds well and place them outside in direct sunlight (no need for Grow Lights). If there is still danger of frost, then you will need to place the seed trays in a protected location such as under a tree or patio. You will need to keep the rose seed trays watered and don't let them dry out. After about six weeks, or when the weather starts to warm up, the little rose seedlings will start to sprout. They will continue to sprout as long as the weather is cool, but will stop sprouting when it gets too hot.
When the rose hips are ripe, after about four months, cut them off the bush. Some rose hips will turn yellow, orange, or red, but others stay green even when they are ripe. You can open the hips as soon as harvested or you can store the unopened hips in the refrigerator for several weeks before opening. Then slice the rose hips in half, and open them with a knife. A butter knife will do just fine. Now, dig the rose seeds out of the rose hip with the knife, and throw away the pulp and outer shell.
I have successfully taken rose cuttings with both new and old wood. It is important to let the new stems sufficiently mature. The new wood is usually mature enough after the stem has just finished blooming. If you don't let the stem mature enough, then it usually becomes limp and will die before you can get it to root. I take cuttings from new rose stems in the spring right after the first bloom cycle. Then in early to late fall (in Southern California) I prefer to use more mature or old wood. When using old wood in the fall, I will remove the rose cuttings from the Mason jar, baggie, or mister, after only several weeks since it is cool enough then for them to root on their own as long as I water them daily.
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.
Remove all but the top 2 leaflets on the stem, cutting just above the top set of leaves. You need to remove the excess leaves for the same reason we removed the flower in Step #2. They're taking up too much of the plant's energy. However we want the stem to continue to photosynthesize and feed itself until the new roots form, so we need to leave a couple of leaves.
Select two roses that you want to cross-pollenate. The blooms should not be too tight, perhaps about one-half to 3/4 open. Carefully peel off all the petals. The rose stamens inside should look golden yellow and fresh. With sterile tweezers or cuticle scissors, carefully remove all the stamens at the base of the rose hip, so you do not damage the pollen sacs (anthers). Place the rose stamens into separate, clean film canisters, and place the canisters in a dry place, but not in direct sunlight.
After the rose seeds have soaked overnight, rinse them in a strainer and place them into the blender with at least a cup of plain purified water (making sure all seeds are covered), and turn it on for a few minutes. It usually doesn't chop up the seeds, but rather, it will clean off the pulp remaining from the rose hip, which would otherwise mold if left on the rose seed. You may see a few seeds chopped up, but those usually aren't viable anyway. Flush the rose seeds again through a strainer using fresh purified water.
Pests and diseases: Prevention is the best way to avoid pest and disease problems. Start with disease-resistant varieties, keep plants in healthy condition (well fertilized and well watered), maintain good air circulation, keep foliage dry, and remove any diseased foliage or spent flowers. For Japanese beetle grubs, use beneficial nematodes or Milky Spore (Bacillus popilliae). Rose Rx is effective against scale, spidermites and aphids. For more information, see the Pest and Disease Finder.