So grandma had the right idea in the first place, and she really did know what she was doing. It has always been fun to start roses from cuttings. Some people get their kicks by going "rose rustling" in the deserted cemeteries of old and forgotten mining towns. Others just take a twig from their favorite rose and stick it into the ground in their backyard. There is nothing complicated nor scientific about taking cuttings of roses and rooting them to "start" a new plant. There are various ways of taking rose cuttings, so let's tell you how.
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.
Be aware of your variety’s needs. Rose care will depend a lot on the variety you’re raising. Some roses like William Baffin and Lady Hillingdon climbing roses are more drought tolerant, for example, while others need more water. Some varieties can withstand less sunlight than others. Rose varieties should also be pruned differently depending on the variety and your climate area.
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.
Northern gardeners need to know exactly what zone a rose is hardy to. Southern gardeners must also watch to see what zones are recommended for each particular variety, as some roses perform very poorly in hot and/or humid weather. Read the catalogs carefully and, if possible, purchase your roses from a local or regional grower. They will be able to advise you from experience about how a particular variety will perform in your area.
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.
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).
When you grow roses from seed, you are essentially developing new varieties of roses. If the rose fruit -- called a hip -- was produced by bee pollination, you don't know what varieties were crossed to get the seeds. Rose breeders hybridize chosen varieties and select for particular traits in resultant seedlings. However, each seedling will be a surprise. Rose seeds have to be collected in the fall, cleaned, and cold-treated before they are planted. Even though the cleaned seeds may look dry, they are not dry inside. If rose seeds are allowed to sit around in the open air and dry up completely, they will not grow.
The next step when you grow roses from cuttings is to use a pencil or metal probe push down into the planting site soil to make a hole that is deep enough to plant the cutting up to about 50 percent of its overall length. Place the cutting that has been dipped into the rooting hormone into this hole. Lightly push the soil in around the cutting to finish the planting. Do the same thing for each cutting keeping them at least eight inches apart. Label each row of rose cuttings with the name of the mother rose bush it was taken from.
Alfalfa provides solid nutrition to roses, supplying nitrogen, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and other nutrients, including a fatty acid known to promote plant growth. Work alfalfa meal or pellets into soil around roses (1 cup per large bush; one-half cup for miniature roses). You can also brew alfalfa tea by soaking alfalfa meal or pellets in water. Discover tips on making and using alfalfa tea from the American Rose Society.
Cover the stem with plastic or a mason jar. To cover the stem with plastic, insert two eight-inch (20-cm) sticks or wires into the soil on either side of the stem to prop up the plastic. Cover the pot and stem with a clear plastic bag, and affix the bag to the pot with an elastic or twine. With a mason jar, simply place a large mason jar over the stem.