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.
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.
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.
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.
Select the pollen parent flower. Remove the petals and harvest the stamens -- the male flower part that has the pollen -- as in the previous two steps. Check the stamens immediately to see if they are producing fluffy, mature, yellow pollen. If so, proceed to pollination. If not, look at stamens in the vials daily. Use them for pollination when mature pollen is coming loose from the stamens.
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.
Ever wonder if you could root and grow roses from a branch of your favorite rose bush? Roses actually root rather easily. However most roses are grafted onto the rootstock of a different type of rose than the top, flowering portion, so the rose you root and grow may look nothing like the rose you started with. Grafting is done to improve strength, disease resistance, or hardiness, and even if you do get something resembling the parent rose you took your cutting from, it might not have that rose's hardiness. Rooting a rose cutting may not be hard to do, but it is something of a gamble.
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.
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.
Soaking the seeds is a crucial step if your seeds will germinate properly and stay clear of any diseases. You MUST not mix the bleach with the hydrogen peroxide as this results in a chemical reaction. 3% peroxide for 24 hours is just fine. This is also a good time to perform the water float test. Remove all seeds that float as they might not be viable.
I too, have tried the cut rose flower method, but haven't yet been successful--perhaps because there are chemical additives that the roses have soaked up, or because there are no nodes (which are the points where new shoots grow out), or because the stems have spent much of their energy producing the flowers...BUT, perhaps if the flowers were immediately cut off and some rooting hormones applied to the bottom cut ends, that may work.
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.
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.
Growing roses from seed can be challenging, since the majority of seeds you collect often won't germinate regardless of your efforts. Fortunately, most rose plants produce a large quantity of seeds inside their rose hips, so it usually isn't necessary to achieve a high success rate. Keep in mind that the plants that grow may be different in appearance or other characteristics from the mother plant, especially if that plant is a hybrid of two varieties grafted together.
Once you have had several weeks of below-freezing temperatures, cover the base of the rose with 12 inches of soil or mulch, and then cover the canes with straw, leaves, pine boughs or even foam insulation. Climbing roses can be wrapped right on their supports, or you can lay them on the ground and cover the canes with straw or brush. In severely cold climates, hybrid teas are sometimes partially dug up, laid down onto the soil, and the entire plant is then covered with more soil or mulch.
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.