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.
When you transplant your roses, be sure to dig a much bigger hole than you think you need (for most types, the planting hole should be about 15 to 18 inches wide), and add plenty of organic matter such as compost or aged manure. This will feed your plant in the years ahead. Some old-timers recommend placing a 4-inch square of gypsum wallboard and a 16-penny nail in the hole to provide calcium and iron, both appreciated by roses.
Caring for rose bushes is important to their overall health and vigor, especially when it comes to watering. Roses require at least an inch of water weekly throughout their growing season, beginning in spring or following spring planting. While overhead watering is suitable before the onset of new growth, it is often better to water these plants at the soil line using soaker hoses or similar means. Rose bushes are very susceptible to fungal diseases, such as black spot and powdery mildew, especially when their foliage is kept too wet.
While your cuttings take root, keep them covered and moist. In a garden bed, a simple DIY mini greenhouse does the trick. Just place a bell jar, a garden cloche or an overturned mason jar over the cutting. A clear plastic bottle with the bottom cut out and the cap removed works, too. Water the soil regularly to keep it moist, but not soggy. Your mini hothouse will keep the humidity high inside.
It is generally agreed that "old roses" include species or wild roses; albas; Bourbons; moss roses; China roses; Noisettes; Portland roses; rugosa roses; Scotch roses; centifolias; hybrid pimpinellifolias; damasks; gallicas; hybrid perpetuals; tea roses; and musk roses. Those classified as modern rose varieties are hybrid teas; floribundas; polyanthas; grandifloras; miniatures and dwarfs; modern shrub and landscape roses; climbers and ramblers; and rugosa hybrids.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.