Roses are, generally speaking, an easy and hassle-free plant to grow in your garden.
There are roses suitable for many different soil types, climates and growing conditions. Once you find the right roses for you – you’ll surely want to plant more.
But once you have your own well-established rose, you don’t always need to buy more plants. You can take rose cuttings and make new plants from the one you already own. As long as your rose is not grafted, taking cuttings should yield duplicates of the parent plant.
Taking rose cuttings also allows you to obtain new and vigorous plants from an older rose bush that may have grown somewhat leggy and overgrown. Or to keep a portion of a beloved rose to take with you to a new property. Cuttings can also be a way to retain a cherished rose if an original must be removed.
In this article, we’ll explore when and how to take rose cuttings, and give you some tips to help you succeed with as many of your cuttings as possible.
When To Take Rose Cuttings
The first thing to understand about taking rose cuttings is that there are slightly different procedures to follow depending on exactly when the cuttings are taken.
You can take rose cuttings throughout the year. But when exactly you choose to do so will have a bearing on how easy the process will be.
There are three different types of cuttings:
- Softwood cuttings
- Semi-ripe cuttings
- Hardwood cuttings
Softwood cuttings are taken in late spring or early summer. You can take softwood cuttings at any time after the new, fresh, green and flexible growth appears. Softwood cuttings are generally the quickest to form roots, and do so most easily.
Semi-ripe cuttings are taken in late summer or very early autumn. These are usually taken after blooms have faded. If you have not dead-headed too zealously, you may see rose hips beginning to form. At this time of year, stems have matured and are somewhat firmer and less flexible, but will not have hardened fully.
Hardwood cuttings are taken once the new growth that formed the spring before has matured and hardened. These cuttings are taken in late autumn or early winter. Roses are ideal candidates for taking hardwood cuttings. But it is worth noting that hardwood cuttings are generally slowest and most difficult to root successfully.
Rose Cuttings Step By Step:
Whenever you take your rose cuttings, it is important to follow a few guidelines:
- Only take cuttings of new growth (growth that has formed in the current year).
- Select cuttings only from healthy, vigorous plants.
- Take cuttings early in the morning if possible, when they are well hydrated.
- Prepare a growing area or containers for your cuttings so they can be transferred there right away. Be ready before taking cuttings, so they do not dry out.
- When taking cuttings, always practice good hygiene. Make sure all tools, containers etc. are clean to avoid issues with diseases.
- Use a good, sharp blade to reduce stress to cuttings and the parent plant.
The use of a rooting hormone is not absolutely essential. But it can increase the chances of success. You don’t necessarily have to buy rooting hormone however. There are a number of ways to make your own. You can use willow water, honey, apple cider vinegar and/or cinnamon, for example, to increase the chances that rose cuttings will root successfully.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s take a look at how to take each of the different types of rose cuttings, step by step.
Softwood Rose Cuttings
Softwood rose cuttings may be quickest to root. But though they root easily, they are also most susceptible to fungal problems and environmental issues.
While you can take tip cuttings, it is usually better to take what are called inter-nodal cuttings.
- Choose healthy stems of new growth and cut them off the parent plant.
- Cut just below a node (where leaves joined the stem). This will be the base of the cutting.
- Remove the top tip of growth, then cut the stem into portions, cutting each just above a node. (Aiming for cuttings that are around 5-10cm (2-4inches) long.)
- Remove the lower leaves from each cutting, leaving just a few leaves on each one.
- Dip the base of each cutting into rooting powder or liquid (if you choose to use it).
- Place your cuttings into holes made with a dibber in your chosen container.
- Water well and cover with a plastic bag or cloche to retain humidity.
- Place in a warm location but out of direct sunlight, and remove the covering for at least 10 minutes once or twice a week to ventilate.
- Cuttings should be kept moist, and should have rooted within a month.
- Harden off your cuttings gradually before transplanting them into their final growing positions.
Semi-Ripe Rose Cuttings
Semi-ripe rose cuttings will be harder and more mature at the base and more flexible at the tip.
- Again, as with softwood rose cuttings, choose healthy stems.
- Cut at a 45 degree angle just above a node to remove the tip.
- And straight across to form the base of your cutting, just below a node.
- Aim for semi-ripe cuttings around 25-30cm (10-12 inches) long.
- Remove all but a couple of leaves at the top, and remove any thorns from the lower part of the cutting.
- Dip the ends of the cuttings with a rooting compound for greater chances of success.
- Place cuttings around the edges of a container, or in a prepared trench in a suitable growing area.
- Keep well-watered. And they should be showing good signs of growth by the following spring. At this point they can usually be transferred to their final growing positions.
Hardwood Rose Cuttings
The procedure for hardwood cuttings is exactly the same as for the semi-ripe cuttings mentioned above. Though hardwood cuttings are slower to root, they require less care, and can generally be left over winter with little care. But since hardwood cuttings can be rather slow to root:
- Once you have taken your cutting and cut it to size (as for semi-ripe cuttings above), damage the stem by paring off a little of the outer surface of the stem at the lowest node. This can weaken the cambium layer that lies below the surface and encourage faster root growth.
- It is best to use rooting compound with hardwood cuttings, so dip the ends of your cuttings.
- Roots will callus over winter and only start to develop in spring.
- Place your hardwood rose cuttings in a prepared container or trench 10-15cm (4-6inches) apart.
- Leave them in place to root until autumn the following year. (Water well over the summer months.)
A permaculture garden designer, sustainability consultant and freelance writer, Elizabeth works as an advocate for positive change. She aims to inspire others to reconnect with nature and live in a more eco-friendly way. She also tries to practice what she preaches as she tends her own forest garden, polyculture beds and polytunnel. See her personal website here.