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Rose Propagation

I have added this page because I received a ton of e-mail this past year about how to "start" roses. There is also a book (for the more advance grower) by Lewis Hill called Secrets of Plant Propagation. I have not yet tried any of these techniques but plan to when I can find the time.

If you do try this technique, I would be very interested in hearing the results.

The Beginner's guide to Propagation

Rooting roses is easier done than written about. Here's a "short course" for the beginner.

Rule 1: If the roses are patented hybrids and you plan to profit from your rooting, you can be held liable for lost profits by the hybridizer. That said, most beginners aren't going into the wholesale rose business, so don't worry about it.

Select the rose from which you plan to take cuttings. Remember, many hybrid modern roses are grafted onto a root stock; hence, the resulting rose may not be exactly the same as that from which you took your cuttings. Also, some roses have different chromosome numbers, and they won't root as easily as others.

Select the cutting from "new wood" - that portion of the stem just below the bloom. This stem material should be disease- and insect-free. Remove any blossoms and make your cuttings about 4 - 6 in. long. Try to include at least two leaf sets (although this is not a firm requirement).

Insure you have the *bottom* of the cutting. With a sharp knife, select about 2 in. below the bottom leaf set and lightly scratch the bark (or outer layer of the stem) down to the cambium layer (the lighter green portion just under the bark), but not down into the cream-colored core wood. Scratch the bark all the way around the bottom of the cutting.

(Next is a series of *techniques*): Soak the cutting for 5 - 10 minutes in a solution of SUPERThrive™ (a rooting activator). This solution can be mixed @ 1 tsp. per gal. of water. Then dip the scratched end of the cutting in a rooting hormone (like RooTone™) and shake off the excess powder. Both products are available from your nursery or mail-order house, and you won't need very much. So get the smallest containers you can find.

(Back to the procedures) Insert the cutting into a moistened potting mixture. This mixture should be loose and well-drained. (Any quality potting soil will do.) Keep the mixture moist, but not water-logged. Place the cutting in filtered, light shade (like under a tree). When new growth appears, you know your rooting procedure worked; however, you can consider yourself successful if 80% of your attempts result in a new plant. The cutting can remain in the pot until next spring. But if you live where there are harsh winters, you may want to bring it inside or put it in a greenhouse.

(More techniques) Cut the bottom out of a 2 liter soda bottle and keep the screw cap. Place the bottle over the cutting with the cap in place. (This acts like a mini greenhouse.) After ten days, remove the cap and save for the next time. Do not be surprised if a little "black spot" develops on the leaves - this is normal. However, if powdery mildew occurs, you *may* have lost your cutting. By removing the screw cap after 10 days, you reduce the possibility of this latter disease from occurring.

(Still more techniques) With a sharp pair of scissors, trim each leaflet in half. This marks the current leaves from any new ones that develop. It also reduces transpiration from the leaflets and gives new roots a chance to grow without having to support a bunch of vegetation.

Next spring [or about six months after your rooted your cutting] you can transplant it directly into the garden, if you choose. Some varieties, however, will spend their first year putting down roots vis-a-vis growing stems and flowers. Do not be alarmed, as this is normal. Usually by the second or third year, your rose will be "normal" size and producing lots of blooms.

The advantage of growing roses on their own roots is that if you experience die-back from a harsh winter, your rose will return from the roots. On a grafted rose, if the "bud union" (that bulbous "knob" from which all the canes grow) dies, you've lost your shrub.

You can have a lot of fun and can share your garden beauties by using the procedures above.