As a novice rose gardener, you might have heard the term rose propagation, but not really known what was meant by the term. Propagation is the term used for reproduction in the plant world and you can propagate roses by either seed or by taking a cutting from your current rose plant.
Rose propagation has a long and rich history. Little has changed in terms of rose propagation since the early 1800s when American settlers carried stems with them into the west. You might even remember your mother or grandmother sticking a cane from a rose in the ground and covering it with a plastic jar to make it grow.
Seeds vs. Cuttings
Using a cutting is a much more common method. Commercial growers and horticulturalists do grow new rose bushes from seeds, but with a seed you are not guaranteed an exact replica of your original rose bush. The pollen that was used to fertilize the flower might not actually come from that flower so the seeds may be a mix of two plants. With a cutting taken right from your rose bush, you are guaranteed an exact copy of the original.
Rose propagation is quite simple really. All you need to do is ensure that you give the new cuttings a safe, moist and humid environment so the roots have time to develop. It is natural for any part of the plant to try to establish its own root system so it can stay alive, but it is only through your help that this can happen at all.
The best time to propagate is in the spring. At this point in the year the weather is cool and the plants are particularly vigorous after a long winter’s slumber.
When selecting a shoot, you should aim for a young one. Older stems will not grow as well as young, tender ones. You want to select a cane that does not have a bud on it yet. With a knife, you want to cut off a piece of the shoot that is approximately half a foot long.
You want to remove the leaves at the bottom of the cane, but leave the ones near the top. These leaves will provide the necessary food and hormones while the roots establish themselves. Clear an area of your garden free of weeds and other plants and then plant the shoot in a couple of inches of soil.
It is best to plant the shoot in the garden area that you want your new rose bush to be to save the stress of transplanting. Before you place the cutting in the hole, you can lightly score one side and dip it in compost. This will encourage root growth.
Be sure to water the shoot and then cover it with some kind of plastic or glass container – this will keep the temperature high and retain moisture so that the shoots will grow better. You do need to think about which container will work best.
You want your new cutting to be exposed to sunlight, but you need to make sure that there is not too much sun shining directly on the new cutting because it can become overheated. You might plant your cutting in an area where there is partial shade to avoid this kind of problem.
You should check your shoot often, ensuring that it is moist enough. If the ground is dry, then you need to water. You can remove the glass or plastic container if temperatures reach at least 75 degrees, but be sure to re-cover the plant at night when the temperature drops back down.
Don’t expect to see results right away. On the surface the plant may appear dormant, but all of the activity is happening below the surface at this point. Your new rose bush needs time to develop roots to support it. You should see some growth after two or three weeks.
It’s important that you’re not discouraged if at first you don’t succeed – just try again. Many inexperienced growers can have difficulty propagating.
Though the success rate for new cuttings is very low, you can improve your odds by planting several cuttings at a time. If by chance they all develop, you can transplant the some of the clippings or offer them to some other garden enthusiasts you know.
And just keep this in mind: though many gardeners practice propagation, it is against the law to reproduce a hybrid plant that has been patented.