Monday, November 28, 2011

Start a Rose from a Cutting Now. Or Not.

Lyda Rose

 If you want to be a confused gardener, start growing roses. Among the conflicting advice you might get from successful rose growers:

Feed roses high N-P-K fertilizers. I've heard more than one rosarian tout the Show-winning benefits of Miracle Gro 18-24-16 Water Soluble Rose Plant Food, applied weekly. One rosarian told me she just sprinkles the undiluted Miracle Gro granules around her roses, and then waters them in: "I have too many roses and not enough time to do all that mixing." (Kids, don't try this at home. You could easily burn your rose plants. But Miracle Gro, knowing you'll try anything that's easier, is now selling a shaker bottle of granular Miracle Gro plant food. Again, don't overapply the recommended dosages.)

Feed them low doses of a complete organic fertilizer (such as the Gardner & Bloome 4-6-2 blend of Rose and Flower Fertilizer, applied once every two months)

Feed them rabbit food pellets, aka alfalfa (the American Rose Society recommends this) 

Roses thrive with banana peels and a licorice root mulch (again, the American Rose Society)

Roses need lots of water

Roses become healthier plants with periods of drought.

Prune roses to 12 inches high  in the winter (that same website also says it's OK to leave them four feet's up to you).

Prune roses, hard,  in the spring.

Don't prune roses below your knee.

Leave only 3 to 5 canes after pruning.
Leave as many healthy canes as possible.

(note that both those recommendations come from the same website page. It depends on the rose!)

Fragrant Cloud

My conclusion about all this contradictory advice:  
Roses are the most forgiving plant in nature.

So, it is within that spirit of "If It Works for You, Fine!", here is one person's suggestions for propagating roses. That person is Charlotte Owendyck, consulting rosarian and member of the Sierra Foothills Rose Society and the Sacramento Rose Society. She presented these tips in the June 2010 Rose Bulletin of the Sacramento Rose Society. I am sure rose growers will leave critical comments about the advice mentioned here. After all, they have probably been growing roses successfully for decades - their way. And that's OK. The rose can take a myriad of gardening techniques...and come out looking great.

Here are Charlotte's tips for rose propagation:

Best time of year to take rose cuttings is in the spring—April, May and June. Fall is a close second.

1. Water the rose plant the day before you take cuttings—so the cutting is fully hydrated. 

2. Use a 5 gallon pot and fill it 1⁄2 full with a mixture of 60% peat moss and 40% perlite. 

3. Select a healthy plant to take the cuttings. Avoid leaves with diseases and insects! Looking at the plant, pick the best part of the plant. Choose a stem that is vigorous and healthy and is on a healthy and vigorous cane.  For softer growers— those with more pith (white inner portion of stem) use older part of cane since this type of stem has a greater possibility of rotting.

4. Select a stem where the rose has just cracked open to just fully open. At this stage, the buds along that stem will produce roots; increasing your success rate. Once the rose is spent, the plant is now telling the buds along the stem to begin producing a new flower. 

5. Cut just below the eye (bud) since this is the most active growing part of the plant.

6. Essentially the cutting only need two buds, one above the soil and one below. However, many prefer to use a three node cutting. Remove bottom leaf, since this node will inserted in the growing medium. The remaining one or two leaves will continue to manufacture food for the cutting. 

7. Wash cutting with 1% bleach (one part bleach to 4 parts water). Use gloves! Wrap cuttings in a wet paper towel for 24 hours and place in a cooler. Cooler temperatures stimulate the formation of roots. 

8. Dip the bottom stem in rooting hormone, use a powder not liquid. (Indolebutyric Acid is the leading plant hormone used to promote the formation of roots in plants and to generate new roots in the cloning of plants through cuttings).

9. Plant at an angle up to the bottom leaf, but make sure that the leaf doesn’t touch the medium. Do not crowd the cuttings (Don’t forget to label your cuttings!)

10. Cover the pot with plastic and punch 3-4 holes for ventilation. 

11. Place pot on the east side of the house. Check once a week to make sure that it is damp enough. If you have a heating mat use it since it accelerates the process.

12. Pull off plastic in 28 days. Water with diluted liquid fertilizer; acclimate new plants. 

13. Cut back the little rose plant several times to build up roots. When they look sturdier, transfer to separate pots. This process takes several weeks. 


Thanks, Charlotte. And before you leave a comment, remember our mantra: 

"If it works for you, fine!"



  1. Fred, the reason that there is a lot of confusion on rose growing information is that some of the information that you posted came from Eastern USA growing areas. In those areas, rosarians grow roses very differently than in the Sacramento area. If you want to dispell all the rose growing myths, I recommend joining the local rose societies such as Sierra Foothills Rose Society and we will set you straight with the right information to grow roses in this area. For example, I am taking cutting at this time of the year (December-January). This is the best time to take cuttings with the least amouth of work from the rosarian. All though I can root cuttings at anytime of the year, it is now when I recommend taking the cuttings.

  2. "Kids, don't try this at home. You could easily burn your rose plants."

    Thanks for mentioning our Miracle Gro Water Soluble Rose Plant Food - and especially for clarifying that you should always follow the package directions.

    "But Miracle Gro, knowing you'll try anything that's easier, is now selling a shaker bottle of granular Miracle Gro plant food."

    For people who want something they sprinkle on the ground, we do have a Shake'n Feed Rose Plant Food, but it is 9-18-9 instead of the 18-24-16 in the water soluble. And, to make things even easier, next year we will have a combination product: Slow-release rose fertilizer and insect control in a granule you can sprinkle on the ground.

    "Feed them low doses of a complete organic fertilizer"

    Because gardening preferences are so varied, we try to offer a wide variety of products. For the gardeners that want an all organic approach, we have a line of organic fertilizers and soil amendments, under the name "Organic Choice".