PROPAGATING ROSES FROM CUTTINGS

The whole idea is to get fresh and promising cutting materials and then keep them moist until you can root the cuttings. That is the reason we use a ziploc bag and moist paper paper towels to hold the cutting materials until they can be planted in a suitable manner to let them strike roots. The process may seem complicated, but it is really very easy.

ROOTING YOUR OWN CUTTINGS

If you want to root your own cuttings, there are several good resources on the Texas Rose Rustler's web page:

http://www.texas-rose-rustlers.com/ms-pp-ct.htm --- STARTING ROSES FROM CUTTINGS

http://www.texas-rose-rustlers.com/propagat.htm --- METHODS OF PROPAGATION

I personally prepared a mist system and I root cuttings in trays of thirty-eight with multiple trays on each mist table. That permits me to propagate thousands of roses at a time. But for most people, this is not a practical approach.

The main problem is keeping the humidity high enough to prevent the cutting from drying up before it gets roots. Moisture is in short supply in a cutting, and it must be conserved.

The next most important thing is to protect the cutting from things that like to eat roses (fungus, bugs, small dogs and cats, and occasional children.

In the article, "Starting Roses From Cuttings" an approach is described using 2 or 3 liter Coke bottles. That approach will work well, but since I do not drink that much Coke, I developed an alternate approach that also works pretty well. I call it the "Gallon Freezer Bag Method", and for several years this was the only way I rooted cuttings.

THE FOUR ESSENTIALS FOR ROOTING CUTTINGS

The main things a cutting needs to root successfully are:

  1. Moisture - An appropriate level of moisture in the soil and in the air is essential. Moisture is in short supply once you cut the plant material away from the parent plant. That short supply continues until the cutting develops its own roots. Therefore it is very important to keep the humidity rather high around the cutting and keep the soil fairly moist.

  2. Indirect sunlight - All plants need sunlight, but cuttings are very tender and stressed. Therefore, do not expose them to direct sunlight until after they have well-established roots. A north-facing window, dappled shade, or florescent lighting is just right for them. South or East facing windows can "cook" the cuttings pretty quickly.

  3. Time - It just takes time for the cuttings to start their roots. If roots are going to form they will do so in 4-8 weeks, but almost never in less than 3-4 weeks. The fastest way to kill a cutting is to pull it out of the pot every day or two to see if it has roots. If you do this, I guarantee that it never will have roots. The roots are very tiny and fragile when they begin to grow and if you pull the cutting out of the soil, you will strip the roots off in the process. Doing that eventually makes compost rather than roses.

  4. Inattention - There was a famous actress who used to say "I want to be alone". Think of your rose cuttings as being this famous actress. Once you have planted and watered the cutting, leave it alone and watch it develop. But think of it as a "Look don't touch." Water it only when the soil is fairly dry (using the finger test ).

QUICK AND EASY AND GENERALLY EFFECTIVE METHODS

Now for the details of "How To Do It".

There are probably as many ways to make cuttings as there are Rose Enthusiasts, and I am sure that everyone is convinced that their "method" is the "The Only Way To Go". The following sections describe three different approaches that have proven effective in rooting cuttings.

THE PEAT POT, ZIPLOC BAG, AND CLOTHES PIN METHOD

The "Peat Pot, Ziploc Bag and Clothes Pin" method was developed (or at least practiced) by Bobbie McKenna, one of the original Texas Rose Rustlers. Bobbie passed away several years ago, but her "Ziploc Bag and Clothes Pin" method is still used by one of her daughters, with impressive results.

The essential elements of this approach include -

  1. Find a commercially available "peat pot"

  2. Plant the cutting in the peat pot and water it thoroughly,

  3. Put the peat pot and cutting in a gallon ziploc bag,

  4. Seal the ziploc bag,

  5. Use the clothes pin to hang the sealed bag and cutting on a clothes line in the shade, and

  6. Leave it alone and let nature take its course.

The whole idea is to let the gallon ziploc bag serve as miniature greenhouse that will hold moisture in the air at nearly 100% humidity. The water in the soil provides the moisture, which recycles more or less indefinitely. You may have to open the ziploc bag once or twice during the rooting process to add water, but for the most part, you just leave it alone until the cutting strikes roots.

THE SMALL POT AND ZIPLOC BAG METHOD

This is essentially an elaboration of the previous method. When using this "method" it is important to give the cutting soft indirect light and keep it from freezing or roasting. Therefore, this approach is well suited to outdoor applications in the spring and fall, or indoor applications pretty much anytime.

  1. Fill your small pots with STERILE potting soil and moisten the soil thoroughly. Get the soil completely wet so that there will not be dry pockets of soil under the surface. Then let the soil drain.

  2. Use a pencil or a medium-sized finger to make a hole in the center of the potting soil.

  3. Dust the bottom of the cutting with rooting hormone if you wish (but only a little rooting hormone).

  4. Insert the cutting into the hole --- right-side-up (buds pointing up, thorns pointing down).

  5. Pat the soil around the cutting to assure good contact between the cutting and the soil.

  6. Water the soil to compact it around the cutting stem and get good contact.

  7. Put the whole thing (pot, soil, and cutting) in a ziploc bag. A quart sized ziploc bag may do, but a gallon sized bag will certainly be big enough.

  8. Seal the bag tightly so that no moisture can escape.

  9. Hang your cutting and its "greenhouse" on a clothes line in INDIRECT light and prepare to be patient.

  10. After several hours you will notice condensation on the inside of the ziploc bag. That is what it is supposed to be doing. Leave it alone.

  11. About every week or two gently open the ziploc bag and do the "finger test'. If and only if the soil is really dry, give it some water. Then seal the ziploc bag and hang it up again in INDIRECT light.

  12. If you see evidence of fungus, open the bag a little to reduce the moisture in the air.

  13. If you see old leaves shedding, don't worry.

  14. If you see new leaves sprouting from the buds, be happy (that is a good sign).

  15. If the stem of the cutting turns brown, try to be philosophical (you can always use more compost).

  16. After 6-8 weeks if everything goes well (or even less time if the cutting is obviously growing) remove the bag and let the cutting adapt to the normal atmosphere for a week or two.

  17. At this point you can try a little root stimulator or mild fertilizer.

  18. When the weather is nice (not freezing, and not blazingly hot) you can try to plant the cutting in the ground, or you can transplant it to a larger pot (1-gallon or 2-gallon) to let it grow and develop more roots for a period of several months.

  19. When you finally plant the cutting, remove the entire root ball from the pot and plant it with as little disturbance to the roots as possible.

THE GALLON FREEZER BAG METHOD

Several years ago I discovered that a standard 1-gallon nursery pot is about the same diameter as a 1-gallon freezer bag. (Eureka! One of the greatest innovations of the century!)

The gallon pot is large enough to hold a pretty good amount of water in the soil, but small enough to be placed in indirect light. The freezer bag, placed upside-down over the gallon pot, prevents most of the moisture in the soil from escaping into the air. It makes a nearly perfect 1-gallon greenhouse. The only problem is supporting the gallon bag so that it does not drape down on top of the cutting. (Eureka, again! I also found a use for surplus coat hangers!)

  1. Fill your gallon nursery pots with STERILE potting soil and moisten the soil thoroughly. Get the soil completely wet so that there will not be dry pockets of soil under the surface. Then let the soil drain.

  2. Use a pencil or a medium-sized finger to make a hole in the center of the potting soil.

  3. Insert the cutting into the hole --- right-side-up (buds pointing up, thorns pointing down) and dust the bottom of the cutting with rooting hormone if you wish (but only a little rooting hormone).

  4. Pat the soil around the cutting to assure good contact between the cutting and the soil.

  5. Water the soil to compact it around the cutting stem and get good contact.

  6. Cut two long pieces of wire from coat hangers and bend them in to a "U" shape. The "U" shaped wire should be about as long as the gallon bags.

  7. Put the "U" shaped wire pieces into the soil near the edges of the pot but opposite each other.

  8. Fit the gallon freezer bag over the wires and let it extend about one-half inch or more below the rim on the outside of the pot.

  9. Put the pot with your cutting and its "greenhouse" in indirect light and prepare to be patient.

  10. After several hours you will notice condensation on the inside of the gallon bag. That is what it is supposed to be doing. Leave it alone.

  11. About every week gently lift the bag and do the "finger test'. If and only if the soil is really dry, give it some water. Then cover it back up with the gallon bag.

  12. If you see evidence of fungus, lift the bag a little to reduce the moisture in the air.

  13. If you see old leaves shedding, don't worry.

  14. If you see new leaves sprouting from the buds, be happy (that is a good sign).

  15. If the stem of the cutting turns brown, be philosophical because you can always use more compost.

  16. After 6-8 weeks if everything goes well (or even less time if the cutting is obviously growing) remove the bag and let the cutting adapt to the normal atmosphere for a week or two.

  17. At this point you can try a little root stimulator or mild fertilizer.

  18. When the weather is nice (not freezing, and not blazingly hot) you can try to plant the cutting in the ground, or you can let it grow in the pot and develop more roots for a period of several months.

  19. When you finally plant the cutting, carefully remove the entire root ball from the pot and plant it with as little disturbance to the roots as possible.

Last updated 02/17/2004