Grow More Roses For Free: Propagate Roses From Cuttings

Knowing how to propagate roses not only extends your favorite blooms but also allows you to save some cash. Here’s how to give rose bushes a new lease of life

rose cuttings planted in garden soil
(Image credit: Evtushkova Olga / Shutterstock)

Being able to propagate roses from cuttings is a great way to increase your collection. Rooting rose stem cuttings will ensure that your new plants are healthy, free of diseases and true to type. You just need to check that your rose breeds are not protected under patent rights. Many new rose cultivars may be under patents that might restrict or prohibit you from taking cuttings of the plant. 

You also need to use the proper tools throughout the process to produce successful stem cuttings, making it easy and seamless. To propagate roses and plant roses from the cuttings, grab a clean, sharp pair of secateurs or bypass pruners, plus plant trays and a high-quality potting medium – and you’re ready to begin. 

Best Time to Propagate Roses

Learning how to propagate roses is relatively easy. Just allow each stem ample time to begin the rooting process. Ideally, you can take cuttings any time in late spring during the plant’s period of active growth.

However, cuttings taken in early to mid-summer have also been found to be reliable and should root readily. In addition, taking cuttings in cooler months like September can be successful. You may want to check with your local extension service agent for the best time in your region.

How to Take Rose Cuttings

To propagate roses, remove several stem segments from the plant. When rooted, each segment will grow to produce a plant with features that are identical to the parent. This process is especially useful if you want to reproduce older, heirloom rose varieties.

Using low tunnels is a great option if you’re planning to propagate large numbers of plants. However, most home gardeners are able to achieve the same results using glass jars or plastic containers to increase humidity levels surrounding each new plant. To take cuttings, follow these steps:

  1. Take stem cuttings from new, green growth. Snip each one just above a set of healthy leaves. Rose cuttings are best taken from the stems of a bush that has previously flowered and is ready to be deadheaded.
  2. Your cuttings should be 6-8in (15-20cm) in length. Measure down the stem from the base of the bloom. Place the cut ends in a jar or can of water to keep them moist.
  3. Before potting, remove any foliage that may sit below the soil line. This aids in the rooting process and helps prevent the loss of cuttings due to plant disease.

How to Root a Rose Cutting

Though it’s optional, you may want to use rooting hormone to prepare the newly clipped stems for planting. Rooting hormones are believed to speed the rooting process and strengthen the overall growth of newly established cuttings. 

Place cuttings into trays or pots filled with a moist potting medium. Some growers have found rose propagation success by placing rose cuttings directly into prepared outdoor beds. However, this method requires additional care throughout summer, and preparation for cooler temperatures with the arrival of winter.

Caring for New Rose Cuttings

The success of your rose propagation efforts depends greatly on how you care for the cuttings after they have been moved into trays. Growing roses from cuttings doesn’t require much after-care, but it does rely on a sensible watering schedule. Throughout the rooting period, consistent moisture is essential. To keep cuttings moist, use humidity domes or clear plastic surrounding each container.

Cuttings grown indoors should be moved to a warm place and may benefit from the use of heating mats designed for propagation. Indirect light is best, since intense sun may damage or burn delicate cuttings. Cuttings that remain outdoors require frequent irrigation in warmer weather so the soil isn’t allowed to dry. Keep cuttings 8in (20cm) apart. Label each row of rose cuttings with the name of the mother rose bush it was taken from.

Planting Rose Cuttings Outdoors

The planting site you choose for starting rose cuttings outdoors should be one with good exposure from the morning sun, yet be shielded from the hot afternoon sun. You should check the soil quality is well-tilled and loose with good drainage.

Before planting a cutting, remove the lower leaves. Make a small slit with a sharp knife on one or two sides of the lower portion of the cutting. This should not be a deep cut, but just enough to penetrate the outer layer. Dip the lower portion into a rooting hormone powder. Then follow these steps:

  1. Create holes in the planting soil with a pencil or probe. Plant the cutting up to 50 percent of its length, lightly pushing the soil in around it to stabilize it.
  2. Place a jar over each cutting or create some form of a miniature greenhouse for each cutting. It’s crucial that the soil does not dry during this rooting period. A jar will help to hold in humidity, but be careful – hot afternoon sun can overheat the cutting and kill it.
  3. Water the planting site daily, but be careful not to create mud or standing water around the newly planted rose cuttings.
  4. Once the new plants have taken root well and begun to grow, you can move them to their permanent locations in your rose beds or gardens.

When you propagate roses, your new rose bushes will be small, but usually grow fairly quickly. These rose bushes need to be well protected against hard winter freezes in their first year, as well as any extreme heat stress conditions.

Keep in mind that many rose bushes are grafted rose bushes. This means that the bottom part is a hardier rootstock that will withstand cold and heat better than the top and more desired part of the rose bush. 

Starting a rose bush from cuttings places the new rose bush on its own roots, so it may not be as hardy in cold climates or in extreme heat conditions. Being on its own root system can cause the new rose bush to be far less hardy than its mother rose bush.

Tonya Barnett

Tonya Barnett has been gardening for 13 years. Flowers are her passion. She has transformed her backyard into a cut flower garden, which she regularly chronicles on her YouTube channel