Starting Roses from Cuttings
(The Rosarian Grows Roses From Cuttings Covered by a Jug)
By Harlow Young
Several years ago Joan Monteith, one of our members who had successfully started roses from cuttings, gave us a hands-on demonstration of this art during one of our summer meetings. As I recall, none of my cuttings attempted after that demonstration survived to mature plants.
About two years ago in another summer meeting, Anne Muggli showed us her method for rooting stem cuttings of roses. She simply placed the cuttings under quart canning jars in a partially shaded area of her garden. She mentioned that she had good success using this method. Seeing Anne’s success, my interest sparked for trying this again. I wanted to “kick it up” a bit, if possible, by using larger jars to cover the cuttings (I didn’t have canning jars).
The idea lay dormant until I came across a potential supply of broken 5-gallon plastic water jugs. I begged for a couple from a vendor (for free), cut about 2-inches off the bottoms and experimented with them as “incubators” for rose cuttings. The rest, as the cliché goes, is history. I was really happy to see that I had rooted roses the following spring.
I had a strong desire to increase the number of cuttings the following year. So, I went back to the local water store and asked (begged) for more broken bottles. They gave me six, stating that if I didn’t take them, they’d end up in the garbage or the recycle bin. That was like giving a child a piece of candy; I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Now, here are the tips and techniques that I learned from Joan and Anne and some tips that I assimilated while doing other reading and research:
1. Preparing the Container
I start by cutting off about 11/2 to 2-inches from the bottom of the container. I’ve tried various methods, but a fine-toothed handsaw seems to work best.
2. The “Hunt” for Roses
Each rose that I choose must fit these requirements:
a. It cannot be a rose that has a current patent or trademark.
b. It cannot be a rose that is available commercially at a local nursery, regardless if it is patented or
trademarked. I don’t want to be in competition with them nor do I want to deny them business if they have a rose that I want to grow in my garden.
c. Most of the roses that I have selected are those that have caught my attention in a public or personal garden. Many of these roses are not labeled with their registered name, so I have had to do research to determine what they are. This helps me to decide whether I really want to try to cultivate them or not. The hunt is part of my personal enjoyment.
3. The Gathering
I have a few wide mouth plastic containers, (my “cutting jars”) from a thrift shop, that I carry with me when I’m collecting cuttings. They are tall enough to hold 10-inch long cuttings, which is more than adequate for my purposes. I fill these about half way with water and a small amount of dry rooting hormone (about the equivalent volume of a pencil eraser). I don’t know if this hormone really helps the eventual rooting process, but it is part of the routine I’ve followed.
4. Preparing the Cutting
Once I get the cuttings back to my shop I follow Joan Monteith’s instructions as best as I can recall.
a. Cut the lower end of the stem off at a very sharp angle, starting the cut just below a leaf node. Joan emphasized the importance of using sharp tools for this and I agree. Then scrape both sides of the lower end of the stem — about 1- to 11/4-inch down to the vascular tissue (light colored wood).
b. Remove the bottom leaves from the stem leaving at least two on the top of the stem.
c. Wet the lower end of the stem by dipping it in prepared container, and then coat the lower portion of the stem with dry rooting hormone.
5. Planting the Cutting
a. As soon as possible, after getting it coated with the rooting hormone, set the stem into the ground. I can usually get three stems under one of the five-gallon containers.
b. I prepare a hole in the soil for the cutting, with a pencil or other appropriate tool, making the hole large enough that the cutting will fit about 2-inches into the ground and loose enough that the coating of rooting hormone is not rubbed off as it is set into the hole. I gently pat down the soil around the cutting.
c. Once two to three cuttings are arranged in the soil, I place the bottomless water jug over them. I try to get the bottom of this jug about 2-inches below the level of the soil. Fall and winter winds will topple it if I don’t do this. I also try to arrange the cuttings so that their leaves do not touch the ground or the side of the jar. If the cap of the jar is gone, I cover with a couple layers of aluminum
foil to keep the warmth and moisture in. These incubators can be left undisturbed until April or May of the following spring, though I can’t resist checking them throughout the late fall and winter.
d. After planting, and covering, I put a label near the jar indicating the rose’s name or the location where I discovered it.
6. Success or Failure
Yes, there is failure with each adventure. One cultivar that I tried last fall had NO rooted cuttings this spring. I’ll try again, but I’ve heard that some varieties are hard to root regardless of the methods tried. Nevertheless, there is such exhilaration over those that are successful. The adrenaline flows when I peek through the top. Typically, I have been “planting” these cuttings after the hottest summer days have passed; which means I start them in mid-September to as late as mid-October. Some of the photos show these incubators tucked into my rose garden. Curious neighbors have asked what these are for, so with my (now well-practiced) explanation, I tell them. And, I’ve shared some of the rooted cuttings with several neighbors. I have been about 70 percent successful with these trials. The Rose Whisperer encourages y’all to try it; it’s a real HOOT when you get new plants using this easy method. Thanks to the encouragement and examples of Joan Monteith and Anne Muggli, great rosarians and friends.
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