Wednesday, May 15, 2013

How to Root Roses from Cuttings

I have tried just about every method out there to propagate roses from cuttings.  This process, as taught to me by my friend Diana Klassy in 2007, is the easiest and most reliable one for me.  It's simple to understand, and it uses materials that you may already have on hand or can easily obtain.

(This isn't only for roses.  I have rooted new plants of lilac, azalea, hydrangea, and figs using this method.  Any plant that can root from cuttings is a candidate.) 

Are you ready? 

Gather your supplies:  You will need a half-gallon milk or juice jug, a clear 2-liter soda bottle, good-quality potting media, rooting hormone, pruners, and a sharp utility knife. 

You will be using the bottom of the milk jug as a pot, and the top of the soda bottle to form a greenhouse.

Cut large drainage holes in the bottom of the milk jug, and fill it with moist potting media.

The best cutting for most roses is a stem with a dead flower on it, with four to six sets of leaves.

If possible, get the heel wood where the stem emerges from the main cane.

If you cannot get a heel, cut below a leaf bud.

Cut off the dead flower and remove all but two sets of leaves from your cutting.

With the sharp utility knife, score the end of the cutting on two or three sides ... cutting only through the outer layer.

Dip the scored cutting into rooting hormone.  Dampen the cutting if you are using powdered rooting hormone.

Make a hole in the potting media.  Insert the cutting and water thoroughly.  You can place more than one cutting into each container ... I don't recommend putting in more than three.

Cover the cutting with the soda bottle top, maneuvering the bottle a little bit so that it fits inside the rim of the milk jug pot.  Be careful not to dislodge the cutting.

Now comes the most difficult part of this process ... place the container with your cutting in a safe shaded location and LEAVE IT ALONE.  (You only need to check on it once a week or so.)  In the fall, I put cuttings in my north-facing basement workshop window with a fluorescent shop light for supplemental lighting.  For cuttings in spring and summer, I place my containers underneath an azalea bush in my side yard shade garden. 

Make certain that your cuttings receive no direct sunlight at this stage or the inside of the bottle will overheat and your cuttings will die.  You don't need to water your cutting ... as long as there is condensation inside the soda bottle, you're fine.  More cuttings die from overwatering than anything else.

Cuttings can produce roots in as soon as four weeks, or as many as eight, ten, or more weeks.  Since roots are visible through the translucent milk jug, there is no need to pull cuttings to check their progress.  Remove any leaves that may fall ... don't worry, the cutting can still root without leaves.  As long as the stem is green, the cutting is alive.

When the cutting is showing strong roots, and it begins to sprout new leaves, start to harden off your new rose by removing the screw top of the soda bottle.  After a week or two without the lid, remove the soda bottle and begin to gradually acclimate your rose to a sunnier environment.

This is an extreme example of strong new growth shooting up and out the top of the soda bottle while I was busy with other things and didn't notice that it was time to remove the bottle.

At this point, if you have only one cutting in your milk jug pot, you can leave your new rose growing there without the bottle until it has a strong root system and the root ball can hold together for transplanting.  If you have more than one cutting, carefully tip the contents of the pot out and tease the plants apart ... trying your best not to damage any of the fragile new roots ... and put each new rose into its own pot.

That's all there is to it!  Rooting roses is not rocket science.  If you start with quality cuttings taken at the right time from a well-watered mother plant, your chances of success increase dramatically.  

Some roses root very readily from cuttings, and some are down-right impossible ... sometimes the only way to find out is to give it a try.

 If you have any questions, you can leave them in a comment, or you can contact me directly via EMAIL.


  1. Great tutorial in rooting! Easy to do, understand and photos to show you step by step. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Excellent tutorial! Now, if I just didn't have black thumbs!

  3. Thank You for posting!

    You stated about cutting at the right time. When is the right time?


  4. I have been rooting cuttings like this for years but reading your post, I realize how slap dash I am!
    Thank you for clear instructions.

  5. I'm posting here and sending Regina a personal reply to her question.

    The 'right time' would be when your intended mother plant rose has bloomed and the flowers have faded. Remember, the best cuttings for me have been piece of stem with a dead flower on it. It can be first flowering, summer flowers, or fall flush.

    Some roses root best early in the year, others are more likely to root in the fall. A few will root anytime, and some will stubbornly refuse to root (Albas have been this way for me.) Sometimes you just have to experiment with different timing if your first attempt fails.

  6. Fantastic tutorial! Thanks, Connie. You make it sound/look so easy. I just need to gather the supplies and then I want to try this myself. It will be a small miracle to me if I'm able to pull it off, and if/when I do I'll be back to let you know! :o)

  7. Thankyou so much for this wonderful tutorial on the roses!! I'm going to try it right now and also tomorrow! Just wanted to know , when planting azalea cuttings, do you use hardwood cuttings, or tip cuttings?


  8. This is a great tutorial. Now I need to find jugs and containers. :-)


  9. Oh I am so glad I found this post! I read it when you originally posted it and remember thinking at the time that this is something I need to bookmark & well....never did.
    I'm possibly moving from CT to NC & have a few roses that I really want to take cuttings of, with me. None of them have bloomed yet though, they have just now shown new buds. Do you think it'll really hinder the process if the cutting doesn't have a dead flower?
    Should I do this entire process before I move Connie, or maybe wrap the stems in moist newspaper and plant when I arrive in NC?
    Thanks for all your advice!


  10. My grandma has a seven sisters pink rose bush from my great great grandmas boarding house that I wanted to bring alive at my house! Thanks for posting!

  11. TQ so much for sharing this knowledge,

  12. Fantastci tutorial. Now to put to practice. Thanks.


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