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How to take rose cuttings

Val Bourne / 13 September 2021

Find out how to propagate your favourite rose by taking cuttings in late summer or early autumn.

Rose being cut
Rose cuttings can be taken in late summer and early autumn, but grafted roses can produce quite different plants

If you’ve got a rose that you really admire, or one that simply want more of, it’s possible to take cuttings in late summer or early autumn. If your cuttings take, your new rose will be growing on its own roots so if you’ve taken it from a grafted rose (and most roses are grafted on to rootstock to govern their size and vigour) it may not resemble its parent in habit and form. However, the flowers will be exactly the same and, should your rose be getting past its best, you’ll be able to give it a new lease of life.

How do I know if my rose is grafted or not?

If you look at the stem above the roots, you will see a bumpy part of the stem known as the union. It should sit at soil level or just above. Most shorter roses are grafted, because this is a very economical way of bulking up roses. Hybrid teas, floribundas, climbing roses, English roses and standard roses have all been grafted. You newly propagated cutting is likely to grow in a different way, but that’s part of gardening – the excitement of the unknown.

Species roses and ramblers are not normally grafted. They grow on their roots. If you can’t see a bump above the ground, your rose isn’t grafted and your cutting will replicate the habit and form of the parent.

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Choosing suitable cutting material

You need to look for pliable, green wood that’s begun to toughen up and this will have been produced in this growing season. Brown, hard wood will not root and grow away – however long you wait. You’re looking for wood that’s pencil thick, ideally, and at least ten inches in length although I have got smaller and thinner pieces to root.

Try to take more than one cutting and do the label at the same time. If you're doing lots keeping the material hydrated is very important. Stand the cuttings in a bucket of water, or use a plastic bag with damp kitchen paper at the bottom.

The basic rose cutting technique

Whenever you take a rose cutting that consists of a length of stem it’s important to know which is the top and which is the bottom. You do this by making a straight cut at the top and a diagonal cut at the bottom, using sharp secateurs.

Trim the cutting back to ten inches or slightly less. Remove all the lower leaves, but leave one or two of the highest ones. This will expose the leaf nodes on the stem.

Damage the lower two or three nodes, by scoring them with the tip of your cutting knife or secateurs. This will expose the cambium layer and encourage the cutting to produce roots.

Find out how to choose the best rose varieties for arches and pergolas

Planting your cutting in the ground

If you have a sheltered spot in the garden, that’s bright but not in full sun, it’s best to grow them in the ground.

Water the ground if it’s dry. Take a spade and put it into the soil up to the hilt and waggle it about to create a narrow slit a spade’s depth deep.

Add some coarse sand to the bottom of the slit trench and place your cuttings in the trench – so at least half of the cutting is submerged. Form in lightly with your feet.

If you’re choosing a pot, make it a deep rose pot or similar and fill it with a 3.1 mixture of compost and coarse grit. Water the compost well. Plunge the cuttings in, submerging half of the cutting or more. Label and place the pot in cool shade.

Your root cutting should start to produce roots during its first winter and a light tug should tell you whether it has rooted.

Your rooted cutting can be moved when it’s dormant and that can be between November and February, depending on the roots. It can go straight into position in the ground. A rose cutting often takes a year to root well – so patience is needed.

Find out how to grow bare root roses

Rose cuttings in a trench
Rose cuttings in a trench.

Can I use the same trench and the same system to take other semi-ripe cuttings?

Twiners and climbers do well and they include ivy, passion flower, solanum and trachelospermum.

Evergreens cuttings need more protection, so pots may be more useful with artemisia, berberis, brachyglottis, camellia, ceonothus, choisya, cistus, mahonia and evergreen viburnum.

It’s worth trying deciduous shrubs too, using this ‘semi-ripe’ system, although some may need rooting hormone powder. You can also take hardwood cuttings, when the plants are dormant, but they do take longer to root.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.