Root Your Own Roses

Do you enjoy walking through old cemeteries, reading the weathered stones, looking at the old fashioned rose bushes, crushing the wild flowers beneath your wandering feet? Does the beauty and fragrance of these rose bushes make you want to try your hand at taking a cutting home and planting it in your garden? If your answer is yes to either one of these questions, read on to find out how this is done.

Gardeners all over the world have worked diligently to preserve these old fashioned roses. They insure the future of antique rose bushes by taking cuttings from roses found in cemeteries, abandoned farm houses, fences along country roads and from friends who are willing to share their prizes. Some valuable and rare roses, found in out-of-the-way places, have been saved from bulldozers and oblivion because people cared.

In order to have a successful rooting from rose cuttings, remember to use softwood cuttings, i.e. those made during the growing season from the current year’s stems (late spring through early fall). They must be from mature, but not woody, growth. These will be the easiest to root. Many gardeners wait for the summer heat to pass and root the cutting in early fall.

Listed below are the steps to take for a successful rooting.

  • Select/cut 6″ sections of cane from mature, not woody, current year’s growth.
  • Strip away the foliage from the lower 2/3′s of the 6″ stem.
  • Make cuts with very sharp pruning shears to avoid crushing the stems.
  • Dust rooting hormone powder on the bottom end of each stem.
  • Pot the rose cuttings individually, using a moist, porous potting soil.
  • Pack the soil gently, but firmly around the cuttings.
  • Place the fragile cuttings in an area that has bright, indirect light, such as a greenhouse or make your own miniature greenhouse fashioned from a clear plastic bag placed over the cuttings with wire placed strategically to keep the bag from touching the cutting. Some gardeners use a glass fruit jar as a greenhouse for their cuttings.
  • Keep the rooting plant moist, but not soggy. Water with a weak fertilizer solution or plant food.
  • Keep your cuttings outside as long as the weather permits, but protect them when the weather becomes cold. The cuttings may go dormant, but as long as the cane is green, everything is alright.
  • Plant in the spring when all danger of frost is passed.

Success with own-root roses is part technique and part philosophy. Old fashioned roses tough enough to survive without pampering throughout the years usually resist diseases that attack their younger, modern, well-bred cousins, but do not expect these plants to be disease free and in perfect health year round. You must be as vigilant with these roses as you are with the younger versions. Blackspot is practically unavoidable and must be taken care of in the same way you would any other rose. Another problem I have encountered was a leaf eating insect that stripped my roses almost bare of their leaves. I came upon an organic method of control by using a spray made up of 5 parts water to 1 part jalapeno juice. I only have to use this treatment one time and the insects leave immediately. I now use this mixture when I begin to spot the insects, usually with great success.

To really enjoy your roses, don’t plant them in isolated, out of the way places. These old-time, staunch garden plants should be planted the way our grandmas planted them – right out where they can be seen and enjoyed. Remember, tidy growing habits are not a virtue of old rose gardens. You will need to plan an aggressive pruning schedule to stay ahead of their growth. If you do the pruning regularly, the rewards will be well worth the extra effort to show them who is boss. Mingle their rich colors and heady fragrances with mint, lantana, petunias, or let then bloom among the zinnias and daisies and enjoy their fragrance for years to come.