Propagating Roses From Stem Cuttings And Budding

In this section we will be discussing the common methods of propagating roses - budding and stem cutting.

Stem cuttings

Propagating roses by means of stem cuttings is one of the simplest methods. This method involves just cutting the stem into small pieces and planting them right away into the growing medium. These stems will develop roots sooner or later. Many commercial rose growers use the stem cutting method mainly because it enables them to generate numerous miniature as well as garden roses quickly and at one time. Stems of these roses will readily develop roots when propagated by stem cuttings. In addition to these roses, you can also grow a number of big modern bush roses, particularly the varieties that are comparatively larger and also more robust, as they also grow well from stem cuttings. Similar to the budding technique, developing new plants from stem cuttings is also a vegetative means of propagation. It ensures that the new plants are similar to their parents in every manner.

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In order to propagate roses from stem cuttings, make use of pruning shears to cut the stems into small pieces, each measuring anything between 4 inches and 6 inches. While making the cuttings ensure that each stem piece has no less than five-leaflet leaves. The cuts should be made at a 45° angle, a little higher than the highest leaf that will remain on the plant. Occasionally, gardeners also make cut along stem and then make two cuttings from it. It has been seen that in such cases generally the stem cutting made from the upper part roots better.

If you plan to propagate roses using the stem cutting method, you should preferably undertake the cuttings soon after the blooms have withered and the stem's wood is not very soft or very hard and the cuttings will easily develop roots when planted. After you make the cutting, get rid of the flower buds, flowers and the two leaves at the bottom of the stem. Subsequently, push the stem cutting into the container packed with only growing medium, but no soil. Ensure that the growing medium plasters the two nodes from where you removed the leaves. Firm up the growing medium around the cuttings using your fingers.

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It is advisable that you dust the base of the cuttings with rooting hormone powder prior to positioning them in the growing medium, as this will help them to root faster. In fact, you can purchase the rooting hormone powder from your neighbourhood garden centers. This product comes in jars or packets. Moreover, the cuttings will also root more quickly indoors, provided you gently heat them from their base. You may use a heating coil, a specific electrical device, to heat the cuttings. Alternatively, you can also place the cuttings resting on any warm domestic device.

In case you are growing the cuttings indoors, especially in your house, you should position them in a plastic bag and then keep the bag in a container. Keep the container under a bright light. However, never keep them in direct sun. Take out the plastic bag from the container for some minutes every day with a view to allow air circulation and also prevent the cuttings from being affected by diseases. Test the cuttings after several weeks to see if they have rooted. You can check this by pulling the stems gently. If you find any resistance, be sure that the cuttings have developed roots. When this occurs, remove the cuttings from the plastic bag and also do away with the heating. On the other hand, if the cuttings come out freely when tugged, replace them in the plastic bag and continue the heating process for some more weeks and check them again.

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It will be much better to grow the stem cuttings in a greenhouse, provided you have access to one. In fact, the moist environment inside the greenhouse is what these cuttings require most. When you are rooting the stem cuttings in a greenhouse it is not necessary to place them inside plastic bags. On the other hand, misting the cuttings from time to time will facilitate the rooting.

You can also root the rose cutting outdoors in beds specially prepared for this purpose. Ensure that the beds are made using well-prepared soil and they are not under full or direct sun. The cuttings should be prepared in the same way as you prepare them for rooting in containers. At the same time, make sure that the air surrounding these cuttings remains moist till they have rooted properly. This can be achieved by misting the beds every day. Alternatively, you may cover the stem cuttings with a plastic film that is stretched over glass jars or a frame. The glass jars and plastic will also help in retaining much moisture in the soil. However, you need to examine the soil from time to time to ensure that it does not dry up. If you notice any sign of the soil becoming dry, water it immediately.

As in the case of rooting stem cuttings in containers, it is essential to test the cuttings planted in the beds regularly to see if they have rooted. When the rooting is complete, remove the plastic or glass, which ever you may be using. Stem cuttings rooted outdoors require some protection during the first winter, as the newly rooted stems are extremely susceptible to cold - much more compared to mature roses. You can prick the young plants and start growing them in their permanent positions in spring next year.


Budding is perhaps the most extensively used method to propagate roses. When a gardener achieves success with this method, may be even on a very small scale, it gives him/ her immense satisfaction. There is a feeling of achievement. So there seems to be no reason why an amateur gardener should not make an effort to propagate some new rose bushes using the budding method. The only tools that you require to produce roses using this method are a budding knife with a razor-sharp edge and a comfortable handle. In fact, such knives are available in a variety of designs. The technique of budding needs to be acquired and rose nurseries have been employing skilled propagators who can work very fast and handle as many as 400 bushes just in an hour.

As budding is generally done during the peak of growing season of the plants, when the scion as well as the stock are in active growth, speed of the new plant's growth is crucial. When you plan to produce roses through budding, you should generally plant the stocks in rows as one-year young plants during the previous winter. The plants are ready for budding by the time it is middle of June and will continue to be in such state of readiness for nearly two months. You should plant the stocks in a manner that about a couple of inches (2.5 cm to 5.0 cm) of the root protrudes above the level of the ground.

On the other hand, the buds (known as scions) are chosen by taking a mature flowering shoot from a convenient rose bush. Generally, the shoot is mature when the flower has begun to blossom. The scions are collected by cutting the flowers along with the top two inches (5 cm) of the stem with the leaves, as this helps in handling the scions (buds). Subject to the cultivar you are using as the scion, you should preferably have roughly 1/3 inch (1 cm) of leaf stalk with the stem. Nearly all rose stems (sticks) taken in this way will contain about four to eight buds. You should take care to ensure that the rose "stick" does not dry up at any time. If required, you can keep the rose sticks fresh for many days if you place them in polythene or a wet newspaper.

In order to undertake the budding process, you should first ensure that the stock is dirt free as well as does not have any soil attached to it at its base or the level of the ground. Use a sharp knife to make a T-shaped cut in the stock's bark or you may just abrade the tissue inside the bark of the stock. Making a vertical cut, roughly 1 inch (2.5 cm) long, will be sufficient to push the bark at top of the "T" a little upwards. Once you have prepared the stock, place the scion by holding it with your index finger and thumb, keeping your palm uppermost, in a manner that the top or the thin end of the scion points upwards to your wrist. While positioning the scion, you need to place your index finger directly below the top or the first bud on the stem stick to provide it with ample support. Subsequently, use a knife to cut the first bud in one cutting motion. Use the thumb of the hand that is holding the knife to push the "silver" that you are firmly removing on to the blade of the knife.

Once you have made a sharp cut of approximately one-third inch (1 cm) just above the bud, you can tear the bark backwards and remove it altogether from the stem stick, but keep holding the bark between your thumb and the knife blade. In fact, budding experts keep hold of the stem stick in their hand, while they go on completing each budding process. However, if you are an amateur, it is advisable that you keep the stem stick away and only hold the bud between your thumb and index finger. Subsequently, the budding operation involves separating the wood from the bark, which is generally done in two stages. Grasp the blunt end of the stick between your thumb and finger, using the thumbnail to provide support, and take away a part of the wood from the top of the bud downwards and remove the remaining part from the bottom upwards. This will expose a small fleshy bud on the inner side of the bark. However, if you do not find the bud, but find that there is a hole inside, you should discard the stick and start all over again with a new one.

You will require a lot of dexterity in the next stage of the budding operation. Next, use one hand to hold the top of the bud, while open the bark of the root stock with the other hand using the budding knife's handle. Subsequently, place the bud under the bark of the stock very carefully. When this is done, cut off if any part of the bark remains above the "T". Before you complete the operation, you need to bandage the wound on the stock to ensure that the bud remains inside the bark of the stock and also avoid any moisture from entering the bark. In nurseries, experts use particular low-cost latex patches to accomplish this job. However, if this latex is not available, you can make use of some thin raffia (a type of fiber from raffia palm) to wrap the cut area. Wind this fiber three times just below the bud and four times above it and carefully make a knot at the top.

You can remove the "bandage" after about three to four weeks and see if your budding operation has been a success or failure. If you find that the bud has not developed and if you still have some more time, you can make another attempt on the opposite side of the stock. Follow the same process as you did for the first budding operation. On the other hand, if the bud has taken or developed, leave it untouched till the middle of winter. When it is mid-winter, you can remove the entire top of the stock by making a cut roughly 1/3 inch (1 cm) on top of the bud.


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