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  • How to Propagate Roses From Cuttings: The Best Way to Grow New Roses From Stem Cuttings

    December 19, 2023 8 min read 0 Comments

    How to Propogate Roses from Cuttings, image shows rose cuttings being propogated

    There are a number of different ways to propagate roses including suckering, tissue culture, seeds, etc. The easiest and most successful way to propagate roses is by taking cuttings of softwood, either in the late spring or early summer depending on your growing zone. These cuttings then spend around a year in their little pots and can be planted out the following year. Roses propagated from cuttings will usually take 2-3 years to begin flowering. It is also possible to do hardwood cuttings on roses which we will outline in another article. 

     rose cuttings

    What you need to propagate roses from cuttings

    The steps and supplies for taking and planting successful softwood cuttings are outlined in this article. You really only need a few things to be successful. Be sure to water your plants well the day before you plan to take cuttings. Well hydrated plants are more likely to root well.

    The main difference between taking hardwood and softwood cuttings is that softwood, being taken during the growing season, has leaves. This means that maintaining humidity for the cuttings is important until they have established roots. 

    Supplies for propagating roses

    Collecting your supplies:

    • Sharp, clean pruning shears or snips 
    • Jars or buckets of clean water
    • Masking tape or painters tape and pen for labeling
    • Chalk pen for labeling pots (optional)
    • Small pots (I like these clear 2.5 inch pots)
      • There are other options for containers like putting 5-6 stems in one larger pot or coffee can. 
    • Sterile planting mix, coco coir, or other soilless media (For more on mixing your own growing media check out this article.)
    • Willow tea, aloe vera gel/powder, honey, coconut water or rooting hormone powder.
    • Dibbler stick or pencil for making holes in the planting mix
    • Humidity dome, empty plastic bottle or bag to maintain humidity

    Taking Rose Cuttings in the Spring

    Softwood cuttings can be taken in the late spring or early summer just as the flowers are finishing up their gorgeous display. You want softwood cuttings that have just finished flowering as they are most likely to root. The average success rate for cuttings can be under 50% so always take more than you think you need. 

    how to take rose cuttings

    What to look for when choosing cuttings:

    • Stems that are around the same thickness as a pencil
    • 3-5 leaf nodes 
    • Between 5-9 inches in length
    • Green stems that are flexible but not floppy 
    • No evidence of disease or pests

    snipping roses for cuttings

    Cut each stem with clean, sharp pruners. Keep your stems under 10 inches in length and place them into clean water immediately. Label each jar or bucket with the variety or a description on the flower if you aren’t sure. 

    rose cuttings in water

    Preparing your softwood cuttings

    Working with one group of cuttings at a time will help you keep each variety separate as you move forward. 

    • Trim each stem flat across the bottom just below a node.
    • Remove all but the top 1-2 sets of leaves.
    • If the leaves are large, cut the top half of each leaf off to prevent excess transpiration.
    • If the leaves have wilted from heat you can remove them all, just make sure you know which end is the top of your cutting.
    • Place the cuttings back in water if you are not going to plant immediately. 

    nodules on a rose

    Planting your rose cuttings

    Once you have all your cuttings prepared it is time to plant them. Use fairly moist but not sopping wet growing media, excessive moisture can cause the cuttings to rot before they root. 

    root hormone on cuttings

    We also suggest that you use some type of root growth stimulator. It helps to stimulate root growth as well as protecting the cut ends from bacterial and fungal invasion during the rooting process. There are natural substances that can be used to stimulate root growth and protect cut ends. You can use aloe vera, honey, coconut water or a willow tea for this purpose. Instructions on these variations can be found below. 

    root hormone

    Rooting hormone in powdered, liquid or gel form can be found at any garden supply store. This is commonly used for cuttings in the US. It is important to note that synthetic growth regulators are contraindicated for organic certifications and some countries (including the EU) do not allow their use at all. 

    planting in 2.5 cup

    Steps to propagate roses from cuttings

    1. Fill your pots or cell trays with moist planting mix and firm gently.
    2. Use your pencil or dibber to make a hole nearly to the bottom of the pot. The goal is to have at least the bottom two leaf nodes under the surface. 
    3. Apply your preferred rooting stimulator to the cut end. For powdered aloe vera or rooting hormone, roll the moist end of the cutting in a shallow dish of powder to coat the bottom half inch. For other rooting substances check the variations below. 
    4. Carefully place the cutting in the prepared hole taking care not to brush off the rooting treatment.
    5. Gently firm the soil around the stem.
    6. Place the completed cuttings under a humidity dome or other plastic cover to retain humidity. 
    7. Water from the bottom to keep the growing media evenly moist. If you are not using a humidity cover or live in a very dry environment, you may need to mist your plants regularly until they form roots. 
    8. Keep cuttings in a place with moderate temperatures and indirect sunlight until good roots have formed. This step is why we prefer to use clear pots for cuttings. It allows you to see the roots without disturbing the soil and possibly killing the fragile roots. If you are using solid colored trays or pots you can check for roots growing out the bottom. 

      planted rose cuttings

    9. After 4-6 weeks your successful cuttings should be showing root growth and can be CAREFULLY transplanted into larger pots. (Some cuttings will take longer to grow roots and should be left in their original pots until roots are visible. If after a few months you still don’t see any the cutting likely didn’t strike (form roots).)
      1. Keep your new roses protected from frost for the first year in a greenhouse, cold frame or sunny window sill. 
      2. Once they have new leaf growth in the late spring they can be planted out or transplanted into larger pots. 

      rose cuttings

      5 Ways to Propagate Roses from Cuttings (including a potato!)

      There are a number of well researched studies on the use of natural root growth stimulators. Not only are they a natural alternative to synthetic hormones, they are also less expensive, easy to make or find, and frequently something you already have around the house. In addition many studies have shown that they are frequently MORE effective than the chemical store bought alternative. This study in particular does a great job as A Review on the Use of Organic Rooting Substances for Propagation of Horticulture Crops. Highly recommended reading if this interests you. 

      Willow tea or willow water for stimulating root growth

      Willow tea contains many of the same components as store bought rooting hormone. It is easy to make and effective. Simply gather enough willow stem tips to fill a jar. You are looking for green or yellow wood and not the older brown wood. Remove all of the leaves and cut the stems into 1 inch pieces. Place all the stems in a jar and fill with boiling water. Let the mixture steep for 24 hours. Strain and keep refrigerated until ready to use. It will stay good for around two months (be sure to label well so no one drinks it). 

      To use for your rose cuttings, soak the stems in the willow tea for several hours or overnight as you would flowers in a vase. You can also use the willow water to water your cuttings the first few times you need to add water. 

      Using coconut water for rooting cuttings

      Coconut water contains a surprising number of vitamins and minerals as well as phytohormones that stimulate root growth. For more one this be sure to check out this article A Comparative Evaluation of Coconut Water as Root Setting Medium…

      To use coconut water to stimulate root growth on your cuttings simply soak the bottom half of your stems in pure coconut water for 4-6 hours before planting. 

      Honey as a cutting protector and root stimulator

      Honey should be unheated when used as a rooting stimulator. It is assumed that the enzymes that are present in raw honey are part of what makes it successful as a root stimulator and these enzymes are heat sensitive. Honey also contains large quantities of sugars and trace vitamins and minerals that appear to stimulate growth of new roots. 

      To use for cutting propagation, dip the bottom ½ inch of the cut end into the honey and plant as outlined above. If your honey is too thick to make a thin coating you can dilute it with some distilled or boiled and cooled water. 

      Aloe vera gel as a rooting substance

      You can purchase aloe vera gel or make your own if you have aloe plants. If purchasing, try to find one with limited additives although a little additional vitamins shouldn’t hurt. You can also make your own from aloe powder and distilled water. 

      To use for cutting propagation, dip the bottom ½ inch of the cut end into the gel and plant. 

      Using a potato for propagating rose cuttings

      You can use a potato with a small hole drilled out of the center to propagate a rose cutting. Slip the stem into the drilled hole, cover it with soil and a humidity dome, and keep it moist. The potato works to help keep a humid environment for the rooting to thrive. 

      rose cuttings

      Taking cuttings in the fall or winter

      Roses can also be propagated from hardwood cuttings in their dormant phase. We will outline these steps in a separate article to include many of the other lovely plants you can propagate from cuttings. 

      Which roses can you propagate from cuttings?

      Newer rose varieties that have been for sale less than 20 years are protected by plant patents and are not legal to propagate for sale or for personal use. Older rose varieties are fair game however. If you are unsure that the rose you have is safe to grow from cuttings you can do a rose search on HelpMeFind.

      Many rosarians suggest starting with miniature roses as they are the easiest to grow from cuttings. You can start with whatever type you like but keep in mind that it is normal to have a success rate of 50% or less. It is best to attempt more than you would like to plant the following year. If you end up with more successful cuttings than you need it just means more to share with friends.

      rose pink


      Taking softwood cuttings is an excellent way to propagate roses for yourself or to share with friends. You can also grow them up in pots for a few years in order to offer them for sale. Be sure to keep good labels on all your plants and cuttings or you may need to wait until they bloom again to know what you have. With a few supplies, time and a little patience you can have plenty of your favorite roses around for landscaping, potting up, growing and gifting. 



      Richard A. Ogatis, "A Comparative Evaluation of Coconut Water as Root Setting Medium for Rhizopora Stylosa Hypocotyl Propagation", International Journal of Science and Research (IJSR), Volume 5 Issue 12, December 2016, pp. 2061-2063, https://www.ijsr.net/getabstract.php?paperid=ART20163907

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