Rose Cuttings: Starting New Roses From Scratch

Taking rose cuttings and rooting them will multiply your bonanza of bright blooms! Our step-by-step guide reveals how to do it properly.

Taking rose cuttings


Are there rose bushes in the garden that you would like to propagate? Rose cuttings are an easy way to grow more rose plants. In this piece, we discuss what is needed to grow roses from cuttings. It’s really a simple and fun process that will help expand the rose garden in no time. 

There are other forms of rose propagation, such as growing new plants from seed or grafting cuttings onto a rootstalk. We’ve learned to grow roses from cuttings as it is a reliable method that will result in an exact replica of the parent plant. This is great if there is a rose bush that has been in the family for years and you want to grow more of that variety, or perhaps share other favorite plants with the family.

Keep in mind that many rose bushes will have patents in place, so it’s best not to grow roses from cuttings for resale purposes unless you’ve received written permission from the patent holder. After 20 years, the patent expires. However, patents are more commonly seen on modern hybrids. Choose heirloom roses that are native to your area and take rose cuttings from these to create a beautiful space that also attracts beneficial insects. 

Now, let’s delve into what plant propagation is, then move on to step-by-step instructions on how to take rose cuttings for optimal success and to enjoy the satisfaction of planting new roses in your garden. 

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What Is Plant Propagation?

Taking rose cuttings
Hard to find roses like this Clytemnestra can be rooted to create more plants. Source: mmmavocado

In its simplest form, plant propagation is the process of making new plants and, in this case, new roses. It can involve growing a plant from seed, taking cuttings, dividing, air layering, or grafting from an existing plant. Each method has its pros and cons and it’s always good to know which method is best for the plant you plan to propagate. 

For example, some plants can only be propagated from seed. This process is also known as sexual propagation because you usually have to have male and female plants to create the seed, resulting in a mixture of gene combinations. Asexual propagation involves producing new plants from portions of an existing plant, which is basically a clone of the parent. When you grow roses, the best form of propagation is from cuttings taken in late spring to early winter. 

Preparation And Setup

Preparation is straightforward to propagate roses from cuttings. Most of the materials may already be on hand, if not, they are easy to find at your local garden center. 

Materials You’ll Need

Steps To Take

First, prepare your materials and have everything ready to go to give your rose cuttings the best chance at surviving and taking root. Add moistened soil to the pots, fill the glass of water and place a small amount of rooting powder in a shallow container. Now, put on gloves and grab the shears because you are ready to take rose cuttings. 

How To Take Rose Cuttings

Red roses
By rooting cuttings, one can level up their rose garden. Source: James Jardine

Rose bushes have different types of wood on them at certain times of the year. If you grow roses, then you have probably noticed the variety of canes. You will need to know if you are taking softwood cuttings, hardwood cuttings, or semi-hardwood cuttings. Each of these involves a little different method though there will be many similarities in the actions taken from cutting to planting.  

No matter the type of cutting, choose healthy plants and healthy stems that are free from disease. The pruning shears must be sharp and clean to avoid damage to your established rose bush and/or transfer disease from the shears to the cut stems. Cutting at a 45-degree angle will prevent damaging the stem. Also, if the rose stems are flexible and pliable, create a guide hole in the soil with a pencil to prevent harm to the stem when settled in the soil. 

Most types of soil will suffice as long as it is light and fast-draining, with plenty of organic matter to provide nutrients and retain moisture to assist with new growth. The reason for having the glass of water is to keep the rose cuttings hydrated and to moisten them so the rooting hormone powder will stick to the ends. 

Alternatively, dig a narrow trench in a protected area, out of direct sunlight in the garden, and fill it with a good soil mixture. Then let the cuttings root outside and once a good root system has been established, transplant them. The downside to this method is you don’t have as much control over the weather, especially if you live in a cold climate. In a later section, we will discuss how to care for rose cuttings whether placed in a pot or outside in the garden. 

Taking Softwood Rose Cuttings

Softwood rose cuttings are best taken in late spring or early summer on the current season’s growth. Choose new stems with flexible green growth and just after the rose blooms. This type of cutting has the highest success rate because the new growth forms new roots quickly, but they are also more susceptible to fungal diseases and don’t acclimate as well to environmental changes. 

Step 1: Select flexible new stems from a healthy rose that is from the current year’s growth. The best time of day for these cuttings is first thing in the morning.

Step 2: With pruning shears, cut a stem that is 6-8 inches long and just below a leaf node. 

Step 3: Remove all the lower leaves, making sure you have at least two to four nodes since the node is where the new roots will grow. Also, remove any flower buds so the energy from the cutting goes towards forming roots. This process, along with the following two steps, is sometimes referred to as “sticking”.

Step 4: Take several cuttings and place each one in the glass of water after you cut it from the parent rose. 

Step 5: Once you have prepared the softwood cuttings, dip each end in the root hormone powder and place it in the prepared soil. Firm the dirt around each stem with gentle pressure and water the soil well. Make sure it is not soggy, and that there is good drainage to prevent the end of the cuttings from rotting. Try to place at least half the cutting under the potting media in a deep pot for the best rooting potential.

Taking Semi-Hardwood Rose Cuttings

Semi-hardwood rose cuttings are partially matured, being in between softwood and hardwood cuttings. They will still be more flexible at the tip with slight resistance near the base. These take a little longer to root but are more able to resist diseases and environmental factors. These cuttings are best taken in late summer to early fall when the current year’s growth has stopped and the bush has finished blooming. 

Step 1: Choose roses with stems that showcase healthy leaves free from disease. Take several cuttings, keeping them at 6-8 inches in length. Also cut just below a leaf node, making sure there are at least 4 nodes along the cut stem. 

Step 2: Remove the remaining leaves from the bottom half, exposing 2 to 4 nodes. Place the prepared stems into the water. 

Step 3: Now dip each stem into the rooting hormone powder and place it into the prepared soil- making sure at least 2 nodes are covered by the dirt. Make a planting hole with a pencil if you have difficulty pushing the stem into the dirt. 

Step 4: Lightly press the soil around the stem to firm it in place and water it thoroughly. 

Taking Hardwood Rose Cuttings

Hardwood cuttings are taken in the late fall or early winter when the plant is dormant and the stems are mature and hardened. In a warmer environment, it’s possible to take rose cuttings safely into late winter. This type of rose cutting is the most difficult and slowest to root. However, it is often viewed as the most reliable method, especially if you place them outside in a garden trench. It’s the perfect time to collect cuttings as it’s the season for pruning for the winter.

Step 1: Select a long, straight stem at least 6 inches and one that has 4 or more leaf nodes. Cut the stem at a 45-degree angle to prevent and damage. 

Step 2: Remove leaves to expose 2 to 4 nodes, and if collecting multiple cuttings, place them in a glass of water until you are ready to dip the ends in rooting hormone powder. 

Step 3: Once the ends are dipped, place the stem into the readied potting soil or garden bed. Remember to place it deep enough so that the exposed nodes are in the dirt and then firm the dirt surrounding the stem. Water deeply so that the cutting receives plenty of moisture.  

Caring For Your Rose Cuttings

Preparing rose cuttings
Sticking rose cuttings is essential to the rooting process. Source: mmmavocado

To grow roses from cuttings takes a bit of care and patience. Keep the soil moist, but not soggy to prevent the cutting from developing mold or a fungal disease. Add horticultural grit to your soil to increase drainage if it is a concern.  

It’s also important not to let the soil dry out, so water cuttings that are in pots more frequently than the ones that are in the ground. You can also place a plastic bag (with small air holes) over the potted cuttings and secure it with a rubber band to keep in warmth and humidity. 

Place your potted cuttings in a warm location that receives bright indirect sunlight. Direct sun can be too harsh, especially the hot afternoon sun. When you plant your cuttings in the ground, consider placing plastic wrap or a plastic or glass bottle over them, which will essentially create a mini greenhouse. This should help provide protection, warmth, and humidity, and will keep the soil soft and moist. 

As mentioned previously, softwood cuttings will root faster than hardwood cuttings and one way to tell if they have roots is by gently tugging on the stem. If you meet resistance, then you have rooted cuttings. 

Growing roses is a fun endeavor, but don’t get in too big of a hurry to transplant them in the garden. It takes time for good root development, which will help them endure and thrive in times of stress. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Pink roses
Green, softwood rose cuttings are relatively easy to root. Source: DBduo Photography

Q: Can you root rose cuttings in water?

A: Yes, you can root rose cuttings in water. It will take longer and the success rate is lower, but it doesn’t mean to avoid trying this method. Simply take softwood cuttings from a new, healthy stem and place it in lukewarm water. Provide plenty of warmth and sunlight and change the water once per week. Roots should begin forming within one month. 

Q: How long does it take roses to grow from cuttings?

A: It depends upon what type of cutting is used. Softwood cuttings will usually root within two to four weeks, while hardwood cuttings will take a little longer. If taking cuttings in the spring, you should be able to plant the new rose outside in the late summer or early autumn. If starting a rose cutting in the fall, it should develop roots and be ready to plant the following late spring or early summer.