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How to Propagate Roses

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Despite their reputation for being challenging to take care of, roses are easy to propagate from both cuttings and seeds.

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Cuttings

Roses can be propagated from both hardwood or semi-hardwood cuttings. Hardwood cuttings are mature wood from the fall and semi-hardwood stems are cut in the summer. Hardwood cuttings should be cut from stems from the previous season and need to be about 10 to 12 inches long. They should be cut cleanly just below and above a bud. To do this, the gardener needs to have a very sharp pair of secateurs, for dull blades will crush the stem and ruin the cutting. The gardener then needs to remove all but the top two or three leaves.

The plant cuttings should be placed in well-drained, sandy soil about 3 to 4 inches apart and 8 to 10 inches deep. The cuttings can be put outside if the gardener lives in a mild climate where the soil doesn’t freeze deeply. They are best planted in trenches, like tomato plants, with everything buried save the top leaves. Even if they are buried this way, the cuttings need to be protected from cold wind but open to the sun for at least most of the day. To that end, the cuttings can be protected with a wall made of burlap attached to poles sunk in the ground. If the winters are severe, the cuttings should be kept inside until the danger of frost is past.

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Semi-hardwood cuttings are probably better for places where the winters are severe. These cuttings should be about 4 inches long and cut from young stems that are just beginning to become woody. The soft stem tips should be discarded, though every cutting needs to have two leaves at the top. The gardener should dip the base of the stem in rooting hormone that has a fungicide, then place the cutting in a pot of well-drained soil made of equal parts peat moss and coarse sand. The cutting should be inserted to half its depth, and the soil around it should be firmed then deeply watered. After that, the gardener should put the cuttings in a plastic bag. The cuttings should root in about four to six weeks, then placed in their own pots. After this, the best thing to do is let the plants overwinter in a place where they’re protected from frost.

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Seed

Roses grow surprisingly well from seed. It’s important that the seed be fresh, which means the hips, which are the fruits of the rosebush, should be collected in the fall or later summer. The gardener should fill pots or pans with a good seed starting mix. They should split the hips open, sow the seeds thinly, cover them with about 1/4 inch of potting mix, then water them. The pots or pans should then be placed in a greenhouse or a cold frame. If the climate is mild, the seeds can be sown outdoors but they’ll need to be covered with a layer of grit to prevent the soil from being pounded hard by heavy rain.

If the gardener buys rose seeds, they need to be planted right away. They should be sown in the fall or early winter, and they’ll usually sprout in spring or early summer, though some roses can take as long as a year to germinate. As every rose gardener knows, patience is a virtue.

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