The whiff of a rose sends most people on a sentimental journey to their prom, wedding, Valentine’s Day or special occasion. No other flower tugs at our emotions with such impact.
Whether you enjoy giving or receiving roses, here is a different way to preserve that thoughtful gift — rooting roses from softwood cuttings.
Creating rose bushes from bouquets requires using only the freshest stems, free from wilt or decay.
To prepare the cutting: Remove the flowers (these can be dried for potpourri) and all bottom leaves that will be inserted in the rooting medium. Be careful to keep a few sets of leaves near the top. The plants need to retain some leaves to produce food for the cutting. Carefully score the bottom of the cutting with a sterile, sharp knife.
Rosarian Cheryl Netter uses a “baggie” method to root her cuttings. “Fill a gallon zip lock baggie one-quarter to two-thirds full with moist (not wet) sterile loose potting mix. The bag should have 2½ inches of potting mix and should clump together when squeezed; but not drip water,” Netter said.
“Poke a hole in the soil and carefully insert the cutting. Four to five cuttings are usually enough to fit in one baggie. Gently squeeze the baggie from both sides until the soil is making good contact with the cuttings.
“Next, gently pour a tiny amount of water (¼- to ½-cup total) at the point where the cutting sticks to the soil. This helps the soil stick and removes air pockets. Then inflate the baggie by blowing into it, and zip it shut.”
Netter cautioned, “Do not use too much water or the cuttings will rot.” Whichever method you use, remember to keep an eye on the cuttings. “You want it to stay nice and moist in there,” Netter said. “You always want to see water beaded up on the inside of your cover.”
This is the opposite of basic house plant advice — don’t let this soil dry out.
Place your mini-greenhouse in bright but indirect light. Check the temperature and humidity often to avoid “cooking” the cuttings. Manners suggests there are several ways to tell if a cutting is rooted.
“You can tug lightly on it, and if it resists being pulled out of the pot, it is likely rooted. Also, you can look for roots growing out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. Cuttings that are putting out a flush of new leaves almost always have roots, whereas unrooted cuttings tend just to sit there, not showing signs of new top growth.”
To remove the cuttings, slice down the side of the bag, fold back one side and carefully detangle the root systems.
Repot the cuttings into individual pots and place in shady area or leave inside for a few months to establish a good, strong root system before planting outside.