Cloning Rose Bushes 101
Perhaps your mother was a great gardener or maybe she just had success with that one gorgeous rose along the back fence. Either way the plant was amazing. Healthy, vigorous, colorful and covered with scented flowers every spring. Stellar.
No wonder you want a rose bush exactly like that for your own garden.
And you can have one or several. Clone them. The process is simple – snip, dip, stick and wait.
Rose clones grow best from stem cuttings and those taken during spring or fall often have more vigor. Choose a branch tip that includes 1) a spent flower, 2) five or six groups of leaves and 3) about eight inches of stem. Cut with sharp, clean pruners or knife blade. Snip off the top where the flower was, trimming to within ½ inch of first set of leaves. Trim the bottom at about a 45 degree angle, cutting through a section where leaves attached to the stem; the tissue in this area produces roots well. Pull off any leaves attached to the last two inches of stem so there’s an unobstructed area for new root growth. You may only have one or two groups of leaves left. That’s okay. Consider making several rose clones; planting multiples increases your odds of success. (How awful would it be to have several new rose plants?)
Dip the rose cuttings in cloning gel; we are partial to Olivia’s Cloning Gel. Coat the bottom 1 ½ inches of the stems. This seals the cuts to avoid drying and scarring over, and encourages the stem cells to development root buds.
Plant in lightly moist, but not wet, seed starting mix or other fluffy sterile mix. Do not use regular potting soil or garden soil as both are too heavy and may contain pathogens. We like 8-10”wide plastic pots because they offer enough room for several cuttings. Poke holes 1 ½-2 inches deep with a pencil. Gently insert each rose clone in a hole, trying not to scrape off the cloning gel. Pat the soil lightly around the cuttings so there’s good contact between the stems and soil. Tent the container with plastic wrap to retain moisture. Place small sticks along the container edges to support the wrap and keep it from resting directly on the rose cuttings.
Wait (this is the hard part)
Keep an eye on your rose clones, adding water with a spray bottle if the planting mix begins to dry out. Place the pots in bright, indirect light; a north facing window is ideal. Avoid full sun as the cuttings will “cook” under the plastic. Keep in mind that initially the cuttings are rootless and therefore have no way to absorb moisture. The goal is to keep your rose clones lightly hydrated until they develop some roots. Remove any foliage that dies. After several weeks, begin to look for evidence of new growth. As the cloned rose plants begins to develop tiny shoots and leaves gradually loosen the plastic wrap to allow a bit more air in every few days. When roots are well developed – a little tug on the stem will help determine this – transplant your roses. Provide care until they are established and growing strongly.
Note: This approach works best with non-grafted or “own root” roses. Rose bushes that have a graft knot at the base are the offspring of two genetic strains, the top stock and the root stock, physically joined with a graft. Cloning roses from grafted stock will produce new plants that carry the genes of the top stock – where the cuttings came from – but not the root stock. Given this, the offspring often do not exhibit the hardiness or vigor provided by the root stock. This is why “own root” roses are the preferred mother stock.
Click here for natural and effective cloning gel.