How to Propagate Roses from Cuttings

By Amanda Lutz Updated May 13, 2024

Despite their reputation for being difficult to grow, roses are surprisingly easy to propagate. In fact, if you want to replicate a rose that grows particularly well in your garden, you can create a new plant from cuttings.

While the propagation process is straightforward, it comes with a few important nuances that can’t be overlooked. Following our step-by-step instructions for creating new rose plants closely is key to achieving your gardening goals. Let’s take a closer look at propagating roses without professional assistance.


What Is Rose Propagation?

Rose propagation is the process of reproducing a rose plant. Here are some common reasons for choosing this method to grow roses:

Depending on your propagation goals, you can choose from a few suitable methods to grow a rose plant.

Grafting

Grafting involves attaching a section of a rose plant, known as the scion, to the rootstock of another rose plant. This propagation technique makes the rose stronger and the host plant more disease-resistant. During this process, people will typically choose a specific scion for its color or disease resistance and pick the rootstock for its strong root system. The success rate of graft propagation can vary wildly, which may not be desirable for do-it-yourself (DIY) projects.

Seed Propagation

Another way to propagate a rose is the seed method. This technique allows for more plant diversity but is more time-consuming and often less effective than other approaches. With this method, many seeds fail to germinate, and those that do could die from disease just a few weeks later. Additionally, roses that grow from seeds may not retain the same color, size, and fragrance as the parent plant.

Stem Propagation

Stem propagation is the fastest and most successful method of replicating roses. It involves taking a stem cutting from a healthy, mature rose plant and planting it in a suitable growing medium. The cutting develops roots and eventually grows into a new rose plant.

The success rate using this propagation method is between 50% and 75%, which is great for gardening beginners. Propagating roses from cuttings also doesn’t require any special equipment—you can perform it at home even if you don’t have any gardening experience.


When to Propagate Roses

To successfully propagate roses from cuttings, it’s essential to choose the right time to do it. The best time to cut your roses for propagation is in the late spring or early summer. During this period, roses are actively growing and usually have healthy new stems that work great for successful replication.

Taking cuttings in the late summer and early fall or winter is also possible. While these cuttings can root, the success rate is lower than for spring and summer stems.

Here are some key points to know when propagating roses:


Equipment and Materials Needed

Before starting the propagation process, gather all the necessary equipment and materials. You’ll likely have the majority of these items at home, but you can purchase any additional items at your local home improvement store if needed.

Clean and disinfect all tools and equipment you use for propagating roses. Otherwise, pests and diseases could keep the roses from rooting and growing healthy.


Step-by-Step Guide to Propagating Roses

You can start the propagation process once you have all your materials ready.

Step 1: Prepare the Rooting Medium

Before cutting the rose stems, fill a clean container with a well-draining rooting medium. Moisten the medium to make it damp but not soggy. Prepare the rooting hormone by placing it in a small cup near the container.

Step 2: Choose a Suitable Stem

Choose a rose stem that’s around 6 to 8 inches long. If the stem is longer, you can make several cuttings from it. The best stems are ones that have recently bloomed, as these are strong and healthy.

Step 3: Cut the Stem

Make a clean cut at a 45-degree angle using a pair of sharp hand pruners. The cut should be done right before the leaf node, where the leaves join the stem. Aim for cutting above the lowest and below the highest set of leaves on the stem.

Step 4: Prepare the Stem

Remove all the leaves from the stem except for one or two sets at the top. This helps reduce water loss during root development. Slice the bottom part (around a quarter of an inch up) of the stem into pieces so it has four to six bristles.

Step 5: Apply a Rooting Hormone

Moisten the bottom of the stem with water and dip it into the hormone powder. If you have liquid rooting hormones, preliminary moistening isn’t necessary.

Step 6: Plant the Cutting

Make a small hole in the rooting medium with a finger or pencil. Insert the lower end of the cutting into the hole. Make sure that at least two leaf nodes are buried in the medium. Firmly press the medium around the stem to secure it in place.

Step 7: Create a Mini-Greenhouse

Cover the cutting with a clear dome to create a local greenhouse effect. This helps trap humidity and create a suitable environment for root development. Make sure the dome is well-rooted in place and doesn’t touch the leaves.

Step 8: Choose the Right Place for Growth

Place the container in a location that receives bright, indirect light. Avoid direct sunlight because it can cause the cutting to overheat or dry out. If you’re propagating roses during cloudy and rainy seasons, you may need to use a grow light to provide adequate light intensity.

Step 9: Water the Cuttings

You don’t have to water the soil right after planting, but monitor the soil while the cutting is rooting to make sure it stays moist. You can also mist the cutting inside the dome to maintain the humid environment. Don’t overwater the plant, as this could cause the new delicate roots to rot.

Step 10: Wait for the Roots to Grow

Depending on the rose variety and planting conditions, it can take between two and eight weeks for the cutting to grow its own roots. Here’s how to check whether the cutting has developed roots:

  1. Inspect the stem to spot signs of new growth (stems will have a red or yellow color).
  2. Place your hand gently under the stem to feel the roots.
  3. Tug gently at the stem to feel for any resistance.

Don’t check for roots earlier than two or three weeks after planting. Even if the stem doesn’t look healthy, don’t rush to pull it out. It may be able to bounce back after a week or two and finally grow some roots.

Step 11: Transplant the Plant

Once a healthy root system is ready, you can transplant the rose from the container to the garden. To do that, carefully remove the dome from the container and lift the cutting from the rooting medium. Follow these steps to complete the transplant:

  1. Choose a sunny location in the garden with well-draining soil.
  2. Dig a hole slightly larger than the root system of the cutting.
  3. Place the cutting into the hole, ensuring the roots are spread out and not cramped.
  4. Backfill the hole with soil, gently firming it around the base of the cutting.
  5. Water thoroughly to settle the soil.

Besides watering the new plant more often than mature roses, the care basics are the same.  With proper attention, your new rose plant will thrive and bloom in the near future.


Tips for Successful Propagation

Here are a few tips and best practices to keep in mind when propagating roses from cuttings:

Be Patient

Even though rose propagation is fairly easy, it can be a trial-and-error process. Not all cuttings will successfully root, but you can improve your success rate over time with persistence. Don’t let failed attempts stop you from trying again—learn from each planting, and make adjustments as needed.

Increase the Quantity of Stems

To maximize your chances of creating viable plants, consider propagating several stems at once and planting as many as your space allows.

Provide Proper Ventilation

While it’s important to maintain humidity during the propagation process, it’s equally important to provide some ventilation to prevent mold growth or fungal diseases. Open the plastic bag or lift the dome for a short period each day to allow for fresh air circulation. If your cuttings are sitting near an open window, lift the dome when the weather is mild.

Use Water

If you don’t have the right soil for the rooting medium, you can place the freshly cut stem in water. While the success rate of rooting a rose cutting in water is lower than in soil, it can still work. The advantage of this method is the visibility of root growth since you’ll know exactly when it happens.

Select the Right Soil

When transplanting the rooted cuttings into larger containers or your garden, use well-draining potting soil rich in organic matter. This provides the necessary support for the growing plants.

The experience you gain when propagating roses can help you replicate other plants, such as hydrangeas, geraniums, petunias, and dahlias.


Our Recommendation

From creating a pollinator garden to sharing the most beautiful plants with your loved ones, rose propagation can help you achieve multiple goals and gain valuable experience in the process. The key to replicating your favorite rose plants is following the above steps. Properly cut stems and a well-chosen rooting medium contribute to successful root growth, as do the time of year and the environment you create for your cuttings. Armed with this detailed step-by-step guide, you can succeed at rose propagation and hone your skills for future gardening projects.


How to Propagate Roses from Cuttings FAQ

What is the easiest way to propagate roses?

The easiest way to propagate roses is by using the stem method. It involves cutting the stem and planting it in a rooting medium until it develops new roots for transplanting.

Do rose cuttings root better in water or soil?

Rose cuttings root better in soil than water because soil creates a favorable environment for growing a strong root system.

What are the best months to propagate roses?

The best months to propagate roses are May and June. If you’re using the stem propagation method, taking cuttings in late spring and early summer leads to faster root development.

Can you propagate roses without rooting hormones?

You can propagate roses without rooting hormones if you succeed in creating a highly favorable root growth environment.

How long does it take for rose cuttings to root?

The time it takes rose cuttings to root varies from two to eight weeks. The duration depends on the type of the rose plant, the growing environment, and the season.