Propagating Roses: Rose Grafting, Cuttings and Layering Roses

Grafting is chiefly employed by trade rose growers for the rapid increase of new varieties. The advantage in this case is that the work can be carried out in a warm greenhouse in January or February. Then buds obtained from the resultant rose plants can be used for budding in July; in other words, two generations can be obtained in one season.

However, grafting is also used to increase miniature roses which make such thin stems that it would be difficult to cut buds from them.

Rose Stocks

There are several methods of grafting, but the simplest is splicing, which consists of  matching the tapered edge of the scion with precision to the cut edges of the bark of the stock.


Scions of the variety to be grafted are made from shoots of firm, but not too stout, wood, in which the eyes or buds are nicely plump but still dormant. A thin slip of bark is removed from the lower part of the scion to expose the wood and form a tongue. Each scion needs no more than two joints, one on the portion shaved to form the tongue to attach to the stock, and one above to break into growth.

Some experienced propagators do not bother to have the eyes on the tongue at all, but novices will be more sure of success if the scions used have the two.

propagating roses
Inserts a Young Scion Branch Into The Split of The Trunk

First head back the stock, leaving just sufficient stem above the soil to take the tongue of the scion, very little more than an inch is required for this. A shallow strip is shaved from the side of the briar stock. This must exactly correspond in length and breadth with the tongue cut on the scion, so that the two will fit perfectly together with no gaps, cavities or overlapping edges. Union of the two is only possible when the two barks fit exactly. Bind the. scion firmly and finish the job by sealing with grafting wax.

Alternatively the scion can be cut with a taper and a vertical incision made in the bark at the top of the stock, which is first beheaded. The bark is then prized open, as in budding, and the tapered part of the scion is slipped down under the bark so that exposed tissue lies closely against tissue. Then all is bound with raffia.

The pots are plunged in sand or peat in a close frame in a warm greenhouse. The soil in the pots must not be allowed to dry out, and the atmosphere needs to be kept humid by use of the syringe when needed. As the eyes break into growth ventilate the frames increasingly to acclimatize the plants to cooler conditions.

Rose Cuttings

Some varieties of rose also grow well from cuttings prepared from ripened growth in September and October and rooted outdoors in a sheltered  border. This is a method specially suitable for the increase of rambler roses, shrub roses and the various species. It can sometimes be used successfully with other types, including some of the vigorous hybrid tea and floribunda roses.

Reproduction of Roses by Cuttings
Reproduction of Roses by Cuttings

Well-ripened firm growths, nine to twelve inches in length, should be selected. These can either be pulled off with a ‘heel’ or small slip of older wood which is then trimmed neatly with a sharp knife, or else each shoot must be cut cleanly through immediately below a joint.

The lower leaves should be trimmed off and the cuttings lined out in trenches four inches deep with a scattering of sharp sand along the bottom of each. The soil is then returned around the cuttings and made thoroughly firm with the foot. The rooted cuttings should be ready for transplanting to the flower garden by the following autumn.

You might also like:

Rose Layering

This is a very useful method of propagating rambler roses, as it enables the work of increase to go on without the risk of removing shoots from the parent plant before they have any roots of their own. It can be done at the same time as cuttings are taken.

Young shoots of the current year’s growth are most suitable. Those selected should be so placed that they can readily be bent down to and secured at ground level.

Close Up Plant Grafting and Budding Rose
Close Up Plant Grafting and Budding Rose

Select a joint on the shoot which can be buried, and insert the blade of a sharp knife just below it. The knife is then drawn upwards through the joint without actually severing the stem. Next the cut is opened, but again without breaking the stem, and is bent downwards so that it can be buried in the soil.

The use of the proper strength rooting powder on the cut surface before it is buried will often make just the difference between success or failure with a shy-rooting variety and this is something which is well worth bearing in mind. The same applies to cuttings.

The ‘layer’, as this sliced portion of stem is called, is held in position with a forked stick or a length of galvanized wire bent to the shape of a hairpin. Having already gone to this much trouble I prefer to tie the stem to a stake, otherwise it may blow about and prevent the layer from forming roots.

What we have basically done here is to make and insert a cutting without entirely detaching it from the parent. The shoot continues to draw nourishment from the old plant until it makes roots of its own. It is then detached and, when a suitable time arrives, is lifted and replanted on its own. Rooting usually takes place fairly quickly, but it is often wise to leave the layers attached to the parent plant for 12 months before severing the connection and planting them on their own.

Air Layering a Rose

An alternative method for propagating roses is the air layering method.  It is one of the easiest methods of propagating a rose, and when done well and at the right time, you can get an absolute 100% success rate.  Some roses may take a little longer to root, but most will only take between 3 and 8 weeks to root.

The perfect time to air layer a rose in during the spring, just after its first bloom, because this is the time that they are actively growing.

To start, choose a succulent stem from a healthy rose plant that has already borne a flower. This is the perfect indication that the stem is mature enough to root.  To speed up the rooting process and encourage vigorous growth, it is a good idea to “pamper” the plant.

  • Choose a healthy, pencil sized stem on a disease free rose bush, ensuring it has already flowered.
Step 1
  • Remove the leafsets and thorns, and work on the area just below the first five leafsets.
Step 2
  • Make cuts as shown in the image, approx. ¼ inch below the leafnode.  Make the cuts only as deep as the bark would go, ¾” – 1” apart. Gently peel the bark off.
  • Scrape off the soft tissues gently.
  • Apply rooting hormone with a small brush and blow away any excess.
Step 5
  • Wrap a plastic sheet around the stem, taping the adjoining edges to form a tube.  Tie the bottom end of the tube with a twist tie. Twisting the tie too tight will strangle the stem and prevent it from growing so make sure it is just tight enough to ensure that any excess moisture can still run down the stem.
Air Layering a Rose
Step 6
  • Fill the tube with sphagnum soaked peat moss and pack it tightly.  Tie the top end of the tube and leave it for 3 weeks before you go back to check.
Air Layering a Rose
Step 7
  • Some can start to root within 3 weeks as shown below, but others can take a little longer.
Air Layering a Rose
Step 8

Final Thought

In the enchanting dance of gardening, propagating roses stands as a testament to nature’s rebirth and resilience. Each cutting, carefully nurtured, has the potential to bloom into a masterpiece, capturing history and promise in its petals. As you delve into the art of propagation, remember the rose’s journey, from a fragile stem to a blossoming wonder.

Let your green fingers weave magic, and may every rose you propagate echo the tales of the past and dreams of the future. Embrace this age-old gardening craft, and let your garden become a canvas of blooming tales.

Latest Posts:

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Can I propagate any type of rose?

While most types of roses can be propagated, some hybrid teas and floribundas may be more difficult to root than shrub or wild roses. Always check if the rose variety you wish to propagate is under patent, as it might be illegal to propagate patented varieties.

What should I do if mold appears on my rose cutting?

If mold appears, it’s usually a sign of too much humidity or poor air circulation. Remove the mold carefully without damaging the cutting, and improve ventilation. You might also consider applying a fungicide, but always read the label to ensure it’s safe for roses.

How many cuttings can I take from one rose bush?

The number of cuttings you can take depends on the size and health of the rose bush. A good rule of thumb is not to remove more than one-third of the plant. Always make sure the parent plant has plenty of healthy growth left after taking cuttings.

Do rose cuttings need direct sunlight to root?

While they need light, direct sunlight can be too harsh for fresh cuttings. Place them in a spot with indirect light. Once rooted and growing, they can gradually be introduced to more direct sunlight.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *