Rooting a Rose from a Cutting

Rose (Rosa spp.) cuttings root slowly and with little indication on top of the soil that there's anything going on below it. The first sign that the process is progressing – the appearance of new foliage -- comes months after you plant the cutting. It will be several more months until the cutting has taken root enough to be transplanted outdoors. It can be a frustrating wait for the impatient, but it's the best way to get a new rosebush that's identical to the parent plant.

Cutting of an old pink rose with a secateur
credit: HoleInTheBucket/iStock/Getty Images
A close-up of shears clipping a rose.

The Best of Times

Roses, depending on the species, cultivar or variety, are hardy in all U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones. Know the zones for your particular plant, because the best time to take a rose cutting depends largely on climate. Typically, cuttings are ready in late fall, just after the last of the season's flowers fade and the weather cools. Cuttings can be taken in spring, as long as you wait until the stem is no longer soft and green.

Plan Ahead

Once the cutting is removed from the bush, work quickly so it doesn't dry out. Prepare in advance before you head out to the garden: Be sure your pruning shears are razor sharp and disinfected. Soak them for five minutes in a solution of 1 part bleach and 3 parts water; rinse them with water and allow them to air dry before using them. Fill a 4-inch nursery pot that has drainage holes in the bottom with a combination of 3 parts sand and 1 part peat moss and pour water over the mixture until it is saturated. Use your finger or a pencil to create a 3- to 4-inch deep planting hole, and set the pot aside to drain. Grab a moist paper towel and a plastic produce bag as you head out to the garden.

Be Choosy

Look for a rose stem that has recently bloomed. Measure 6 inches, from the tip of the stem back toward the main stem, and make a 45-degree angled cut to remove it from the bush. Immediately wrap the stem in the moist paper towel and enclose it in the bag. Do not allow the cutting to dry out for even a short amount of time.

Plant It

Remove all the foliage from the bottom part of the stem, and allow three or four leaves to remain at the top. If there are hips or faded flowers, remove those as well. Use a small, sharp knife to scrape the outer layer of bark from the bottom inch of stem. Dip that portion of the stem in water, and then roll it in rooting hormone powder until it's covered. Immediately stick the hormone-tipped end of the cutting into the prepared hole in the planting medium and use your hands to pack the medium around the cutting.

Care While Rooting

Rose cuttings require humidity to produce roots, so mist the plant with water from a spray bottle. Insert four wood craft sticks, equally spaced, into the planting medium around the inside perimeter of the pot. Slide the pot into a plastic bag, adjusting the plastic so that the sticks hold it away from the cutting. Secure the bag and place the pot in an outdoor area where there's filtered sunlight. Open the bag for about 15 minutes every other day to allow air to circulate. Remove the bag when you notice new foliage. Water the soil to keep it moist but otherwise do not disturb the cutting until it's ready to be planted in a permanent spot outdoors -- typically one year from taking the cutting.

Bridget Kelly

Based in the American Southwest, Bridget Kelly has been writing about gardening and real estate since 2005. Her articles have appeared at,,, RE/,,, and in "Chicago Agent" magazine, to name a few. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in creative writing.