Hardwood rose cuttings, quick and easy

During the main growing season, I find myself splitting my time in many directions: the day job, kids, selling activities, watering, mowing, tomatoes, and the list goes on. Rose propagation, just by lack of urgency, tends to drop to the bottom of the list. That’s why I’m renewing my efforts at late-season hardwood cuttings of my roses. They’re easy to do, they don’t require a lot of maintenance, and the way I do them now, I can line up hundreds at a time into a single bed. Very satisfying!

The right timing

The kind of cuttings you should take depends a lot on the firmness of the rose’s wood, which in turn depends a lot on the season. In the spring and early summer, the new growth on your roses will be soft wood – very bendable. I don’t use this kind of wood for cuttings. As the roses bloom and ripen into summer, you will be able to find semi-hardwood sections of wood. I do semi-hardwood cutting extensively, and you can find my instructions in this article. For hardwood cuttings, of the kind I’m describing here, look for full ripened, firm wood from the current year of growth. For best results, I recommend cuttings in the late fall or early winter, when the weather is cool.

Where to cut

Not every rose is the same, and so the thickness, length and number of nodes present on your cutting may vary. Roughly speaking, you should be sectioning you cuttings to the length and thickness of a pencil. Take your top cut above a node – identifiable by the dormant bud and leaf scar. On the bottom end, cut just below a node. Because you’ve chosen fully ripened wood, it should be quite firm. If there are leaves still on the rose, you can strip them off.

My shortcuts and tweaks

Check out my particular setup here:

I’ve scaled-up my hardwood propagation this year, and that’s why I’ve focused on simplicity:

  1. I’m not using any rooting hormone, as I haven’t noted any difference in success rate while using it for winter cuttings
  2. I’ve used a prepared bed in one of my greenhouses, where I can easily protect them and control moisture
  3. Instead of digging a trench for the cuttings, I’m using a pitchfork to “dibble” holes, and then just firming the cuttings in

I’ll follow up with another article when it comes time to dig the (hopefully) rooted cuttings next year!

And for those in Canada who want to buy, sell or trade roses and/or cuttings, I invite you to join this Facebook Group.