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Landscape Plants On the Cheap – Rooting Roses

Aunt Toby is, I am ashamed to say, a rose rustler. I am an absolute pushover for rose bushes in abandoned lots. In our fair city (and yes, if someone were to ask about it, I’d have to say, “Yep, it’s fair..”), I walk past a lot that on the down slope side, had been long ago turned into a parking lot in all of its asphalt paved glory. On the uphill side, facing a totally different street (and one which you can tell used to have some very nice houses on it in the 19th century), there is the remains of a paved walk and entrance, a rather imposing chain-link fence, and several scraggly rose bushes. These are not pampered roses – they are of the rather old fashioned, flat double type, about 2-3” across. Nothing to get excited about for sure.

But the fragrance. On a hot summer’s day, it will lift you right off your feet.

Now, passersby might appreciate them, or not. But I am a rose rustler – I am not about to allow these poor ignored bushes – the remains of what was once a glorious mansion on this street – to disappear, so the other day, I walked by to examine them and see what was happening rose-wise. Now, most instructions on growing roses from stem cuttings tell you that you should cut when you see so many leaves on the stem and so on. Here’s a site with every method known, from the humble Mason Jar to more high tech methods.How to Root Roses

And I have used the cut a stem with so-many leaves’ method with great success in the past, but sometimes it doesn’t work and I feel that the reason is that I’m getting the cuttings too late in the season. The plant has, in its own way, ‘shut down’ and will not make roots. The earlier you can get to the plant when its starting to open leaves, the better your chances are of getting a stem cutting to root, IMHO.

So, when I walked by this week (and I think anyone will admit that mid-March is very early), looked closely and saw the stems budding out (see the photo above), I frankly whipped out my handy nail scissors, took some cuttings from both bushes, wrapped them in a plastic bag I keep in my purse for just such occasions, and put them in water when I got back to work. When I got home, I split the bottom a little bit, dipped them in water and rooting hormone and put them into growing mix in a four-pack. I then put them into a plastic bag and put the whole shebang on top of the warming pad under the lights in my basement and we will see how successful this is. when they root, I’ll set them in a side bed for this year to let them get their feet under them and then I’ll transplant them into final spots next spring. It’s a great way to obtain plants for the garden and you can use the same technique to increase bushes of various types that you might want more specimens of.

Rooting hormone is one of the wonders of the gardening world. There are more sophisticated formulations out now, including gel that comes in packs like pudding, and liquid and powders you can mix up yourself. The humble jar of rooting hormone, however, doesn’t go bad, I can always find it and I’ve used it to root roses and other plants that are not too woody, split and root stems on big woody houseplants, and rescue some iris corms that needed to undergo some of my more vicious surgery after I found them infected with bacterial rot (I carved off all the sloppy stuff, dipped them into hot water with a little bleach in it, rinsed them off, powdered their behinds with a bit of rooting hormone and put them in fresh, un-infected soil, where they obligingly rooted).

As Damon Wayans said as Major Payne, “Works ever’ time.”

What IS rooting hormone? Well, the original formulation, discovered by the Dutch in the 1930s, was a form of giberillic acid, but the common formula these days is indole-3-butyric acid. You can find this powder in many home and garden centers; if you are looking for something more sophisticated such as the liquids or gels, retailers who handle hydroponic gardening supplies usually have these. Or, try this site (one of many, believe me): Home Harvest
One thing to remember, though; these ARE chemicals. Wash your hands after using them, do not just dump left overs down the drain or toilet, and so on.

The amount of time it takes for roses to root is up to two months, so I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, I’ll keep my eye out for rose bushes in abandoned lots and old yards. Ask around, and ask permission – you never know what you’ll find. Figure it this way – if a rose has survived without any trimming, pruning, spraying or fertilizing for years – it’s a great candidate for your garden also. It might be one of the more rambling types, but they are tough and with training, you could end up with a fine specimen.

Until the next time.

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  1. Auntie Allyn says:

    You’re an inspiration! I love the idea of giving new life to neglected, forgotten plants! It’ll be a couple of years before I can start doing some serious gardening, so I’m keeping good information like yours in a file so I can be ready to go! Must remember to carry the nail scissors annd plastic bag in my purse .. .

  2. Aunt Toby says:

    From one Auntie to another – just remember to take out the nail scissors if you fly anyplace — but you never know what you will see on walks or drives in the country, for example. We once were on a tour of a farm and walked near the foundation of the abandoned original farmhouse. Crazy wild roses everywhere. I asked permission to take some clippings. There have been roses that were thought completely lost except for rose ‘rescuers’ who had been keeping clippings of found roses in their gardens and were able to bring them back for consumers.

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