So you say you want to try your luck at cloning a rose bush. Well, that is a good place to start in creating an antique rose garden. Here are some pointers on taking a cutting and trying to root it.
1. Take your cuttings with a pair of good hand pruning shears. Since Texas enjoys such a long bloom time, we take cuttings in the fall from ever-blooming or spring and fall blooming roses. 2. Cut at least a 5 inch stem with a spent bloom on the end. Slip the cutting in a plastic freezer bag and mark the bag using a permanent marker, with the bloom color and bush size and location if the name is not known. Take at least 3 or 4 cuttings. 3. Add a paper towel soaked in willow water *(described below), plain water or weak tea to the plastic freezer bag and seal. 4. If it is a hot day and you have a long drive home, place your cuttings in a cooler. 5. Once you arrive home, make a fresh cut at the base of each rose cutting, strip off the lower 2 leaf stems and soak the fresh cut ends in willow water for several hours or overnight. 6. Remember while you are handling the cuttings to keep them properly identified otherwise you'll have to wait until they bloom to figure out who is who. 7. Remove the cuttings from the water and place all of the stems from one bush in a 4 inch pot filled with moist, but not wet, half potting soil, half vermiculite or perlite, mix. Place all of the cuttings far enough down into the potting mix to cover the two leaf buds that have been stripped off. At this point you may use a rooting hormone if you wish to hedge your bets, but rose rustlers have found that the willow/aspirin tea works just as well if not better. 8. Label the pots with a permanent marker and set outside in dappled or full shade. 9. Cut the bottoms out of 2 or 3 liter plastic bottles and fit down into the pots, covering the cuttings. This forms individual hothouses and supplies the needed moisture for the cuttings to survive. 10. Remove the bottle caps so that the mini-hothouses are properly vented. Do Not Water. Plants without roots do not need water. At this point the leaves and stems need moisture. Water is the primary culprit of creating fungus decease which is the dreaded killer of most rose cuttings.
*To Make Willow Water: cut willow switches (branches) about the size of drinking straws and with the leaves removed, cut enough 1 inch pieces to fill a pint jar. Bring 1/2 gallon of water to full boil (rain water if you have it) and turn off the heat. Split the willow pieces and drop them into the water. Let stand overnight. In the morning, strain the "tea" into quart jars and store, sealed, in the refrigerator.
No willow water and there is a rose to be rustled? Never fear! Use the old standby, aspirin. Willow contains aspirin which is an anti-fungal agent so plain old store-brought aspirin is the next best thing. Dissolve 3 to 4 aspirin in 1 quart of water and proceed
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