How to Grow Roses from Cuttings (without Rooting Hormone)

Have you always wanted to propagate your beautiful roses, but don’t have any rooting hormone at hand?

The good news is you still can. All you need is:

  • a well-chosen rose cutting from your mother plant,
  • potting soil mixed specific for propagating roses (recipe below), and
  • a few aftercare tips for how to maintain the moisture levels and transplanting the cutting.
How to Grow Roses from Cuttings without Rooting Hormone

Welcome to the Garden Bench Top, where we are going to be discussing two of our favorite subjects; propagation and roses.

We must admit, propagation is one of the more exciting aspects of this hobby. Not only are you able to cultivate and share your favorite rose plants with other home gardeners. It is also easy on the purse strings, allowing you to grow a hedge of rose plants from only one mother plant.

But do you need rooting hormone to successfully propagate roses?

Let’s find out.

Can you propagate roses without rooting hormone?

Rooting hormone is a synthetic compound that commercial and home gardeners use to encourage plants to grow roots during the propagation process. It is particularly useful for helping healthy roots to grow on plant cuttings that are notoriously hard to cultivate, like orchids.

Choosing the right rose cutting

Luckily, when it comes to roses, rooting hormone isn’t necessary. The reason roses are special, is because they belong to a group of plants that contain a natural version of a rooting compound, called auxin.

Auxin is a gardener’s best friend, because it means we can cultivate new rose plants each time we go to prune our rose bushes. All you need is to know what to look for in a cutting (we’ll discuss this in the next section), and how to set your cutting up for success with a potting mix that has the right properties.

How to Grow Roses from Cuttings without Rooting Hormone

Okay, now we are getting into the good stuff.

Let’s begin our propagating journey by setting yourself up for success with training your eye on selecting the right rose stem cuttings.

Preparation: Choosing the Right Rose Cutting

When you are looking for the ideal stem specimen to propagate, there are a few things to consider:

  1. stem thickness,
  2. health with no signs of pest or disease, and
  3. age and type of stem.

Let’s look at each of these factors a bit closer.

Stem Thickness & Length

Find a stem that is at least pencil thickness. If you choose a stem that is too thin, it is unlikely to be mature enough to root properly. And even if you are able to get it to root, the roots will generally be weak and challenging to keep alive.

Find a part of the rose bush that has a stem that is approximately 10 inches (25 centimeters) in length.

Healthy Stems

It probably goes without saying, that you want to choose the healthiest specimens with no evidence of disease or pests.

This means, the stem should have a strong, firm feel to it and have a vibrant green coloration without brown spots or mold.

Trying to propagate a rose stem that is pest ridden or is affected by disease is like riding a tricycle in the Tour de France race. It will decrease the chances of success and will likely end in frustration and disappointment.

Age and Type of Stem

Age and Type of Stem

Picking the right moment to harvest your cuttings is important.

We generally try to propagate our rose cuttings towards the end of spring, just after our rose bushes have flowered (or still in flower).

The ideal rose cutting would consist mainly of flexible green softwood on a stem that has just finished flowering. They are the easiest to propagate and grow roots. Check out the image above for a visual comparison between the two types of wood.

You can still propagate harder, older wood towards the end of summer. However, these older stems are harder to propagate and your chances of success are lower.

Prepare Your Rose Cutting(s)

By now, you should have selected and pruned your cuttings from the mother rose plant. We now need to prepare the cuttings. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Clean up your cutting. With a pair of sterilized garden secateurs cut away any leaves and stray twigs from the stem. We want the cutting to focus its energy on growing roots, and not to use up unnecessary energy on keeping the leaves or flowers alive. You may choose to leave the top leaves on the cutting, so that it can still receive some energy from photosynthesis.
  2. Shave the bottom of the cutting. Aim to vertically shave about half an inch off the bottom to encourage the stem to form a callous. This is an important step as this is where the roots will begin the grow.

Make up Your Soil

We have found the best type of soil for propagation purposes, is a loamy soil. Loamy soil tends to be light and airy, with good drainage properties.

It is important that your soil retains a good amount of moisture, without holding onto any excess water. If your cutting sits in soggy soil, it is likely to develop fungus and mold, and become diseased.

We like to use a soil mix that is a similar consistency to our indoor plant soil recipe, which is:

  • 1 part of your choice of highly absorptive material that has been presoaked with water (peat moss, sphagnum or coco coir),
  • 1/2 part perlite,
  • 1/4 part sand and
  • 1/4 part standard potting soil.

For those that are wondering how much exactly is a ‘part’,

Part(s) – is in reference to the ratio (or amount) of material you use. This is where a measuring container comes in handy. It is your reference point for your ‘part’ measurement. In this recipe, ONE FULL measuring container is equal to 1 part.

Fill your Pot and Water

This step is pretty self – explanatory. Fill your propagation pot with the pre-made soil and give it a healthy watering.

It is at this point that you can check that your soil is draining well.

Plant Cutting and Set Up

We are almost there. Make a deep hole in your soil and place your pre-prepared cutting into the hole, carefully backfilling the hole with loose soil.

Be careful not to press the soil too much, as it will compress the soil and destroy the light and airy nature of the soil.

Rose cuttings require a humid environment to develop roots. If you have a greenhouse available, that would be the perfect place to keep your newly potted cuttings.

If, however, you are not lucky enough to have a greenhouse, don’t despair. Simply place a clear plastic bag over your cuttings to create a DIY humidity chamber. This is a simple and budget – friendly solution to instantly increasing humidity.

Just make sure to check on the soil’s moisture levels and lift the bag off every couple of days to allow some fresh air to circulate around the cutting.

Rose Cutting Maintenance and Care

rose cutting maintenance and care

Positioning, watering and timing are going to be your main priorities after you have completed your cutting set up.

For the first few days, keep your cuttings out of direct sunlight. This will allow your cuttings to adjust and transition into their new environment.

After that, you can move them into a position that receives more light. We tend to keep them out of locations that receive long periods (over 4 hours) of direct sunlight, as it can overheat the humidity chamber and cook your cuttings.

Be sure to provide plenty of water for your cuttings. It will need it, as it focuses on generating a new root structure.

Replanting Your Cuttings

Once you see new growth in the form of shoots, leaves or even flowers, it is likely time to repot your cuttings into a larger pot OR into the garden.

To do this, carefully remove your cutting from the propagation pots. Take your time with this process, for you don’t want to undo all your hard work and energy by damaging the newly grown roots.

At this point, it is also a good time to inspect the new roots to see how successful your propagation efforts were. You should hopefully see white roots with secondary or lateral roots forming on the primary root.

Once you have your cutting in the ground (or new pot), make sure to water generously to help your new rose plant acclimatize to the new setting (once again).

What can I use instead of rooting hormone for roses?

Even though roses contain auxin, a natural form of rooting hormone, it doesn’t hurt to give them a helping hand to encourage the new roots to form.

You can actually use some items and substances that are commonly found around the home in replacement of rooting hormones.

How to use honey for rose cuttings?

use honey as a natural rooting hormone

Honey is a popular substance to use as a substitute for rooting hormones. The reason is that honey is naturally antibacterial and antifungal. The honey helps to protect the cutting from developing any fungus or diseases while it is putting all its energy into forming roots.

To use honey, all you need to do is dilute two spoons full of honey with one cup of boiling water. Mix and allow the solution to cool down. Follow the instructions we laid out above to prepare your rose cutting, and simply dip the bottom of the cutting into the cooled honey solution before planting into the loamy soil.

How to use Apple Cider Vinegar as a rooting hormone?

Apple cider vinegar is also another popular substitute for rooting hormones. Like honey, apple cider vinegar possesses some antibacterial properties and also includes some trace elements that help plant growth.

To make your apple cider vinegar rooting hormone, take a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and mix it thoroughly with 6 cups of filtered water.

However, a word of warning, vinegar is acidic, which can kill a lot of plants. So, when you go to make up your solution with apple cider vinegar, we like to make the mix on the weaker side of things.

What’s Next?

What are you waiting for?

We’ve just given you the blueprint for cultivating your own roses from cuttings. Once you have mastered the process, try propagating other plants from your garden. You can even use the substitute rooting hormones we have discussed above.

Do send us pictures of your rose propagation efforts. It always gives us a sense of accomplishment knowing we are helping fellow green thumbs.