Propagating Roses

NEW varieties of rose are raised from seed, but the main method of increasing stock is by budding, which consists of taking a leaf-bud from the cultivated tree and inserting it into an understock. Some trees are also obtained by layering and from striking cuttings, but comparatively few varieties are satisfactory for these methods.

Most cultivated roses are, therefore, parasites living on the nutriment provided by the roots of the wild rose, and this is a sensible arrangement, since they thus benefit from the more vigorous root action of the latter. All who have done a little hybridizing can appreciate the advantage of this arrangement, as they know that the new seedling on its own roots is a puny plant which, more often than not, is so weakly that it dies after its first flowering, the effort being too much for it. Incidentally, it is for this weakness of root action that cultivated roses on their own roots are not successful whether from layering or from cuttings, despite all that has been written advocating these methods of propagation. The only success likely is from varieties which are not too far removed from their original wild state, such as the ramblers, hybrids of species and the hybrid polyantha roses. The modern hybrid tea varieties, with their complicated and heterogeneous pedigrees, are a dismal failure grown in these ways.

Suitable Stocks from the Hedgerows

Quite good stocks are to be acquired from cuttings, but if you go to the hedgerows avoid taking them from R. arvensis, the white wild rose. Choose them rather from bushes which have carried deep pink flowers, R. carina, the dog brier, which gives far better results. Take the cuttings in October from well-ripened shoots of the current year’s growth about the thickness of an average pencil and, after taking out all the eyes from each cutting, with the exception of two at the top, heel them in until February, and then plant them out. They prefer a light sandy soil. The usual

length of a cutting is 9 inches, two-thirds of which is inserted in the soil. Its length, however, is not really important, it can be less, but it should still be planted with two-thirds in the ground. The cuttings should be left in their drills for twelve months, and then be transplanted for budding the following summer. Many attempt budding the first summer after planting, before the cutting has made sufficient root action; the take obtained is therefore disappointing, and would-be budders give up in disgust.

Stocks from Seed

Another method of obtaining stocks is by raising them from seed, but this is an even longer process than striking them from cuttings. The heps are collected when ripe at the end of the year, and the seed extracted and stratified for twelve months before planting. For a small quantity, stratifying is best done by placing the seed in a box of sand out of doors, and turning the sand over from time to time so that the seed is thoroughly weathered. After twelve months of this treatment the seed is sown in drills to a depth of1/4 to 1/2 inch. At the end of the season the seedlings are transplanted. Some will be of sufficient size to bud the following summer, but those that are not will need to be retained for a further twelve months.

If one is not prepared to wait, the best course is to obtain a few seedling briers from a nurseryman. Most of the latter take a very broad view of amateurs’ budding and will usually supply a few stocks.

When to Bud

The actual operation of budding can be done from the time the cultivated rose comes into bloom, which in most seasons is June, until the sap in the stocks ceases to flow freely, which is normally sometime in September. The earlier the work is done, however, the better. Reference has been made to when the cultivated rose comes into bloom, as it is this factor which governs the start, stems bearing flowers being considered the best from which to take buds, as the flowering ensures ripeness.

Preparing the Bud

Select good fat buds, preferably those which have not actually broken into growth, and holding the stem, which should have been stripped of its thorns and foliage, but not the leaf stalk, make a thin cut, starting ½ inch above the eye to, say, 1 inch below it. The actual distance below is not important, as the bark before inserting has to be trimmed to within ½ inch of the eye. If, however, more bark is taken than is actually required, it will enable the budder to bend the surplus over so that he can get hold of the thin strip of wood lying next to the eye which has to be removed.

By holding the bud face downwards between the forefinger and thumb of the left hand, the strip of wood should be eased up with the right hand until it reaches the bud, then a gentle overhand twist away from the body will remove it cleanly. Many seem to have difficulty in doing this, but with a little practice it becomes fairly easy. The alternative is to cut the bud very thinly, and after trimming insert the whole. This is called ‘shield budding’, and it is reasonably successful, although to remove the wood is better.

Preparing the Stock

Prior to preparing the bud make a T-cut about 1-½ inches in length, with top cut approximately ½ inch wide, in the neck of the seedling brier, or in a cutting as near to the roots as it is possible to get. Open up the two sides of the cut and then slip in the bud. The leaf stalk which was purposely left will provide the means of handling the bud while this is being done. Push in the bud so that it is neatly enveloped when the bark of the stock is put back into place, trim off the surplus bark of the bud protruding above the cut, and then bind the bud in with raffia. Starting from the bottom, work up, making the tie above the bud. Tie firmly but not too tightly.

This is all that budding consists of.

An important tip is not to make a crease in the bark of the bud itself. By careful handling all the creases will have been in the surplus piece of bark which was trimmed away before inserting. If the weather has been dry for a period immediately prior to budding, give the understocks a soaking with water a day or two beforehand to ensure the bark opening well.

Within a month it is possible to tell whether or not the bud has taken. If the piece of bark connected with the eye has turned brown in colour, it has not, and the only thing to do is to try again on the other side of the stock. If budding is commenced early there will be plenty of time to do this.

After-treatment of Budded Stocks

In the February following the budding completely remove all the top growth of the understock. With seedling briers the cut should be made ½ inch above the bud, but with cuttings leave a snag of approximately 1 inch. This can be trimmed away later.

It is advisable to stake the new growth when it appears, as during the first season until the union has completely cemented, it is apt to be pulled out by strong winds.

Normally the first growth is checked by frost, and when it breaks a second time more than one shoot appears. If, however, this does not occur naturally, pinch back the new growth when it is about 1/2 inch in length, and thus force it to break afresh, otherwise the new tree will carry one stem only.

All budding is the same whether for bushes or standards, except that with the latter if carina stems (dog brier) are used, the buds are inserted into the two or three lateral growths at the top of the stem, and not into the main stem itself. The buds should be inserted, however, as near to the main stem as possible, so as not to leave room for wild growth to grow out between them and the main stem. With rugosa stems, two or three buds are inserted, but these go directly into the main stem at the required height on different sides of the stem.

Stems for Standards

Dog-brier stems are obtainable from the strong root shoots of R. carina in the hedgerows and woods. The best are those about -1/2 inch in diameter, twelve months old and not those of the current year’s growth. The stems present a little difficulty in obtaining, as a portion of the old root with one or two fibrous roots attached is necessary if they are to succeed. It is not sufficient to cut the stems off at ground level. Before planting the stem, if the base terminates in a knobbly lump this should be trimmed, retaining a little of the old root with one or two fibrous roots attached. If the whole of the knob is left, sucker growth will be a nuisance later. Before planting shorten the stem to approximately 4 feet, and take out all eyes up the stem except for two or three at the top. These eyes will break in the spring, and the laterals they provide will be of sufficient size to bud by the summer.


This consists in bending over a growing shoot from a tree in March, slitting it some 6 to 9 inches from its end and pegging the piece down. Care should be taken not to sever it completely, as while it is still attached a certain amount of nourishment will be supplied from the main stem. By the autumn the piece layered will have rooted and it can then be completely severed.

02. May 2017 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Propagating, Propagating Roses, Roses | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Propagating Roses


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