Ensuring success of cuttings

JoshTx(8a)January 20, 2014

I'm sure everyone is tired of hearing about the cuttings I took during the fall, but I hope you'll oblige me one more time. I took a lot of cuttings this fall, all of them in October and November.

A handful of the first batch took and started throwing roots out. So far I for sure have 2 Maggie, 2 Lamarque, 2 Mons Tillier, and 1 G. Nabonnand. There are still some cuttings in cups that are viable but not showing roots.

I originally had many more than that, especially of the Mons Tillier. Out of the 6 cuttings I had 5/6 had roots within a month. But for some reason some of them began to die, and I lost a few. 2/4 of the Maggie never rooted, and only 1/4 G. Nabonnand has tiny roots visible. Two of them up and died without rooting, and one is still fighting the good fight.

Some of the Mons Tillier had leaves turned yellow, its roots took on a brown color, and no matter what I tried they croaked. I wasn't sure if it was the cold, so at first I brought them inside. Boy they sure didn't like that. Even with their baggies still on they seemed to instantly sulk. One rooted cutting of MT that I tried to harden off wilted, and then kicked the bucket. It never dropped its leave, but they did dry up.

Is it common to lose cuttings which have rooted? Or is this a case of used error?

It's not all losses, though. The second batch of cuttings I took included many many cuttings of the Allen Cemetery China. It never put out roots, but the stems never died. Looking at them yesterday, many of them are growing tiny leaves without roots visible. This is most likely the cane providing energy for the growth, but when I pulled the weakest one out of the dirt, it had minor callusing around the bottom. I expected it to root vigorously , as the parent plant at the Allen Historical Cemetery is a monster as very vigorous.

Oy vet. Sometimes plants are the most simple, straightforward things in my life; sometimes they are the most finicky and complicated....


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seil zone 6b MI

Josh, it's a pretty hit or miss thing. I've had several that seemed to root quickly and well only to die off several weeks later and some that seemed like they'd never root, but the canes remained green and plump, that all of a sudden took off and rooted for me. Besides depending on the variety I think it may also depend on the individual pieces of cane used. Rooting is not an exact science. Sometimes it just depends on how the plant feels about it, lol!

    Bookmark   January 20, 2014 at 5:35PM
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My grandmother could root a dead tree. My success is far below yours, however. Sounds like you did a great job! Growers, breeders and others with more experience than me will probably have some tips.

I'd be toasting myself with success like yours, Josh. I will add that even old roses are varied in their responses. As long as a cutting hasn't turned black, I roll with it. Some that have looked seriously unpromising have finally developed obstinate but tenacious new growth and cried, "I'm not dead yet!" Some hybrid teas have been a breeze, and some roses that boast "easily rooted" labels have croaked on me. Go figure.

I'm just getting back to ARF. Have you settled your property challenges?

    Bookmark   January 20, 2014 at 8:31PM
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gnabonnand(Zone 8 Texas)

You're doing great, Josh. As mentioned above, sometimes it's just hit or miss. And yes, sometimes, when they begin to root and I think I'm safe, they die suddenly. Glad to see one of the G. Nabonnand rooted for you. I've had good success rooting that one.


    Bookmark   January 20, 2014 at 8:40PM
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That sounds exactly what I've been experiencing! Being a Biochemistry student, trying to come to terms with the fact that I can't make rooting an exact science drives me up the wall! Lol


    Bookmark   January 20, 2014 at 9:00PM
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I am so glad to see you here! Must be something about them grandmothers cause mine has the greenest thumb I know. I've learned over the past year that gardening is 1 part knowledge, 2 parts trial and error. That has become the motto I quote to everyone who inquires about gardening.


I have a sneaking suspicion that:

1. Unearthing the cuttings to look at roots did two of the Maggie's in.

2. I took Mon Tiller's ambition for granted and didn't coddle them enough in the beginning. I only took two cuttings of Lamarque, but I babied the daylights outta those puppies and they are both rooted and leafing out.

3. Some of the G. Nabonnand were too small, and they didn't get the heat the others did to encourage rooting.

I am just glad that at least one G. Nabonnand rooted. Out of all of the cuttings, I was most excited to get some plants of it going. Now that I've tried my hand at rooting what is probably 30+ cuttings over the past few months, I feel confident I could get a better survival rate for the Mons Tillier, Maggie, and G. Nabonnand if I tried again. I tried rooting R. Moschata from Ogrose but I lost all of them. When spring rolls around I believe I will have another go at it.


    Bookmark   January 20, 2014 at 9:46PM
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Hi Josh, I want to try the cuttings again this spring, too!

Again, what do you use for your soil? I wrote it down when you were here, and can't find it now (surprise).

    Bookmark   January 20, 2014 at 11:14PM
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Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)


I checked my box of cuttings yesterday, no idea what went wrong, but my two early starters are turning yellow.....guess that was stored energy and not roots that was fueling the growth. Those two make me sad. Very sad cause I really really wanted them to grow.

But the rest are doing okay. My Grandmothers Hat cutting is still sitting there, not sprouting leaves and but still a happy green....so there is hope.

Also, after 3 tries, I have a happy Perle d'Or I think

    Bookmark   January 20, 2014 at 11:24PM
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There's a lot of hit-and-miss about it unless you're a cuttings wizard. I have a friend who began rooting cuttings in the styrofoam boxes that mozarella is shipped in, and he says he had a near 100% success rate, which he attributed to the even soil temperature achieved by the insulating power of the styrofoam. I've overall done fairly well, usually counting on getting about a third of my cuttings to root, with vary variable success rate depending on the variety. But last year I was lucky if 5% of my cuttings rooted. I think this was a combination of poor soil preparation--we had reformatted the propagating garden and not amended and dug the soil adequately--and possibly the effects of an unusually wet winter. Also it may be that some varieties take more kindly to some methods than others. I've never had any luck with Noisettes, and have wondered if they just don't like fall rooting. I've avoided taking cuttings after the first flush because by that time it's very hot and dry here, but perhaps I ought to experiment.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2014 at 1:25AM
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alameda/zone 8

I was just reading on the propagation forum that a member who had good success with rooting used Sunshine #4 mix. I ordered a bag of this [think it only comes in a really big bag] but haven't had time to do any rooting. Have heard several people say this was very good for rooting - also seed starting mix [which Walmart is starting to put out]. Some people mentioned those expandable peat pots. One person had his under tall plastic domes - I saw them offered in Jung's catalog and think I will order some. I have not tried rooting anything in the last several years, but one that rooted really well for me was Permanent Wave. Plan to try rooting Clair Matin - this is a lovely climber I would like more of. My problem is lack of time to spend starting the cuttings - have a bunch of daylily seeds I need to start too.......

    Bookmark   January 21, 2014 at 2:36AM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

This is the same problem I've had with teas and chinas. Mutabulis is the only one I have because it's the only one I've been able to grow out. The rest would root, but then die off when I tried to move them on. At some point, I thought the problem might be a lack of nutrient reserves in the cuttings and a lack of nutrients in the soilless mix we used for rooting. Then we had more roses than we knew what to do with, and my cutting sources dried up.

I don't remember specific varieties, but it was maybe as many as half a dozen different ones. It isn't a problem I've had with my normal classes. For the most part, once a cutting has roots, it will grow and do reasonably well in a protected pot.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2014 at 7:41AM
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I find this happens with late season cuttings--they stay green, sometimes even put out little leaves--but they haven't rooted, even after a couple of months.

I suspect, don't know, that it's temperature. The media just stays cold from November on. I wonder if a heating pad or some sort of bottom warmth would help--haven't tried.

I have a few going & got some Duchesse de Brabant & Mrs. Dudley Cross rooted from early November. It's hard for me to resist trying cuttings throughout the year--the teas & Chinas are still full of green leaves--but once it's cold, the results of my simple methods go way down.

Interesting about Mutabilis--I've never rooted it either.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2014 at 11:08AM
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Thinking back, I DID used to do a lot of successful fall/winter cuttings in my old zone. I kept them in a hot bed. The ground was excavated 6" or so & filled with rotted hay. Pvc hoops over that & clear plastic cover that could be pulled up or rolled back. That was zone 9 so most winter days--& many nights--the plastic was open.

The cuttings sat in their little cups on top of the rotten hay, which stayed moist & warm. Back in that zone, fall/winter cuttings worked as well or better than spring/summer cuttings, where the ambient temps were too high.

Dang, I really need to set that up again here. But excavating is a big deal now--I'll have to chop through caliche. If I could get my lazy self together, perhaps a raised hot bed would work.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2014 at 11:45AM
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Heat mats can help make a tremendous difference. 70 F is traditionally what has been found best as bottom heat. Don't forget not to use styrofoam cups on the heat mat. They prevent the heat from reaching the roots. Definitely, do NOT pull or dig the cuttings to check for roots! Generally, whatever the medium you're using, including dampened paper, requires firm medium to cutting contact to encourage callus and root formation. The "burritos" I wrap the tightest nearly always callus and root fastest and best. I removed these from the wraps Sunday after seventeen days. At fourteen, they weren't this far along, so I rewrapped them and left them alone. There are 91 callused, planted cuttings out front now with another larger batch due out within the week.

All of the offered suggestions are definitely parts of the equation for success. Sometimes they all align perfectly and they root right down the line. Others, one or more are just off enough for less than perfect results. I agree that as long as the cutting remains green and plump, leave it alone! It often doesn't matter if the foliage falls off as long as the wood looks healthy and viable. Once they begin yellowing, they're done. I've yet to have any yellowed cutting of any plant succeed. By that point, whatever caused the discoloration was probably far enough advanced to prevent resurrection. Even when all the stars align and you've done all of your "magic", sometimes the cutting just isn't going to cooperate. If the rest are working with just a few which aren't, don't sweat it. That's why you try multiple pieces, to insure success. Even the best methods in the hands of the most experienced propagators don't always result in 100% success. Something usually isn't perfectly right.

Don't give up. Very often, a difficult subject requires material from a juvenile plant to succeed. Once you've produced one new plant of it, try rooting cuttings from that fresh plant. I think you'll see a world of difference in how much easier it often is to produce. Good luck! Kim

Here is a link that might be useful: First Wraps of 2014

    Bookmark   January 21, 2014 at 12:50PM
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Oooo, the temperature discussion has been very helpful. My best success happens on a warm concrete space In my yard, one that doesn't get direct light but holds the heat. Wish I'd kept that waterproof pet mat that I gave to neighbors with chickens. It probably would have been great for propagation. Thanks for all the great info, Kim and Bluegirl. Keep us updated, Josh. I'm going to attempt to root one or two of my mom's roses. Wish me luck!

    Bookmark   January 21, 2014 at 1:27PM
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Lotsa luck! Try now, try in spring, try in fall--in different media. That nice heat-sink the concrete provides sounds promising. There IS a way to propagate every rose, you just have to find out how & when :)

    Bookmark   January 21, 2014 at 2:10PM
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seil zone 6b MI

I've found I've had the best luck with seed starter soil instead of regular potting soil. I think it may be due to it being a lighter mix so it drains better but still retains moisture. I don't know, I still think it's up to the plant itself and the powers that be, lol!

    Bookmark   January 21, 2014 at 2:59PM
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The seed starter type has definite advantages, Seil. Being finer particles, it should firm in better around the cuttings, providing superior cutting to soil contact. It should also remain damper while draining well and its lighter weight and texture allows new roots to infiltrate it better than heavier mixes. Other than the price and availability, its potential to dry out faster in more extreme conditions is what I watch it most for. Kim

    Bookmark   January 21, 2014 at 5:13PM
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seil zone 6b MI

That makes sense, Kim. I do my cuttings in the spring outside and my humidities are always high here on the lake but even so I do have to watch them for water carefully. I keep them in with my seedlings though and I watch those like a hawk anyway, lol!

    Bookmark   January 21, 2014 at 10:06PM
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Mad_gallica's comment illustrates the mysteriousness of propagation: Teas and Chinas generally root easily for me, while I have trouble with the once-blooming old roses (which I'm now collecting suckers from trying a new strategy). I take note of Kim's comment about taking cuttings from juvenile growth! By the way, I don't use bottom heat with my roses, and they sit for months in the propagating beds before they begin to show signs of life in April. I certainly do wonder whether there might be more efficient ways to root them. On the other hand, I get quite a few roses (though not enough).

    Bookmark   January 22, 2014 at 12:07AM
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