Sand for propagation

vettin(z6b Northern VA)September 12, 2010

For those of you that use sand as a propagation medium - can you please tell me more?

Where do you buy the sand from, who much do you use, do you need to sterilize it somehow - and any other question that I did not ask that I should?

Thank you!

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I just steal some from my daughter's sand box... But I am fairly inexperienced with all this rooting business, so by far my way of doing it is not a very well informed one. :D

    Bookmark   September 13, 2010 at 9:12AM
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claferg zone 9a Fl

I have successfully rooted roses and other plants in clean builders sand. I make sure there is at least 4-6 inches of sand, enough to retain some moisture, and just stick the cuttings in the sand and keep the cutting in a bright but not sunny location. I have also used vermiculite as a rooting medium which also works well. The trick with rooting roses is to keep the media moist but not soggy or else the cutting will rot before it roots, that is why sand is good for this, it drains well.I have tried rooting cuttings with and without rooting hormone and I don't see much difference. I have also used those clear solo drink cups for rooting roses. It takes the guesswork out of knowing when the roses have rooted, you can see the new roots forming without disturbing the cutting.
Hope this helps :)

    Bookmark   September 13, 2010 at 10:27AM
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Never used sand, but it would probably work fine. When I propagate, I use a mix of half potting soil and half perlite ... all things that are easily available, and I have had decent success.

The most important thing I find with propagation is taking good quality cuttings from a healthy, well hydrated plant. This summer, with the record heat we've had, the roses in the garden are stressed, and my propagation success this year has suffered.

Check out the tutorial on my web site for instructions for a propagation method that works really well, using household stuff you probably have laying around already.


Here is a link that might be useful: Click on 'How To'

    Bookmark   September 13, 2010 at 10:34AM
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kstrong(10 So Cal)

I use it for fortuniana cuttings, that I then use as a rootstock for other roses that don't grow well on their own roots (which is most roses in the mauve ranges and many older varieties). My sand is the builders sand sold at Home Depot for use in concrete mixes. It is already sterilized, and costs about $3 for a 50 lb sack.

I put that sand in little square nursery plastic plant containers that my nursery recycles (and gives me for free) that are about 3 inches square and also maybe 3 inches deep. The kind in which they sell bedding annuals. I put about 2 inches of sand in them, put the containers inside a WalMart plastic storage bin (get the tallest one you can) that has a translucent lid. Then I wet the sand, dip the cuttings in rooting hormone and stick about 3 or 4 cuttings (with only one or two leaves each left on them) in each nursery pot. I close the lid completely and put the whole bin under a tree where it gets about 50% shade. As long as there is condensation forming on the top of the container, I don't water it again.

Every once in a while, if I happen to be spraying, I open the container and spray in whatever I'm spraying with (usually a fungicide and a fertilizer). And at those times I check to make sure the sand is still damp. Other than that, it sits unattended for about 8 weeks, at the end of which there are usually roots on most of the cuttings.

The rooted fortuniana cuttings can be taken all the way out of the sand for grafting, without damaging the new roots -- I think that is the main advantage of using the sand. The other advantage is that they can just be left in the box for up to 2 months more, until I get the time to do the grafting work. Once they are rooted, I give them a very weak, say 1/4 of package strength, dose of soluble Miracle Gro-type fertilizer (must be chemical -- organics would rot in there and stink it up).

I do reuse the sand, so I don't think sterilized is really necessary.


    Bookmark   September 13, 2010 at 10:35AM
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greybird(z7 TX)

I use a mixture of one part vermiculite or perlite to one part play sand. I then stick several cuttings to each 9 oz transluscent cup. Under mist, it can take anywhere from 2-6 wks to get roots. I also reuse the medium with no sterilization.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2010 at 11:20AM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

The dog knocked off a big new basal off a rose once, I was rather upset and stuck the thing in a pile of leftover sand behind the house because I didn't want to deal with it being upset, and the thing rooted. I think sand works great if you can just keep it damp (not wet).

I have gotten lazy and just take a bunch of cuttings and stick them in the dirt on the shady side of a wall and leave them. A few root and the rest dry up or rot depending on the weather, but I still get some to root, and for about zero effort. All the pots and cups and baggies and mist and checking...jeeze loo-eze, just no patience and time for that any more.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2010 at 1:25PM
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I'm with hoovb. Some of my best success with cuttings has come from accidental breaks that I've just stuck in the ground in a shady spot. Last fall, the day after trimming some of my roses back, I decided I should at least take some of the trimmings and see if I could root them (I was working with the Polyanthas The Fairy and Snow White). I just cut them into small sections, stuck them in the ground near their parents and in the Spring 8 of 10 cuttings leafed out and were ready for replanting. I haven't had that much success when I have worked much harder at it. Sometimes I think I have killed them with kindness.

Scott Keneda

    Bookmark   September 15, 2010 at 7:53PM
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Commercial operations that propagate their plants usually don't use sand, but the reason they avoid it is because a 100' greenhouse bench covered in sand 8" deep is a very heavy thing, and you can get the same success by using a bench of vermiculite, or perlite, or possibly even peat moss.

None of that necessarily applies to someone just rooting a few cuttings. Sand should work fine as long as you can keep it moist, but not wet.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2010 at 2:27PM
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pccrozat(z7 Lyon France)

I just wanted to comment Kstrong take on fertilizer ("must be chemical"): My take would be "never has to be chemical"! a weak alfalfa tea would do just fine in my opinion. You might have to fertilize again a few times with the tea, but it really doesn't cost much, it doesn't kill your soil and it doesn't involve any petro chemical based component...good for the roses, good for you and ggod for us!
I hope this doesn't sound preachy, but here, in France roses often have a bad reputation because they are said to need lots of fertilizers, pesticides and experience is that they don't.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2010 at 3:18PM
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Actually no, there is a reason why commercial nurseries use chemical fertilizers and rotting is very important factor. From my experience is better not to use any fertilizer at all than use organic one in this sort of cases - because organics, being full of bacteria, fungi and all sorts of other organisms will rather get the cutting stick to decompose than get roots.

Adding all sorts of root-helping organic fertilizer to the cuttings sand is also a bad idea, I tried it once and the fail rate was the highest I ever had with any type of cuttings.

alfalfa is good stuff, but that is for later, when cuttings are well out of the cutting stage, besides that it stinks so badly that if people had to use it instead of chemicals, no one would come close to the roses besides the enthusiasts or smell-impaired. :D

    Bookmark   September 18, 2010 at 5:29PM
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kstrong(10 So Cal)

Exactly, elemire -- in this application -- inside a rooting container -- you want to avoid any fungus. You are growing the roots at 100% humidity. Organic fertilizers would just rot, make a mess of your rooting container, and probably introduce pathogens that would cause rotting in your cuttings.

I meant what I said (although in nearly every other application I use organics) -- inside a rooting container, only chemical fertilizers will do, and even then, very weak ones. You want as few organics inside the rooting container as you can acheive. Alfalfa tea is NOT the solution to every problem.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2010 at 6:55PM
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Campanula UK Z8

i do not use any fertilisers until the cuttings strike and roots and top growth need feeding as initially, there is sufficient nutrition in the cutting material. I have rooted cuttings in a variety of mediums but most of them are sterile, basically inert. Pure sand, a mix of sand and perlite or vermiculite, specially prepared cutting compost mix (John Innes) or even water have all been successful for me at different times.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2010 at 7:30PM
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jim_east_coast_zn7(z7 East Coast)

In line with organic fertilizers, I have found a soil that is a little too rich in compost, decayed leaves, etc. is bad for rooting cuttings and can lead to rot. Better a soil that has few organics in it if one is rooting outside directly in soil. I learned this the hard way.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2010 at 9:01PM
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pccrozat(z7 Lyon France)

I usually winter root roses in a good homemade worm compost. The fact that the compost is cold composted makes it "fungi friendly" and yet I very rarely have any rot. It can be that the very many different fungi keep each other in close check and not one takes over and goes crazy. I think that everybody's garden is full of living things anyway.
I spray the cuttings with a weak nettle or alfalfa tea weekly until I start watering them with a stronger tea. I alternate different teas and I use alfalfa pellets.
I don't think that it is because chemical fertilizers are the best answer that commercial nurseries use them. They resort to chemicals because it is much easier to manage.
As a gardener I make good compost and I never need a chemical product in the green house (or the garden).

    Bookmark   September 20, 2010 at 4:53PM
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It kind of depends on what you try to grow and where you try to grow. Compost however does not add anything to help cuttings to root, quite the opposite, minus the plants that would root naturally almost in anything in the given climate.

The point is to get the cutting in touch with the soil material, which is just moist - hence all the mist machines and other techniques how to manage the moisture - and the compost is by far inferior to the simple pure sand drainage and moisture management wise.

Work wise in my opinion spraying things weekly with alfalfa is as unnatural as the chemical treatment really, because it is keeping plants on steroids anyways, organic or not. Chemical fertilizers are simply more tidy approach to the same thing, if one follows instructions and does not pour the whole bag where only a handful is required, there won't be any dead soil or other horrors. After all, main polluters of water in Europe nowadays are not the chemical fertilizers, but actually pig/cow/poultry farms - not everything that comes from the animal behind is the panacea for the soil. :)

    Bookmark   September 20, 2010 at 5:19PM
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