Hot beds for fall rooting

bluegirl_gwOctober 24, 2013

I use to use hot beds quite a bit to overwinter tropicals & found they worked well to provide bottom heat for rooting roses. I had a very good success rate using this method starting in the fall.

I created the beds by digging out a trough in the garden 6" or more deep (some were 8-9" or more). I'd pile the dirt on one side & use that hill for planting veggies.

Through the year I'd fill the trough with organic material. Late summer I'd be sure to stack in plenty of rotting hay & keep it all watered.

In early fall, the best time for me to do rose cuttings, I'd set the cuttings in their pots into the hot fermenting bed. When late fall temps got cool enough I made 3-4' hoops from light weight pvc pipe stuck down into the bed. When temps got cool enough I pulled clear plastic over the hoops & anchored it. During most days I could leave it open. The combination of a hot fermenting bed around the pots, the humidity of wet hay & the cool fall temps that let me set the cuttings in full sun worked very well.

To grow great winter vegetables I would rake the soil I'd excavated from the trough back over the composting material then plant seeds--really grew great lettuce, broccoli, etc.

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strawchicago(zone 5a)

Thank you, Bluegirl, for those great tips ... I sure can use those tips for my zone 5a, where late fall temp. fluctuates between freezing nights, and sunny & warm days.

It's much warmer underground, and I like your idea of PVC pipes stuck in the ground to make a shelter for rootings. In my zone 5a, I can always cover the pit with a thick thermal blanket in nights that dip below zero.

I like your tip of sinking the pots into a pit filled with rotted hay. One cold fall we filled bags with grass clippings and put them inside the garage. The whole garage was warm and toasty from the decomposing grass, despite the freezing temp. When I touched the bags, it was WARM !!

The type of potting medium: sand or moist potting soil can determine whether to cover rootings or not. The guy in the YouTube used a Walmart plastic basket. The basket has tons of holes on the sides, plus he punched more holes at the bottom. He filled it with coarse sand, stuck rootings in, then covered with a plastic bag, with occasional airing of the bag.

I don't think the above would work with moister medium, such as MG Moisture-Control potting soil, or the regular MG potting soil ... I get the worst black spots with such peat-based soil at pH 6.5, since the top layer doesn't dry out fast enough in our wet fall. Fungi thrives at neutral to slightly acidic medium.

My neighbor has indoor plants in our zone 5a winter. His plants are huge and healthy. He uses 45% composted pine fines with lime added. Composted pine fines has tannins (a fungicide), and lime is also a fungicide. In contrast, my indoor herbs got rotted, black canker, and white flies with the peat-based potting soil, which stays moist on top.

Someone once advised to put a layer of sand on top of rootings, to prevent mold. Sand dries out fast on top, but stay moist at the bottom. In contrast, peatmoss-based potting soil is wet at the top, and dry like sawdust at the bottom. I planted rose seeds in MiracleGro potting soil for seedlings, and they all died. The top was soaking wet, and the bottom was dry like sawdust.

See link below for the Walmart bin for $2.97 with many holes that the YouTube guy filled with coarse sand for his rootings:

Here is a link that might be useful: Walmart basket with holes for $2.97

This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Fri, Oct 25, 13 at 9:35

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 9:28AM
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The #1 cause for failure on rose cuttings for me is rot. I NEVER had success with the baggie method that others are so successful with, or with any method that involved using a humidity dome.

What works for me is a coarse media--lava sand, builder's sand, etc, with a little bit of coco coir. I minimize watering & sometimes use a splash of H2O2 or bleach in the water or even initially soak the media & pots in that. I keep the cuttings in as much light as possible & keep them in open air unless freezing weather is called for.

That's what works for me--another poster has excellent success rooting in pure compost--obviously a non-sterile media, but perhaps the beneficial population keeps the rot organisms at bay.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 7:17PM
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strawchicago(zone 5a)

Hi Bluegirl: I think it depends on the weather. We have a dry phase of summer that I would definitely put a plastic bag over, since I'm lazy in watering or misting.

We also have the humid phase: 70% humidity in spring and fall, no need to cover with plastic bag.

I notice that the cuttings which I score above a bud with a knife (nicking the outer layer), plus peeling off a vertical section off the bottom: those have white calluses the entire length, esp. at the bottom.

The ones which I forgot to score above a bud, or peel off 1/2" section at the bottom ... did not callous at all, even after 2 months in moist sand.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 8:53PM
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Yeah, that fellow years back, sorry I can't recall his name, but his web page was "make more roses", recommended making a couple of 1" or so scraps on the cuttings, at least one alongside a bud, before dipping in hormone.

I found that helps immensely--all the callus & roots form along those scrapes.

Using a commercial strength hormone like Rhizopan #3 increased my take, also. This fall I'm trying some Clonex.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 11:01PM
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strawchicago(zone 5a)

Thank you, Bluegirl, for the name Rhizopan #3, I'll look for it. Some of my cuts were made randomly, and they still formed white callus (precursor to roots).

Also the guy in the YouTube stuck 4 pencils at the corner of his $2.95 Walmart basket, to keep his tent of plastic up. His method was to root trees & bushes, so I think those hard-wood don't rot as easily as the green cuttings of roses.

There's another way to keep the surface dry: watering from below like sitting on a tray of water, and using a "wicking" medium like sphagnum moss (different from peat moss). Two years ago I received bands from Burlington with that fluffy & mossy stuff inside ... the roots were deep, and roses were super-healthy. See info. below:

"Horticulturists have long known the benefits of long-fibered sphagnum moss. With its unique qualities of retaining 20 times its weight in water and its anti-bacterial sterility, sphagnum moss has become an indispensable gardening tool in the propagation and beautification process."

Here is a link that might be useful: What is long-fiber Sphagnum Moss

    Bookmark   October 26, 2013 at 12:56PM
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strawchicago(zone 5a)

Found a fantastic site on how to root soft-wood cutting by Cheryl Netter, zone 5, Colorado. She did that indoor, in the winter (dry & cold) with the baggie method and indirect sun. Click on the link below, then click on Table of Contents, then click on Cheryl Netter's Method of Softwood Propagation.

She explained things very well. Thank you, Cheryl, I appreciate your excellent website.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cheryl Netter on rooting soft-wood cuttings

This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Tue, Nov 26, 13 at 18:20

    Bookmark   November 8, 2013 at 11:40PM
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cnetter(z5 Co)

You're welcome! Virtually all my OGRs and many of my older miniature roses were from rooted cuttings.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2013 at 1:04AM
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Nice site! I need to try baggies again--I just never got them to work but so many folks do. Maybe I started with the media too wet...

I'm trying air-layering on a Talisman budded onto Ragged Robin. Talisman is a sentimental favorite but it's a weak rose for me. I tried budding it onto Ragged Robin (Glorie des Rosomanes) & got a nice take that is 8-9" long now. I want to root the Ragged Robin stem a bit below the Talisman graft so I'm trying air-layering. This link has a good description & photos of the method I'm trying. Fingers crossed.

Here is a link that might be useful: air layering photos & description

    Bookmark   November 10, 2013 at 5:41PM
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strawchicago(zone 5a)

Thank you, Bluegirl, for that excellent site on air-layering. It has great photos & easy instructions. I have the best luck with soil-layering, bend down a branch, nick it, then dump soil on top.

But I can't bend down hybrid teas, so air-layering with a baggie sounds good ... will try that. Your link makes it so easy ... many thanks.

I re-read Cheryl Netter's excellent instructions on soft-wood rooting. Her method is a blessing for those with alkaline tap water. It's only ONE time watering the medium with rain water (pH 5.6) or distilled water (neutral to slightly acidic pH), then no watering for at least 1 month, since the rooting is enclosed in a baggie.

I agree with what Cheryl Netter observed: hybrid teas tend to bud out 1st, before their roots are formed. I'll re-post the link to Cheryl Netter's method of softwood rooting. The link takes to her home page first, then click on Table of Contents, then click on Cheryl Netter's softwood rooting method.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cheryl Netter's home page

This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Thu, Nov 28, 13 at 14:01

    Bookmark   November 10, 2013 at 9:06PM
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strawchicago(zone 5a)

I was browsing through Pinterest for roses pictures, and found a neat trick of plunging rose cuttings into a raw potato, and plant into the ground. The potato provides moisture and food for the cuttings to grow. See Pinterest link below for the procedure:

Here is a link that might be useful: Rooting roses by sticking into a raw potato

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 10:34PM
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strawchicago(zone 5a)

If I were to use the potatoe, I would cut it into half, and stick the cutting between the 2 halves. That way the potato won't sprout, and the cutting has some room to grow. Here's the toothpick method to induce callous on a cutting:

Posted by nandina 8b (My Page) on
Wed, Aug 23, 06 at 13:13
I have not posted this propagation method in several years. Time for a repeat. Just a reminder that all cuttings need to callus before they will root. This method allows the callusing to take place on the mother plant before the cutting is removed and is most helpful for those hard to root trees/shrubs. Plan to use the toothpick technique during the last weeks of August up until mid-September. This is a little known process and when I first posted it a number of growers contacted me, pleased to know about it as it requires no misting systems, etc.
A very sharp, small penknife or Exacto knife.
A small block of wood (to prevent cutting fingers!)
Some colored yarns or tape for marking purposes.
1. Select the stem from which you wish to take a cutting. Look along it until you locate a bud ON LAST YEAR'S GROWTH.
2. Place the block of wood behind that point and make a single VERTICAL cut all the way through the stem, just below the bud.
3. Insert a toopick through the cut.
4. Mark each cutting with colored yarn/tape so that you can locate it at a later date.
5. Walk away from your toothpick cuttings until the end of October or November. Leave them alone!
You will note that a callus has formed where you wounded the cutting and inserted a toothpick. With sharp pruning shears remove the cutting just below the toothpick. Trim off the toothpick on either side of the cutting.
7. Dip your cuttings in rooting hormone and set them in a cold frame. Water well and close up the frame for the winter. Water as needed. If you do not have a cold frame, set the cuttings right next to your house foundation on the east or north side. Lean an old window or glass pane up against the foundation to protect them.
8. Rooting should take place by mid-spring. Those with greenhouses can leave the cuttings on the mother plant into December/January before setting them to root. Commercial propagators will find this useful.
This method requires a bit of practice but works well. In August/September select the stem to be used as a cutting. Locate last year's growth on the stem and grasp it between thumb and forefinger. Snap the stem lightly until it breaks in half. Leave it hanging on the plant where it will callus. Then follow instructions above for setting cuttings. Snip the cutting off, when callused, at the wounded part. This is a useful technique for azaleas and many woody shrubs and Japanese maples.
Hopefully I have explained this method so it is understood. Reading it over a few times may be necessary.


Posted by nandina 8b (My Page) on
Fri, Jun 8, 07 at 10:00
I note that you are a professional so will take the time to post two techniques neither of which require misting. First, have you tried heel cuttings? Or the standard 'from seed' method?
The first rooting method I call the 'toothpick technique' which allows a cutting to callus on the plant before it is removed. For this you will need a small, thin, very sharp pen knife (or exacto knife) and a small block of wood. Locate last year's growth on a stem, place the block of wood behind that section and make one single vertical cut through the stem below a bud. This is done in August/late summer. Insert a toothpick through the cut, tie some sort of marking tape on the stem so you can find it later and walk away from it until October. At that time remove the cutting severing below the toothpick, trim the toothpick to the stem, dust with rooting hormone and stick in a cold frame. Or, cuttings can be placed in a greenhouse where they will root without misting. This is my favorite hardwood/shrub rooting method for all that type of plant especially difficult to root ones.
The second method is a variation of the first. It takes a little practice and azaleas are a good practice plant. One simply makes a downward snap below a bud on last year's growth in August partially severing the stem. Leave it to hang on the plant until October, then remove, dust with rooting hormone and set in cold frame or greenhouse. When I am working with a difficult to root plant I will also use this method, snapping the stem at a main branch creating a heel cutting.
Once you have worked with these methods you will find them easy and can expect a high level of strikes.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 10:47PM
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