Rose cuttingsThe best method for propagating roses is through cuttings. I learned that years ago and have exercised it for many times, with great success. I use cut polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles to cover the cuttings after planting; they provide the role of a cloche, or small greenhouse, protecting them from freezing during our heavy winters.

The best time for rose propagation in our temperate climate (same as USDA 6a and 6b zones) is during the fall, from the end of August until November, so the cutting can establish some roots before the first frost. Only the flowering tips are used as rose cuttings, after the flowers have faded. The cutting has to be as long as possible, preferably with 7 or 8 nodes, because half of it will be buried inside the ground. The cutting will root on every node, that's why more nodes will assure a better rooting and a better growth. But even a shorter cutting can grow well and develop roots under a plastic bottle, with only one condition as long as it's in a sunny location. Sun will stimulate growth and even if the plant is smaller, it will grow well during the following spring. I had a few short cuttings last fall and buried them with two nodes, while leaving two nodes (in one case, I left only one node) outside. Cuttings must also have healthy leaves through which the plant will feed and provide the rooting hormones.[1]

Each cutting needs help for a faster rooting and this is why I stick a grain of wheat inside a small hole I make with a knitting needle, at the bottom of the stem. The wheat grain will stop the sap from going out and will feed the cutting until it establishes roots. The tip of the cutting must be removed - the usual "deadheading" - which will stimulate new growths on the cutting, just as it does on the mother plant.

I'm making a hole at the bottom of the stem with a knitting needle Sticking a wheat grain inside the hole I made at the bottom of the rose cutting

I also remove the leaves from the bottom of the stem, which will be buried. After preparing the cutting, I choose a sunny location for planting it. I consider the height and diameter of the future bush and then dig a hole. The hole must be as deep as half of the length of the cutting and 10 inches (25cm) large or a bit larger than the plastic bottle. I add a "hand" of sand on the bottom of the hole, moisten it, then stick in the cutting.

Sand on the bottom of holePouring water in the holeSticking the rose cutting in the sand

I cover half of the cutting with soil, then create a well around it, but just a bit farther from the stalk, where I bury the cut PET bottle. First I'm measuring the plant's height and then cut the bottle's bottom, so I can bury at least 4 inch (10cm) of it, for a better stability of the improvised greenhouse. I cover the cutting with the cut PET bottle, by pushing it gently into the ground, so I won't harm the leaves of my rose cutting, until the tip almost reaches the bottle's cap - I need to leave some space for the future sprouts. Then press the soil around the bottle to fix it into the ground and water it with a few cups of water.

Rose cutting plantedWatering the new planted rose cuttingPET bottle buried over the rose cutting

Rose cuttings still under PETs the following spring, with the caps down

Over 30 rose cuttings under PET bottles in my garden when I first planted them, in OctoberEvery time I have used this method, I had a few dozen rose cuttings to plant, so I had to dig lots of holes and search for as many bottles as holes and cuttings. Some of the cuttings didn't make it, but the losses were insignificant, considering the rest of the successful new roses I got. In the coming spring, when the temperatures are higher than 50F (10C) during the day, I remove the caps from the bottles to prevent overheating of the plant. Bottles are removed when night temperatures are higher than 50F (10C).

Minnie on the lawn with her plastic toysBut this was all before I had Minnie, when only Miss Mole would disturb the plants in my garden and no one else. Minnie wants to play and I was more than happy to give her toys, bones to chew, balls to play with - but what did she do with them? She buried them in unknown places in my garden, so she could dig them out later. Poor thing, she must have had a terrible hard life on her first year of life, until we took her in from the street. I started to give her plastic containers from our food so she can chew on them or play with them, whatever she would want to do, hoping that she won't bury those like she did with the rest of her toys - yet, not all recovered!

Like our beloved Boss, Minnie also enjoys playing with bottles, which make that terrible scratching noise when she chews on them. It's funny to see her playing with them so I gave her any plastic I had, no matter how much plastic pieces I had to pick up from the lawn, where she was dragging all her so-called toys.

Last fall, almost in November, a friend gave me a few climbing rose cuttings which I planted as usual, under cut bottles. I was careful not to plantMinnie, busted with a PET in her mouth, which she had just dug out them in a wide open area, where Minnie could damage them with her running - I thought! The very next day after I planted them, I found all the bottles I buried over the rose cuttings, on the lawn. I was a bit upset and scolded Minnie for doing that, but then I patiently took them all and put them over the rose cuttings again. The next day she did the same - moreover, one cutting was missing from its place. I scolded Minnie and added a few blue words, then went to find the missing rose cutting. I found it not far from where she had been buried, so I buried it again and put the bottles on their place, again. I started to watch Minnie, immediately after I'd put the bottles back, so I could scold her and make her understand that those were forbbiden. She was deliberately going there, taking the bottle and sometimes, even the cutting. I found one on the lawn, chewed! Every day, for about a week, Minnie stole those bottles from the garden thinking, probably, that it were hers, as it were others I gave her before. Soon, another cutting was missing (which I've never found) and then, two more others followed. The only two left were those from the small fence I have around the garden, in a partially shadowed area - which is why Minnie probably didn't notice them, or so I thought. I had no success, so I tried covering the Minnie searching for PETs in the snowcuttings with glass jars which, supposedly, Minnie wouldn't get to play with. In the same time, I started applying a psychological method: I saved the bottles which Minnie kept on digging out and buried them in different places of my garden, to distract her from the real covered cuttings. It went well for a while, but Minnie is a smart girl and soon realized that those were just fakes and there was nothing under them. I began to understand what she was really doing: she was playing hide and seek with me! And, silly me, I didn't understand what she was doing - smart dog! Finally, it snowed and everything got covered with a few inches of snow. She kept on searching for the jars or bottles, but they were frozen and even Minnie couldn't get them out of there. No need to say how relieved I was, happy to have saved at least the last two of my climbing rose cuttings!

Spring came and the cuttings grew into small roses. Minnie had other distractions and totally forgot about the roses.

The two rose cuttings covered with glass jars, in the springRose cutting with sprouts in the spring after removing the glass jarRose with leaves later in the spring

All was good until the rain season started and it went on for several months, with few sunny and warm days in between, which caused my small climbing roses to root rot and so I lost the last of them too. If only I would have had those planted in full sun, maybe they would have grown better. Finally, I guess Minnie was trying to teach me new ways of planting rose cuttings, but I was too silly to understand. Maybe if I would have tried harder to understand, I would have had a few beautiful climbing roses by now. Next time I'll try to be more allert and learn from my new master!

[1] http://www.rkdn.org/roses/propagate.as