Add thornless to the Lady Banks rose’s impressive laundry list of desirable characteristics, and you may have hit upon the perfect rose for warmer climate gardens. Fast-growing, drought-tolerant and highly disease-resistant, this stunning climber may bloom from late January to mid-May, depending upon your location. Two of the most readily available Lady Banks roses are the double yellow Rosa banksiae “Lutea” and the double white Rosa banksiae “Alba-pena." Both of these beauties are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture planting zones 6 through 10, but thrive best in zones 7 through 10. Lady Banks roses start so readily from cuttings that even new gardeners can successfully grow their own touches of old-fashioned landscape charm.
Watch your mature flowering Lady Banks rose plant carefully during the first bloom flush of the season. Choose a rose with a healthy, unblemished stem. Check the flower daily as the petals fade. Snip the rose off the stem with a clean, sharp knife as soon as all the petals fall from it. Clip about 6 inches from the stem tip before the leaf buds, or nodes, produce any new growth. Keep the cutting cool, and don’t expose it to direct sunlight.
Trim all the leaves from the bottom 3 inches of the cutting. Leave at least two to three leaves on the top half of the stem. Make two shallow vertical slits in the lower 1/2 inch of the cutting. Cut through the outer bark only and space the wounds opposite each other.
Cut the bottom half off a clear, empty plastic 2-liter bottle to serve as a mini-greenhouse. Toss the top half of the bottle in the recycle bin. Use an ice pick to punch about 10 holes in the bottom half.
Fill a plastic 8-inch pot with sterile potting soil to about 1/2 inch to 1 inch below the rim. Place the pot in a shallow bowl of warm water. Take the pot out of the water when the soil surface feels evenly moist. Allow it to drain thoroughly for 20 to 30 minutes.
Make a 3-inch-deep hole in the center of the potting medium with a pencil. Dip the bottom 1 inch of the cutting in warm water. Roll the wet stem end in powdered rooting hormone, and tap it gently to remove the excess material. Stick the treated end of the cutting into the hole, and firm the potting medium to the stem gently with your fingers. Flip the greenhouse upside down, and cover the cutting. Press the lower 1/4 to 1/2 inch of the plastic into the soil to steady it. The plastic greenhouse will serve to retain the moisture crucial for rooting rose cuttings.
Place the covered cutting outside in a shady, but brightly lit, warm area out of direct or strong sunlight. Pick a spot safe from wind exposure. The Lady Banks rose cutting will root in about three to five weeks.
Remove the plastic greenhouse every day to monitor the potting medium moisture. Don’t allow Lady Banks to dry out, even for a single day. Water gently whenever necessary to keep the surface of the medium barely but evenly moist. Don’t allow it to become wet or soggy.
Check carefully for signs of new leaves budding every day beginning several weeks after sticking the cutting in the pot. Take the plastic greenhouse off for good when you see the emergence of new growth, which means successful rooting. Keep the potting medium surface evenly but barely moist.
Move the rooted Lady Banks to a partially sunny spot for several morning hours about eight weeks after planting. Don’t expose it to direct sun. Move it back to the shade before the afternoon sun becomes strong. Repeat for three or four days. Give it about two hours of very early morning direct sun, and return it to shade in the afternoons for the next three or four days. Set it out in direct sun for the entire morning and an hour or so during early afternoon, and move it back to shade for the rest of the day for several days. Allow the plant to remain in full sun thereafter.