One of the joys of gardening is sharing your plants. Gardeners have always exchanged cuttings, and roses often top the list. Old and heirloom roses, in particular, have been passed down through the years by taking slips and growing new plants. Starting rose cuttings is fairly easy to do.
Take a 6- to 8-inch cutting from tip of a stem that has recently bloomed. Remove the end of the stem down to the first set of leaves, trimming at a 45-degree angle. The best time of year to take cuttings, according to horticulturist Dr. William C. Welch, is during the cool months from November through February (see References).
Dip the end of your cutting into rooting hormone before planting. Gently tap the cutting to remove excess powder.
(An alternative to rooting hormone is willow water. Cut 1-inch sections of willow branches, both horizontally and laterally, and soak in a pan of water that has been brought to a rolling boil (rainwater is ideal), Welch recommends. Steep the willow pieces overnight, until the water looks like weak tea. Remove the willow and place your rose cuttings in the water for several hours. You also can use this mixture to water your cutting when it's first planted. Research at Ohio State University has shown that willows contain substances that can induce rooting and prevent "damping off" or canker in other plants, Welch says.)
Make a hole with a pencil or chopstick in the potting soil. Place your cutting about half its length into the soil, backfill gently and press down firmly to remove air pockets and water thoroughly.
Place the pot in a clear plastic bag and close it tightly. Place a stick or piece of wire into the soil to keep the bag from falling down onto the cutting.
Remove the bag after the cutting has rooted.
(Another option Welch recommends is putting cuttings into potting mix in a clear plastic bag and hanging them on a clothesline in bright shade. It will be easy to tell when roots have appeared, he says, as you can see them through the transparent plastic.)
Keep your potting medium moist, particuliary for the first few weeks while the plant is rooting. Never let your cutting dry out.