Roses have been cultivated for thousands of years, but modern varieties are significantly different from those that were commonly grown only a handful of generations ago. The first modern roses were hybrid teas that were created during the late 19th century, and different varieties of hybrid tea roses remain very popular. Though it is possible to grow roses from seeds, some modern roses have such tightly packed petals that they cannot be fertilized. Most modern roses are propagated by grafting, which is a process that involves bonding one rose plant to the root stock of another. However, rooting cuttings was far more popular historically, and that is the method that rose rustlers use today.
Equipment and Supplies
If you’re interested in rose rustling, then you need to start by collecting a few supplies and pieces of equipment. These items can be easily broken down into equipment that you need to bring along with you when you go rustling and supplies that you’ll need later on when you start to root your cuttings. Some of the most important items to take along when you go rustling are:
- pruning shears
- paper towels
- plastic bags
- a cooler
It’s entirely possible to rustle roses with nothing but a pair of shears or a sharp blade, but damp paper towels and plastic bags will help the cuttings survive until you plant them. Cuttings can survive for days in an ice chest, but it’s better to not take that chance. There are also a number of supplies that you should have waiting at home:
- fine potting soil
- a sharp knife
- plastic bags, zip bags, or milk jugs
The exact supplies you stock will depend on the specific method you use to root your cuttings. You can root your cuttings in plastic zip bags, or you can place them directly in pots and then cover them with plastic bags or clear milk jugs. Some type of rooting hormone can also come in handy, but it isn’t strictly necessary.
How to Spot a Good Rose
The main point of rose rustling is to preserve old roses, but just about any rose can be propagated by rooting cuttings. If you’re interested in preserving old roses like a true rustler, then you should start by looking in the right places. Abandoned homesteads, untended cemeteries, and overgrown farmsteads are all great places to find old roses. Old homes that are still occupied often have old roses as well, but you’ll need to ask permission before you search the premises.
Expert rustlers can identify roses even if there aren’t any blooms, but it’s significantly easier to just look for plants that are flowering. If you go rustling in the Autumn months, you should be able to find rose bushes and climbers with spent flowers that are perfect for cutting.
The Cutting Process
After you’ve identified the rose you want to rustle, it’s time to take a few cuttings. Always take more than you think you’ll need, because only about 50 to 75 percent of your cuttings are likely to root properly and fully mature. However, you should also be careful not to take too many cuttings. Since the aim is to preserve the old roses, it’s imperative to leave enough of the plant behind for it to continue to survive.
In order to identify a good cutting, you should look for a stem that includes a spent flower, two or more sets of leaves, and a heel where it connects to the main cane. Since the heel wood is the part of the rose that most readily sprouts new roots, an ideal cutting will include it. The spent flower and lower leaves should be removed, and a few leaves at the top of the cutting must remain in place.
If you have all of your supplies with you, then you should immediately wrap your cuttings in damp paper towels. The cuttings can then be placed into bags or set in a cooler that’s full of ice. Your new cuttings may survive without those precautions, but they will not remain viable for very long in warm weather.
How to Grow Your New Roses
Rose cuttings readily grow new roots, so there are a number of ways that you can proceed. Some rustlers simply stick their cuttings in the ground, but that’s not the most reliable method. You can also place the cuttings into pots that are filled with fine potting soil. If you choose that method, you may need to cover the cuttings with plastic bags or milk jugs.
The cuttings can be placed in a rooting hormone prior to sticking them, but that isn’t absolutely necessary. If you don’t want to buy rooting hormone, you can also take some willow cuttings and boil them in water. The willow cuttings should then be allowed to steep overnight. This concoction will act much like a rooting hormone, and you can even use it the first time you water your cuttings.
Regardless of the planting method you select, it’s imperative to pay close attention to your cuttings. Whether you chose to stick them in zip bags or pots, they need a relatively damp environment to thrive. That means you can’t allow them to dry out. However, you should also allow them to breathe on a regular basis. If the mini-climate created by your bags or jugs is excessively damp all the time, the cuttings may rot.
Depending on the rooting method you select, your cuttings may need to be transplanted more than once. If you placed the cuttings in small pots or zip bags, they need to be transplanted when you notice new leaf growth. When a cutting has sprouted two leaves, it’s usually ready to be moved into a larger pot.
If you stick your cuttings in the fall, they’ll usually be ready to move outside in the spring. Some people keep their baby roses in pots for an entire year, and the best timeline can depend on your local climate. If you leave your new roses in pots through the summer months, it’s vital to keep a close eye on them. You may need to move the pots around to find a good area of bright shade, and the potting soil should never be allowed to dry out.
The specific timeline you follow will vary depending on your local climate and when you take your cuttings. However, most rooting processes progress through a similar course of events.
- A few days after cutting:
- Two weeks after sticking:
- One or two months after sticking:
- Five to six months after sticking:
The cuttings should be stuck in a growing medium. If you wait any longer, the cuttings may not root.
You should notice the bases of the cuttings begin to swell. The swelling indicates that the cuttings are starting to root.
At this point, you should start to notice new leaf growth. After two or more new leaves have appeared on a cutting, it’s ready to be transplanted into a larger pot.
At this point, your roses should be ready for a final transplant. If you stuck them in the fall, they should be ready for transplant in the spring.