What You Should Know About Cuttings in the Gardens

plant cuttings


Cuttings should be fresh growth that is not too soft and not too old. The shoot chosen should not have flower buds, or be in flower or seed. The shoot chosen has not had the proper time to develop a shoot bud by the last spring frost. The shoot should not be too old or too soft. Softwood cuttings are too weak and have not had enough time to grow a strong shoot. Another drawback to softwood cuttings is they often do not grow properly after they are moved into an environment that is not parallel with their natural environment.

Many gardeners will denude their rose garden to prepare a row of roses. Some call this process a circle of death, since there will be no new shoots to grow after the original circle is complete. I call it clean cutting, since there will be no additional flowers or stems with the original plant. Should the circle of roses be complete, the cuttings are known as fresh wood. The new plant will need additional care and preparation before being planted in the garden.


Powerizing involves cutting off the a strong shoot and encouraging several new shoots to grow from it. The new shoots will replace the old shoots that have been removed. This is a very aggressive treatment, and should be used sparingly. The new shoots should be 4 to 6 inches long. I usually wait until the following spring to start the powerization process, and then start working on the bushes the following fall.

For buds that are on or just slightly out of the heads of the current season’s growth, I will clean off the current growth, leaving behind the soft tissue and buds. This is usually done in the late fall, around which time many of the flowers have died down. The dead flowers left behind can be eliminated using a product called Roundup.

In the spring, I will look for the new buds, and clean off the soft tissue and buds. This is also when I will start to prune off the old branches, as described in the section above about dead heading. In addition to removing any dead branches, I will also cut off any branches that cross each other, and any branches that are growing too close to the ground.

Once I have pruned off the spent flowers and branches, I will grade the bush to prepare it for the next growth season. As with the node pruning, I will also use Roundup to clean off the dead branches and leaves. This process usually takes about 3 to 4 weeks. Once I grade the bush, I will apply 2-4″ of mulch to the exposed end only. This mulch should be a couple of inches shredded around the base of the bush to prevent the young tender stem from getting “burned” by the sun. Grade the mulch 2 to 4 inches thick.

When to Water

It is best for most rose bush types to follow the one third rule. If your bush is receiving plenty of rainfall, you don’t need to water until the soil is dry a little bit. However, for dry climates, water every five to six days, giving the roots time to absorb the moisture.

You could also consider weighting the plants in a bucket to keep them from tipping over. I tie the stems to a stake every time I plant a new bush. I make a PVC bottle cage with wire around the wire and stake the bottle to the cage. The plastic bottle cage holds the weight of the wet soil, and my hand holds the other end of the wire away from the sharp thorns on the cage to avoid getting scratched.

What to Do During the Winter Months

Just as people have different seasons for the indoors and outdoors, so do rose bushes, just like indoor Carpet Davenport has to be cared for. The first outside roses to really appreciate the frost were grown in zone 6, on the authority of ashes, the head of the month. Roses do not like low temperatures, especially at night, and this protection is important.

If you are planting a rose bush, and it is likely to be a bare root cutting, take a check on the soil and the grade of the soil. Check for adequate moisture, and water if necessary.

The cell texture of the soil is important. Sandy soils will hold more water than clay-type soils, and clays hold more water than sandy soils. But clay soils dry out faster, so you will have to keep the roots hydrated and keep them in cool temperatures.

Keep in mind that the roots of the rose plant spread out over 3 feet, day and night. If the night temperatures drop below 55 degrees, the risk is that your rose bush will be faced with dry, dead roots. Although I can think of plenty of ways to prevent that, winter is the time to start healing the roots, purchasing the proper soil, applying fertilizer, whose chemicals you can buy without a problem, and pruning temporarily to manage the dead roots.