Propagating Antique Roses

A sprawling Cherokee Rose at Peckerwood Gardens. Photo by Dr. Bill Welch

Two years ago, I was training for the MS 150 outside of Cat Springs, Texas.  As I turned a corner and started down a long straight path, I saw something very unusual up ahead of me; a cedar tree covered in big white flowers.  Well, I knew that couldn’t be right so I pedal closer.  When I got close enough to be able to tell what I was seeing, I was shocked to discover that the white flowers on the cedar tree were coming from an incredibly large rose-bush.  I am not kidding, this rose-bush had sent out runners that were 30 to 40 feet long.  They were so long that they went all the way up the back of the tree and hung over the front almost down to the ground.  I was excited. 

I wasn’t sure but I thought this lovely, five petaled white rose with the bright yellow stamens was an antique rose called “Cherokee”.  The Cherokee Rose is truly an antique rose.  It has been here so long that some think it originated here.  In fact, the people of Georgia were so certain it was native that they made it their state flower.  I quickly pulled out my pocket knife and took a dozen cuttings.  This is why I love “antique roses”.  You can be on a bike ride in the country, find one, take cuttings with a pocket knife, stick them in your back pack, leave them there for over two hours and still be pretty certain that they are going to root. 

Propagating antique roses from cuttings is a fairly easy process. 

  1.  As a general rule, you should cut new wood that has just finished blooming.  This is usually in the spring but can be in the fall.  The rose is not particular as to where you cut it.  I use sharp shears to make 45 degree cuts to create stems that are about 6″ to 8’’ long.  Leave a few leaves on the stem.
  2. Next, I fill four-inch pots with a good quality garden mix and wet it.  Some people root in pure perlite, but you will need to add a little fertilizer if you go this route.   Most cuttings need two things to be successful: moisture and root aeration.  The perlite provides excellent aeration to the roots.
  3. Stick the cutting in the pot.  Many people like to dip the cuttings in a rooting hormone.  This is your choice.  It can increase your chances of getting the cuttings to take.  However, I am not certain they are necessary.  Roses naturally produce auxins at the cut.  Auxins are hormones that stimulate root production.  I have used both methods and have had success both ways.  Also, some people like to “wound” the cutting at the base.  This involves making little cuts at the base of the stem.  Roots will grow from the wound sites.
  4. Place the well watered pot in a produce bag and seal with a tie wrap.  This will keep the humidity high as the plant roots.  Open the bag every few days and make sure the soil stays moist (not wet). 
  5. Roses love the sun so find a place that is sunny but gives some shade during the hottest part of the day.  Since they are in the bag, it is very easy for them to get over heated.

Propagating plants is undoubtedly my favorite task in the garden.  Roses (especially old varieties) are very tough and very easy to grow from cuttings.  Don’t get too bogged down in the details.  Just go for it!  Remember, many of these antique roses came here in a box of dirt on the back of a covered wagon with mason jars stuck over them.  If they survived that, surely they can survive anything we do to them!

9 thoughts on “Propagating Antique Roses

  1. hey jay, i saw this very rose at the holistic garden sale last weekend! i fell in love with the single white blooms with multiple yellow stamens. i was going to get one, then heard how large, spreading and thorny this particular rose is… fact is, i just don’t have the room for it… sigh… but when i do, i’ll know where to go to get one!

  2. Hi,

    I wanted to email you in regards in any possible advertising opportunities you may have with your website. I’m looking to earn support for a national cause and get visibility for the “plant 1 billion trees” project which Andrew Liveris and the Nature Conservancy have partnered up on for people to donate $1 to. Let me know if you would be interested at all in supporting this cause or if you want more information on it. I look forward to talking to you soon!

  3. I have been trying to get some of these roses for over years. As a child my favorite Aunt and Uncle lived in the country and had these roses covering the entry of their home. I was always riding my horse over for a visit and fell in love with these roses and have always held them dear to my heart and my nose…ever a clean sweet smell. I don’t care about the thorns, have a wooden fence they can climb on…will keep the thieves out!!!

    Please advise where I may purchase or have someone share some of their Cherokee Roses with me.

    Thanking you in advance.

  4. Could you tell me why some growers of the Cherokee rose do not or can not ship to Texas? Ebay has some but they do not ship to Texas.

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