Sow there! Propagating roses from cuttings 10/19/2017

Roses galore will be on display next weekend at the Butte Rose Society's annual show, 1-4:30 p.m. Oct. 28 at the Chico Community Center, 545 Vallombrosa Ave.
Roses galore at the annual Butte Rose Society’s annual show. Steve Schoonover — Enterprise-Record

Now is the season of “in-between.” We’ve passed the season of miserably hot and have not yet progressed to the season of holiday shopping. Chico people love to pack community events into this “in-between time,” including cool-season hikes, garage band barbecues, post-harvest festivals and the Farm City Celebration Harvest Festival.

You can buy pumpkins for most of the month of October at the Patrick Ranch.


The annual Festival of Roses, put on by the Butte Rose Society is also held in the late fall. This get-together fits several of my criteria for “super cool” local events: It involves flowers, the people are nice and informative, and it’s free.


It’s not quite time to prune your roses, however I’ve been meaning to write about Mark Carlson and his cool videos about rose pruning. I met Mark last spring when he invited me to tour his backyard. He had so many dogwoods in bloom my eyes burned pink for several days,

Mark is a retired landscape contractor and several years ago he decided to share more of what he knows. In his videos, he grabs pruning tools and hacks away at some really overgrown greenery. Meanwhile, he’s chatting and pointing out rose details. It’s like visiting with someone while they do yard work.

You can also subscribe to his newsletter via email,

Some tips I learned from the rose pruning video:

• Wear gloves. Gloves are civilized. Sometimes when I give blood I have scratches on my wrists and forearms I have to explain that I do not torture neighborhood cats.

• Choose ridiculously long pruning shears. There’s no shame in wanting to clip rose bushes from a distance. In Mark’s videos he demonstrates how he cuts away more than half of the rose bushes before getting serious about precision pruning. Without this tip, I would continue to battle the thorns, and continue to look as if I torture neighborhood cats.

I will say it again: Now is not the time to prune your roses, but you might as well get some things ready for Mark’s next trick — sand propagation.

Here’s how it works: Fill some ratty, black plastic one-gallon containers with sand. Do this now so you are not hauling 20- or 50-pound bags of sand in the middle of a rainstorm or the middle of holiday shopping season. Set the sand and containers in a place where you won’t forget about them when it comes time to prune your rose bushes.

Set a reminder on your phone’s calendar to prune your rose bushes in January.

What I especially liked about Mark’s rose propagation advice is that there is no blame for failure and no harm for trying.

“Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t,” he says cheerfully about the process. “But it’s always worth a shot because you’re going to prune your roses anyway.”

Trying to grow new roses is pretty simple. Trim your roses and lop off several inches from the top of your cutting. You can leave the top set of leaves, just because you can’t be bothered to make an extra snip. Your roses may or may not have leaves in January.

Select a rose stem that is about 6-7 inches long. If your stem is a yard long, you can lop off another section of rose stem directly below. Dip the bottom of the stem in powdered rooting hormone.

He gives his stem a good swirl in the powder, letting a big blob collect on the bottom of the stem. Next, add the sand to the pot loosely. About half the stem should be shoved into the sand, with the remainder above the surface. Pat down the sand.

The big trick is to keep the sand moist. You’ll need to remember to water the pots when the miserably hot weather returns, which is usually one day after spring break. His recommendation is to place the pot where your automatic sprinklers will give the rose a nice jet of water on a regular basis. You can also add a shallow saucer to the bottom of the container.

“If the pot runs out of water you might as well throw it away,” Mark says in the video, with a tone that contains zero blame.

About June, you can check your pots and see if roots grew. If they don’t, you’re only out a bucket of sand and some lost dreams.

If you want to make some cuttings now, that’s also allowed. However, roses are not dormant. His recommendation for early cuttings is to put the pot in a windowsill, with the hope that the plant does not realize it is winter.

As for pruning roses, Mark has a lot to say about that as well. I’d recommend checking out his videos on a rainy winter day.

Garden enthusiast Heather Hacking does not torture neighborhood cats in her spare time. Follow her on on Twitter and Facebook. Send snail mail to P.O. Box 5166, Chico, CA, 95927.

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