Thursday, April 18, 2013

Rooting Lilacs and roses aka: Semi softwood cuttings

This is a reprint of an old blog post I did in 2011 for those of you that missed it the first time, it compliments my last post on propagating Pelargoniums aka: soft wood cuttings.  And the title of this post should say Semi HARD wood cuttings not soft.  An off moment there..

 Awhile back I stated I would do a post of how I root cuttings. I have a neighbor that has an old lilac bush that she was told is called a 49’er Lilac. It supposedly came West with the 49’ers in the Gold Rush. (or it’s parent did) I have admired this Lilac for the 13 years I have lived in my little cottage. In the spring I will sit on my front garden step and wait for the lilac fragrance to drift my way on the morning breeze and delight my senses. Here is a few blossoms I trimmed from it this year.


I prepare my propagation box. I use a wine crate and fill with my own mixture of 2 parts compost (I get this from a local company that composts garden debris on a huge scale, it is similar to potting soil you buy at a garden center), 1 part perlite and 1 part sand (I am sure there are better mixtures but I used what I had on hand and I have had success with this in the past).

I have recently read that play sand can contain salt and may not be a good one to use, sharp sand is reputed to be superior for this use.

The crate has slats on the bottom but there are wide gaps between the slats so this drains very well. I have it sitting on the gravel floor of my greenhouse in an area that direct sunlight will not hit but it still gets plenty of bright light. I will fill the box more with my potting mix until it is nearly full.


I will use this fish tank as my cover to create a small greenhouse effect.


Now back out to the Lilac to get the cuttings.

I choose the new growth I want to cut from and choose some about 8 to 12 inches long.


I take quite a few cuttings, the more I try to root the better my chances are of getting some to actually grow for me. I know I may lose some to fungus or who knows what. I had to wait for the right time to take cuttings (or so I have read) and this is the right time for this type (semi-hardwood).
I haul them all to my greenhouse and begin. First I strip most of the leaves from the cutting. I dip the ends into the rooting medium.

Now this medium I have had for awhile and it says it only has a years shelf life but I have kept it in the refrigerator to extend that shelf life so I hope it is still potent enough to do the job. I should invest in some fresh stuff soon.


I have a small paint brush in the jar as well. The jar is not deep enough to cover all of the stem I need to be covered with the medium so I use the little paint brush to finish the job.


See the nodes on the stem, that is wear roots begin and I want a good portion of nodes below the potting soil.


I also take some rose cuttings for the hey of it. I normally like the roses to be a bit more hardened off than they are now, like later on in the Fall. I have had more success that way, these softer cuttings while the bushes are blooming succumb to fungus more often than the later cut ones but I thought I would give it a go just for the fun of it.


Now that they are all dipped and thoroughly coated with the rooting gel I stick them in the potting soil mixture.


I place the far enough apart they do not touch each other and away from the edges so they will not touch the glass of the cover. I should take off more leaves, the leaves tend to be where the fungus starts but for photo purposes I will leave them on, easier to see where the cuttings are. After placing all the cuttings in the box I carefully set the cover over them.

You can see there is room around the fish tank where the potting soil shows and that is how I water this without having to lift the tank. You don’t want the soil very wet just damp, if it is too wet you drown the poor cutting or encourage the fungus.  Also prop up the tank a bit to let air flow in.


And here is the results …a lovely new rose from a cutting..

A lovely lilac…I think it takes 3 years for them to bloom.   We shall see.


I have just read up on a new (to me) way of rooting semi softwood cuttings.  I am going to give it a whirl and report in with the results in a few months.

Happy Planting.

ff By Stephanie Lynn  It's Overflowing


  1. Great and informative post! Thanks, Larry

  2. I've taken cuttings in a similar fashion, I cover them with a glass such as a mason jar, and have had very good success with re generating rose bushes. The house next door is 100 years old, I've had cuttings from the rose bush there with wonderful success, and how have 3 rosebushes from a cutting method like yours. It works, it really does. Now lilac...I would love to try my hand at that one....but I would like a vintage like you have....isn't the aroma of that wonderful..indeed a simple pleasure, especially on a windy day, it wafts around the neighborhood...glorious. Thank you for sharing your tips, and I look forward tohearing about the 49'er lilac progress...

    1. Right now the lilac is putting out new green leafy growth. I have high hopes for it. It might be time to pot it up to a larger container.

  3. Nice. I haven't tried this but I've put it in my book of knowledge. Thanks for sharing. Have a great day.

  4. I envy you! My parents could root just about anything, I can't. Very frustrating. I love your idea of the aquarium! Brilliant!

  5. Wonderful tutorial and exactly how I do it. Whoever invented those rooting mediums has my blessing! One thing I do is keep a stick about the width of the cuttings close so I can poke a hole in the soil with it before I gently insert the cutting with medium into the soil mix, patting the soil around the cutting gently. I think I was too forceful when I planted the cutting sometimes and the medium would settle around the top of the soil and not stay on the cutting as I inserted it. And that's a fine use for one of the old aquariums I have around---thanks!

    1. I sometimes use some to poke a hole in the pot but many times I partly fill the pot then put in the cutting then fill the rest of the way. Both methods work fine for me.

  6. Great post. The only thing I do differently is to shake a little of the rooting hormone stuff into a disposable container rather than sticking the stem into the whole container so as not to contaminate. If it's still working after all this time, maybe contamination isn't a problem.

    1. My rooting hormone is a gel and so far I have not had any contamination problems, not that it could not occur, better safe than sorry.

  7. I had a friend who stuck the cutting in a potato and said it worked. I think she just stuck the potato and cutting in the ground! I don't know if this already a well known way to root rose cuttings or not?

    1. This sounds interesting, I think I will give it a try and report in on it.

  8. Thank you so much for this post. I have so many roses and many friends always ask for cuttings. I never have any luck but I do have some beautiful roses that I would like to share.
    I am a new follower - stop by and see my post about my roses - have about 150 bushes.
    Thanks so much and have a wonderful week.


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