Plant each potato and rose cutting in a large pot

December 28, 2016

Holidays are fun, but the darkness of winter can make things feel a little crazy. Perhaps it is to save our sanity that we subconsciously crave plant life indoors in winter: a real Christmas tree, some poinsettias and perhaps a bouquet of cut roses.

After a time the tree begins to shed needles, the poinsettias lose their leaves and the roses begin to fade. If only the holidays would never end. Good news is that with some luck, you can keep that rose bouquet for years to come by rooting the stems of each flower. 

And now the insane part. You can grow a rose bush from the stem of a cut rose by planting it in a potato. The naturally moist potato keeps the cutting moist while it sprouts roots.

First, pretend you are in the Addams Family and snip the flowers off each stem. Cut the stems so they are about six to eight inches long. Put the cuttings into water right away.

Trim off about a half inch from the bottom of each cutting. Gently scrape the sides of the cutting near the newly cut bottom. This gives the cutting a larger area to develop roots.

With a screwdriver or even a pencil, force a hole down to the center of the potato. For a snug fit keep the hole a bit smaller than the diameter of the rose cutting. Now gently push the cutting into the potato. 

If the potato has eyes, rub them off so the potato doesn’t sprout. 

Because roses are often susceptible to disease, you may want to disinfect your pruners and even the screwdriver tip.

Disinfect them by dipping the cutting edge of the pruners or tip of the screwdriver into a solution of one part chlorine bleach and nine parts water.

Plant each potato and rose cutting in a large pot. Use any good well-draining potting soil. Roses grow best in soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5 and do well even in soil somewhat above or below this range. Choose a pot with a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy and rotting the cutting. 

Be sure the potato is completely buried. Water well, and cover each pot with a loose-fitting clear plastic bag, leaving room for the pot to breathe. You can also use clear plastic bottles with the bottoms cut off and lid removed as a mini greenhouse.

Set your pots in a warm area with plenty of light out of direct sunlight. Keep them well-watered but not soggy.

If you are taking cuttings from an outdoor rose bush, be sure to take the cuttings from a rose stem that has bloomed at least once.

Once your rose in a potato sprouts roots and begins to grow, the true test begins. Another crazy thing is that because most commercial cut roses are grafted onto hardier rootstock, the rose you grow may not perform well or indeed even survive.

Eventually, you just have to toss out the Christmas tree.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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