Sunday, April 3, 2011

Layering - An Easy Way to Start a New Plant

Before the advent of modern roses (rose with stiff plant structure typical of the hybrid tea) tall canes would sometimes be bent over and held to the ground with a peg.  Pegging as it is called, is a way of causing a rose bush to bloom all along the length of the cane rather than just at its end.  A rose usually blooms at the end of its growth but when it is pegged so that the cane runs laterally it sends out shoots of growth just above each leaflet which will produce flowers.  Pegging is a technique I have used on some of David Austin's English Roses as well as some Hybrid Pertetuals.  I use a chain link tie (which looks like a tent stake) to peg my roses, but any stiff hooked wire will do. 
           Gertrude Jekyll is an especially good candidate for pegging as it will send out very tall canes which are stiff but not so stiff that they can not be pulled over.
While Gertrude Jekyll has fallen out of favor with many growers because of her growth habit (she is sometimes referred to as a Jolly Green Giant because she often grows straight up rather than out) and the fact that she falls prey to blackspot very easily.  I enjoy her vigorous growth and see her as something of a small climber and I forgive her trouble with blackspot because her flowers are very beautiful and some of the most fragrant you will ever come across.  Additionally, her Spring/early Summer flush of flowers is one of the most dazzling displays you will ever see.  I will share pictures of her Spring blooms once the time comes.
           Another way of pegging a rose is to bury the end of the cane in a technique that is called layering. 
Layering produces the same affect as pegging with the added benefit of producing a new plant.  Notice in the picture above how the cane on the right arches as it is bent rather than creased to bend it (think bend not break).  To layer a rose you dig a shallow hole about 2 inches deep and 6 inches long.  You pull the cane down and lay it across the length of the hole with a couple of inches extending out the other side.  You use the peg to hold the cane down and then bury the part that is in the hole.  The example pictured above was buried about a week ago and will remain exactly as is until the Fall.  One way you can usually tell that it has begun to grow roots is when it sends up new growth from the part that is buried.  In the Fall, when it has likely started to produce roots, I will sever the new plant from the mother.  I then leave the young plant in place all winter to let its new roots develop. 
Yesterday I dug up two new plants of Gertrude Jekyll and transplanted them in the park rose garden.  Those who do not like Gertrude will think that I am trying to punish someone, but my hope is in coming years they will be in full bloom at the Kolache Festival (the first weekend in May) and add to the beauty of the day.  The small plant to the left is one that is now making its home in the Prague Rose Garden.  This way of starting new roses is a great way to share the joy of roses with others.  Such a new plant when potted up also makes a great gift.  Remember though that for 20 years after introduction in commerce most roses are protected from asexual reproduction (which layering or rooted cuttings are examples of).


  1. Great information! I should give this a try. A great way to get a new rose plant! Good idea about giving as a gift, too.

  2. Thank you for explaining the technique. On some roses, a pegged cane would sometimes die from the lowest bent point back to the highest, so I haven't tried it on any of mine. I prefer to treat my long-caned Bourbons and HPs as climbers.

    Thank you for coming to my blog - I am very glad to have found yours. Roses are just beginning to bloom here, so I will be posting more about them:).

  3. Thank you for visiting my blog. I share your love of gardening in general and roses in particular. Come back often.

  4. Thank you for your visits in return. I've had good luck using this technique with a wide range of roses. So far it had worked with every variety I could bend (not break) the cane on including roses coming from the following classes: Hybrid Perpetuals, Hybrid Musks, Bourbons, English Roses, Polyanthas, Miniatures, Teas, and some classed as Shrub. I think the key is that the canes bend and not break. That said, I am far from an expert so there might be varieties that experience die back from such treatment.