Q For two years I have tried without success to root some rose slips. I followed suggestions from a long-time gardener, cutting off tips at three-inch lengths, then stuck them in the ground and kept them watered. None rooted. A friend who shares the Monitor with me said you once wrote about putting some kind of grain in the ground with the cuttings. Would you please explain?
Old-timers would make a slight slit in the bottom of the cutting and insert an oat, feeling that as the oat sprouted, it would induce sprouting on the cutting. The oat, it has been found, produces hormones as it sprouts, as do many other seeds. This would be analogous to the present day hormone rooting materials into which cuttings can be dipped. One reader told us she inserts a few alfalfa seeds from those she gets for producing edible sprouts.
To keep cuttings from drying out, turn a glass quart jar over the top of each. Glass jars used over cuttings taken during the heat of summer should have a light stroke of white paint applied to the upturned bottom.
Do not leave too much growth on cuttings. Roses have compound leaves, made up of leaflets, of which there may be three, five, or seven. Two leaves or parts of three leaves are ample.
Water the cutting well before placing it under the jar. If the soil where you want the cutting to root is heavy, you can mix in a little peat moss or compost. Remove the jar in spring, after the danger of frost has passed. You can move the rooted cutting by lifting it with a good ball of earth, after first making the hole where you want it to grow permanently.
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Doc and Katy Abraham are nationally known horticulturists.