Budding Roses

I remember my first attempts at grafting (or budding roses). Dismal! But after many failures, I finally got a few to take. From that day on, my yard became a mass of weird looking rose bushes, each sprouting multiple varieties.

There are a few simple tips to make it easy…..I had to learn these the hard way, but you don’t have to, if you follow these easy steps.

The instruction given, are for the T cut technique. However, that is not the only way to bud or graft a rose. Some people have more success using the chip bud method. And in all honesty, it is slightly easier. Plus it has the advantage of having less chance of damaging the cambium layer, which would kill any chance of your graft taking successfully.

If you would like to read more about that method and watch a short video, we found a very good tutorial on This homestead website. But regardless of which method you choose, just have fun!

Firstly, prepare the rose bush that you want to bud

Let’s suppose you have a rose that you dont want anymore. the color is wrong, it doesn’t fit with surrounding plants, or perhaps you just feel like a change? I prune them hard over the winter, get rid of most of the bush, down 18″-2′ in height And I’m ruthless with the lower growth….you don’t want suckers coming up next season to compete with your new budding roses!

Pay attention to the time of the year

Mid summer is the best time to bud roses. You need the sap to be at full flow, giving the new bud a chance to “take”. maybe a few weeks before mid summer is OK, as long as there is good strong fresh growth on the plants.

Prepare your buds

A rose cutting with buds
A rose cutting with buds

I usually choose a nice new-ish shoot of last years growth to take my buds from. My next step is to leave the cutting in water for several hours. I will also try and do my budding in the late afternoon. This gives the bud overnight to settle, rather than be scorched by a full day’s sun. Commercial growers don’t worry about such things of course, but when you are doing only 1 or 2, then you can afford to pick your time.

Cut the buds

All you need to do, is use a craft knife, or razor-blade, to carefully slice the buds off the cutting. take a reasonable size slice, perhaps 1/2 inch long, and make sure it’s deep enough that you take a section of the harder wood out with it.
Now if you turn it over, you will have a small shield shaped bud…..use your knife to pop the hard section of wood out from the base of it.

Make a T cut in the rose to be budded

Do NOT cut the cambium layer

Make the top of the T about 1 inch long, the same with the vertical cut. How deep you cut is VERY important, and will be the main cause of any failures. Just below the bark, is what’s known as the cambium layer. This is what the rose uses to transport water and nutrients around the plant.

Do NOT....

Use a sharp knife

….cut throught this cambium layer! You should be able to peel back the flaps of your cut just enough to see this layer. It has a slimy pale green appearance. Now just pop the bud into the gap, and push back the flaps. Oh yes, and make sure the bud is the right way up!

Bind the bud

Many commercial growers don’t bother with this….but they have plenty of experience, and many thousands to do per day. You can also purchase the same little “budding clips” that they use.

So use some raffia to bind above the top of the bud. This will help it keep in contact with the cambium layer, which it must do to survive. You can nip the leaf off the bud, but leave the base (the petiole).

Securing the bud

securing the budYou will notice I have just use two twist ties to secure the bud. Grafting tape is better for this, as it will exclude air and water. The most important thing, is to ensure the cambium layers of both the stock plant and the bud are touching, and will remain in contact. If this doesn’t happen, the new bud will dry out and die. You can get a roll of grafting/budding tape for less than 2 bucks at Amazon.com.

Once the bud has established, and has new growth coming away, begin to reduce the top foliage. Once you are sure that the new shoot is big enough to survive on its own, prune the stock plant to just above the new growth. And be ruthless with any suckers sprouting below the new graft.


Ask your local nursery about the best rootstock to use. A species rose rather than a highly bred rose stock is usually required, especially for standard roses. For myself, we have lots of Dr Huey rootstocks that appear every year at the base of our standard roses. These are good to use if you have any.

Have you ever tried propagating other plants? It’s really not all that difficult, and the rewards can be fantastic. Taking cuttings is an easy way to quickly and cheaply increase your rose stocks. Budding roses can be a very rewarding experience when done correctly.