Growing roses from seed is certainly not the fastest method of propagating roses, but I can assure you it really is the most rewarding. However, rose hybridizing is surely a lesson in patience, since your success rate can be very small, and it may take several years to reap your rewards. Imagine opening up presents on your birthday or at Christmastime when you were a kid. Well, that's how it feels to see those little rose seedlings open up for the very first time. You never know what you will find inside.
Everybody has a story to tell of how their grandma would stick a piece of rose stem into the ground and then place a Mason Jar over the stem to make it grow. There are tales of how the early American settlers of the 1800's traveled to the far reaches of the wild west in covered wagons, with grandma bringing along "starts" of her favorite roses from back home. Perhaps the treasures of these "monsters on wooden wheels" were raided, and they discovered the Yellow Rose of Texas hiding under the bonnets of the women. Or maybe the settlers used their precious "starts" to barter for provisions along the endless dusty trails.
As soon as the rose seeds have been removed from the rose hips, rinse the seeds in a solution of purified water (any bottled water will do) with 5% bleach. This would be about two teaspoons of bleach per cup of water. Rinse the rose seeds with plain bottled water in a strainer, then soak the seeds in straight 3% peroxide for 24 hours. CAUTION: Do not mix bleach with peroxide because there could be a chemical reaction.
This is a fungus called black spot. Left untreated, it can cause all the leaves on your roses to turn yellow and fall off. It will also affect nearby plants, as it spreads by spores. Remove ALL INFECTED material and throw it away or burn it. Do NOT leave it on the ground as this fungus is very hardy. It can survive winter and travels very easily, even after being removed from the affected plant. Spray your plants regularly (bi-weekly) in the growing season with a good fungicide (I like the Bayer products). You can also add a little bit of dish soap and baking soda to a spray bottle with water and spray the entire plant.
Caring for rose bushes is important to their overall health and vigor, especially when it comes to watering. Roses require at least an inch of water weekly throughout their growing season, beginning in spring or following spring planting. While overhead watering is suitable before the onset of new growth, it is often better to water these plants at the soil line using soaker hoses or similar means. Rose bushes are very susceptible to fungal diseases, such as black spot and powdery mildew, especially when their foliage is kept too wet.
Monitor the rose cuttings to ensure they’re hydrated and taking root. Keep an eye on the cuttings to make sure they’re never dried out, as well as to make sure the cuttings are taking root. You can test to see if the roots are growing by gently tugging on the cuttings. You should be able to feel a slight resistance after a week or 2, meaning the roots are growing well.
Remove the rose hips once ripe. The rose hips will start out small and green, then change color as they grow until they are completely red, orange, brown, or purple. You may pick them at this point, or wait until they are just beginning to dry out and wrinkle. Don't wait until they are fully dry and brown, as the seeds inside may have died by this point.
Most softwood rose cuttings will root within 10 to 14 days.1 To test their progress, tug very gently on the cuttings. You'll feel a slight resistance as the new roots form and grow into the soil. A gentle fish- or kelp-based fertilizer during this time provides beneficial nutrients. Once roots are established and plants show strong new growth, you can transplant your new roses to more permanent garden homes.
Grow your roses indoors, alternatively. You can also raise roses in a greenhouse. You’ll need containers that are at least 9 inches (22.9 cm) wide. Spread 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5.1 cm) of small pebbles at the bottom of each pot to ensure good drainage and fill each with halfway with well-draining soil. Plant the roses just beyond the graft point and then water well.
When pruning, be judicious. If you prune too hard in autumn, plants can be damaged beyond recovery. Instead, wait until spring, when plants begin to leaf out for the new season. (Roses are often not the earliest plants in the garden to respond to spring’s warming temperatures, so be patient.) Give the plant time to show its leaf buds then prune above that level.
When you transplant your roses, be sure to dig a much bigger hole than you think you need (for most types, the planting hole should be about 15 to 18 inches wide), and add plenty of organic matter such as compost or aged manure. This will feed your plant in the years ahead. Some old-timers recommend placing a 4-inch square of gypsum wallboard and a 16-penny nail in the hole to provide calcium and iron, both appreciated by roses.
To plant in a garden, choose a spot with bright but indirect light, so cuttings won't be stressed by too much sun or heat. Northern and eastern exposures are perfect rooting spots. Cultivate the soil in your new propagation bed about 4 to 6 inches deep, so it crumbles easily. If your soil is heavy, incorporate a small amount of sand, so that new roots can penetrate without much effort.
Prepare a pot. Fill the small pot with potting soil. For the best results, replace a quarter of the soil with perlite, peat moss, or vermiculite, or a combination thereof. This will increase air flow and draining, giving your cutting a better opportunity to root. If the soil is dry, water it and allow the excess water to drain out, so that the soil is evenly moist.
Fertilize the roses. After they are established, roses should be fertilized a few times per growing season. Use fertilizer (either liquid or granule) in early spring, when you see the first few leaves sprout. Use it again after the first bloom, and again if there's another bloom. Stop fertilizing the roses at the end of the summer, just before Labor Day.
Ever wonder if you could root and grow roses from a branch of your favorite rose bush? Roses actually root rather easily. However most roses are grafted onto the rootstock of a different type of rose than the top, flowering portion, so the rose you root and grow may look nothing like the rose you started with. Grafting is done to improve strength, disease resistance, or hardiness, and even if you do get something resembling the parent rose you took your cutting from, it might not have that rose's hardiness. Rooting a rose cutting may not be hard to do, but it is something of a gamble.
While your cuttings take root, keep them covered and moist. In a garden bed, a simple DIY mini greenhouse does the trick. Just place a bell jar, a garden cloche or an overturned mason jar over the cutting. A clear plastic bottle with the bottom cut out and the cap removed works, too. Water the soil regularly to keep it moist, but not soggy. Your mini hothouse will keep the humidity high inside.
Fertilizer: Roses are heavy feeders, and will benefit from a steady supply of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. You can provide these nutrients with either liquid or granular fertilizers, at a ratio of approximately 5-8-5. In most cases, regular applications of compost, rotted manure, fish emulsion and seaweed extracts will provide roses with all the nutrients they need. These organic amendments also help to moderate pH imbalances and stimulate beneficial soil life. Other organic amendments favored by rose growers include greensand, black rock phosphate and alfalfa meal.