One way to stratify the rose seeds is to place the cleaned seeds on a paper towel (a heavyweight brand such as Bounty). Then moisten the paper towel with a solution of half & half purified water and peroxide (to help prevent mold). Fold the paper towel closed, encasing all the rose seeds in the moistened paper towel. Then place the towel full of seeds into a plastic zippered bag. Mark the seed variety and date on the outside of the plastic bag with a permanent marker, and then place the bag into the refrigerator set at about 34-38 degrees. Never freeze the seeds, and do not let them dry out. The moistened paper towel should remain moist in the closed plastic bag for many weeks.
If you order bare-root roses from a mail-order company, order early (late winter or early spring). The roses are usually shipped in the spring because bare roots when plants are fully dormant, well before they have leafed out. They’ll look like a bundle of sticks on arrival. Note that they are not dead—simply dormant. Check that the packing material is moist and keep them in a cool dark place until ready to plant.
The ripened rose hip is then placed on a clean cutting board and cut in half to remove the seeds. Place the seeds in a clean container. Add some diluted bleach to kill off any bacteria and fungus spores. You can make the bleach by mixing drinking water with two teaspoons of household bleach. Stir the seeds well before rinsing them and using bottled water to remove all the bleach. To further clean and disinfect the seeds, put them in the container and add some hydrogen peroxide. The seeds can be soaked for up to 24 hours before rinsing them with clean water to clear all the hydrogen peroxide.
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.
The Baggie Method: This was the first method I ever tried. Here you fill 2-inch plastic pots with potting soil, insert the rose stem halfway inside the pot, then put the pots into a one-gallon plastic zip-lock bag. You can get four 2-inch pots into each gallon bag. I didn't like this method because it caused many of the cuttings to rot since the bags tended to fold over and therefore prevented the air from circulating. The success rate of this method is not very good. It may be helpful to place a couple of small sticks inside the bag to help keep it upright and full of air.
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.
Northern gardeners need to know exactly what zone a rose is hardy to. Southern gardeners must also watch to see what zones are recommended for each particular variety, as some roses perform very poorly in hot and/or humid weather. Read the catalogs carefully and, if possible, purchase your roses from a local or regional grower. They will be able to advise you from experience about how a particular variety will perform in your area.
Select the pollen parent flower. Remove the petals and harvest the stamens -- the male flower part that has the pollen -- as in the previous two steps. Check the stamens immediately to see if they are producing fluffy, mature, yellow pollen. If so, proceed to pollination. If not, look at stamens in the vials daily. Use them for pollination when mature pollen is coming loose from the stamens.
To start rose bush from cuttings, once the rose cuttings have been taken and brought to the planting site, take out a single cutting and remove the lower leaves only. Make a small slit with a sharp knife on one or two sides of the lower portion of the cutting, not a deep cut but just enough to penetrate the outer layer of the cutting. Dip the lower portion of the cutting into a rooting hormone powder.
Pick a sunny spot to plant your rose cuttings. Where you place your cuttings is especially important if you’re planning on growing them outdoors. Choose a spot that’s sunny but that’s not in direct sunlight — you don’t want them to dry out. Putting the rose cuttings in a pot or container is alright as well, just make sure the container is deep and wide enough for your rose cuttings to grow.
The rose seeds can be planted right away if you have harvested them as late as November, December or January (in Southern California) or early spring after danger of frosts in your area. Place the rose seeds about one-half inch deep in a very light mixture of 50% sterile potting soil and 50% vermiculite. Some rose hybridizers use Sunshine Mix #4. You can use small pots or shallow trays to plant your seeds, whatever works for the space you have, as long as they have good drainage. Nursery flats work well for this. Lightly dust the rose seeds with RooTone or Captan before covering with soil. And then dust the top of the soil again, which will hopefully help to prevent damp-off (a disease which kills young rose seedlings). Amateur rose hybridizers concerned with toxic chemicals may want to periodically spray the seed tray with diluted peroxide and water instead of the more toxic Captan.
You must monitor the seedlings as they grow in their new pots for colour, form, bush size, branching, and disease resistance. Roses with weak, unhealthy or unattractive flowers can be discarded. It will take your new seedlings at least three years before they reach maturity and develop into a big bush. However, the first flower can be seen after one or two years.
Cover the stem with plastic or a mason jar. To cover the stem with plastic, insert two eight-inch (20-cm) sticks or wires into the soil on either side of the stem to prop up the plastic. Cover the pot and stem with a clear plastic bag, and affix the bag to the pot with an elastic or twine. With a mason jar, simply place a large mason jar over the stem.
Label the canisters with the name of the pollen parent. Do not put a lid on the canister so they will dry out and not get moldy. After a few hours (on some rose varieties), or the next day (on other varieties), the pollen sacs will burst open, thereby releasing the pollen. Sometimes you will need to shake the canister so that the rose pollen will release from the pollen sacs. The black film canisters make it easy for you to see the pollen, which looks like a fine yellow powder. The pollen will stay fresh for about two weeks.
Cathryn Chaney has worked as a gardening writer since 2002. Her horticultural experience working in the nursery industry informs her garden articles, especially those dealing with arid landscaping and drought-tolerant gardening. Chaney also writes poetry, which has appears in "Woman's World" magazine and elsewhere. Chaney graduated from the University of Arizona in 1992 with a Bachelor of Arts in English.
Cover the cutting loosely, pot and all, with a plastic bag or plastic wrap and keep the soil moist. Putting a tall stake into the pot will hold the plastic away from the leaves. If the plastic touches the leaves, they remain wet and can succumb to a fungus disease. Along the same lines, make sure the condensation can escape from the plastic or the stem will rot.