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.
Rose propagating methods have changed over the years, from the simple own-root varieties of the Victorian era, and progressing to the budded hybrids of the 20th century with its many options of exotic understock such as Rosa multiflora, Dr. Huey, Manettii, and Fortuniana. Now, rumor has it that many of the modern hybridizers and commercial growers are interested in returning to the simplicity of yore. Today's commercial rose growers are finding that budded roses are just too labor-intensive and expensive to produce. Because of this, it appears that we can look forward to more own-root roses being introduced and sold at our local nurseries in the future. Own-root roses will eliminate suckering and hopefully will eventually help to eradicate mosaic virus.
Chilling your seeds in a refrigerator for about six to ten weeks encourages them to germinate faster once planted. However, you must take care to avoid keeping them cold for long as they can germinate while still in the refrigerator. Place your seeds on a paper towel before moistening them. Use half purified water and half peroxide to prevent the growth of mould. You can then place them in a plastic zippered bag, mark the date and variety before placing in a refrigerator set at 1 to 3 degrees C. The paper towel should remain moist for the entire period. You can check occasionally to see if it needs remoistening. Make sure you don’t freeze the towel.
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.
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.
Why choose an old-fashioned rose over a modern hybrid? Many of the old rose varieties offer more fragrance, more complex and interesting blooms, greater disease resistance, easier care and more interesting forms. But modern roses can offer all-season blooms, and a much broader range of colors and flower forms. Some are also far more cold- hardy and disease-resistant than any of the old-fashioned varieties.
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.
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.
Remove the seeds from the fridge. Try to do this around the time that the seeds would normally start to germinate, such as in early spring. Make sure that the environment outside of the fridge is about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The seed will not sprout until you take them out of the fridge. Depending on the rose variety and individual seeds, the seeds could take anywhere from four to sixteen weeks to germinate. Often, 70% or more of the seeds never sprout at all.
Remove all but the top 2 leaflets on the stem, cutting just above the top set of leaves. You need to remove the excess leaves for the same reason we removed the flower in Step #2. They're taking up too much of the plant's energy. However we want the stem to continue to photosynthesize and feed itself until the new roots form, so we need to leave a couple of leaves.
A gentle way to clean the rose seeds is to use a Cuisinart or other brand of blender with a dough blending attachment, which is made of plastic and does not have sharp blades. You can blend the rose seeds using this gentle dough attachment for several minutes without any damage to the seeds. Do not use a blender with sharp metal blades as damage to the rose seeds may occur.
The plant will become dormant—and you want it to stay that way; it is the natural state. After the first deep freeze, put is in a room or place (garage) with no heat and natural light (window). You can add some water occasionally but this is not intended to be “watering”; the plant is dormant and will not take it up but the soil can be lightly moist. Bring the plant back outside when it shows signs of coming back to life. Plant it, per the guidance above, when the soil warms.
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.