When you grow roses from seed, you are essentially developing new varieties of roses. If the rose fruit -- called a hip -- was produced by bee pollination, you don't know what varieties were crossed to get the seeds. Rose breeders hybridize chosen varieties and select for particular traits in resultant seedlings. However, each seedling will be a surprise. Rose seeds have to be collected in the fall, cleaned, and cold-treated before they are planted. Even though the cleaned seeds may look dry, they are not dry inside. If rose seeds are allowed to sit around in the open air and dry up completely, they will not grow.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Plant the seeds. Some store-bought seeds can be planted immediately. If you germinated your own seeds as described above, plant them as soon as they begin to sprout. Plant with the sprout pointed downward, as this is the root. Lightly cover them with soil, about 1/4 inch (6 mm) deep. Space seeds at least 2 inches (5 cm) apart to minimize competition.
Allow rose hips to develop by leaving dead flowers on the plant. The flowers are typically pollinated by insects, or pollinate themselves in some varieties, so there is no need to pollinate by hand unless you are breeding specific plants together. Leave the flowers on the rose plant without cutting them. After they wither, small fruits known as rose hips will develop in their place.
Choose the pod -- or female -- flower that will produce the seed pod. Remove the petals. Identify the fringe of yellow pollen-producing structures called stamens that surround the central style. Cut the stamens off with small scissors so they will not accidentally pollinate that flower and so that the pollen will be available for planned pollination of other flowers.
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.
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.
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.