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.
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.
The next step when you grow roses from cuttings is to use a pencil or metal probe push down into the planting site soil to make a hole that is deep enough to plant the cutting up to about 50 percent of its overall length. Place the cutting that has been dipped into the rooting hormone into this hole. Lightly push the soil in around the cutting to finish the planting. Do the same thing for each cutting keeping them at least eight inches apart. Label each row of rose cuttings with the name of the mother rose bush it was taken from.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have successfully taken rose cuttings with both new and old wood. It is important to let the new stems sufficiently mature. The new wood is usually mature enough after the stem has just finished blooming. If you don't let the stem mature enough, then it usually becomes limp and will die before you can get it to root. I take cuttings from new rose stems in the spring right after the first bloom cycle. Then in early to late fall (in Southern California) I prefer to use more mature or old wood. When using old wood in the fall, I will remove the rose cuttings from the Mason jar, baggie, or mister, after only several weeks since it is cool enough then for them to root on their own as long as I water them daily.
When the rose hips are ripe, after about four months, cut them off the bush. Some rose hips will turn yellow, orange, or red, but others stay green even when they are ripe. You can open the hips as soon as harvested or you can store the unopened hips in the refrigerator for several weeks before opening. Then slice the rose hips in half, and open them with a knife. A butter knife will do just fine. Now, dig the rose seeds out of the rose hip with the knife, and throw away the pulp and outer shell.
I planted mine in to the ground just like a normal rose bush, amending the soil with rose fertilizer and alfalfa meal. It is gorgeous, but because it's low to the ground, you should make sure to use drip irrigation or a soaker hose to water it so it doesn’t get black spots from the water splashing on the leaves. If yours is in a pot, let it go dormant in the garage or close to your home to keep the pot from freezing. Keep it watered and in the spring it should come back with more fertilizer to keep it happy.
Hybrid teas and floribundas usually grow no more than 2 to 3 feet high. Their form is coarse, and hardly very appealing, but they do have the ability to produce an abundance of flowers throughout the growing season. The hybrid tea has large, single blooms on long, stiff stems, whereas the floribunda has slightly smaller clusters of blooms on stems that are not as stiff.