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.
Tracing the history of a particular rose can be a fascinating adventure, but it is hardly an exact science. The old roses have cross-bred so many times, and so many varieties have been lost to time, that it is often impossible to uncover the exact parentage. If you are one of the many who become possessed by roses, you may eventually find it important to know the difference between a gallica and a Bourbon. But until that point, our advice is not to worry about it. The important thing is to select a rose that you find beautiful, and that suits your garden.
Protect the roses over the winter. Roses that are left tall may be damaged by heavy winds and frosts during the winter. Trim the canes down to 2 feet (0.6 m). Tie them together with twine, to help protect them from inclement weather. Heap a mound of compost around the base of the bush, then top it with a layer of straw. When the weather warms to above 51 degrees, remove the compost mound.
NOTE: During my move, I had cut several rose branches and placed them in a grocery paper bag in my garage--only to have forgotten to bring them home for a week. The branches had been in a broiling hot enclosed garage without water, and needless to say, they looked pretty dried out to a crisp. But I didn't want to just toss them out yet (these were the climbing Charisma roses), so I got an empty plastic detergent tub and completely immersed the stems for 2 weeks (no changing water). Then I stuck them into soil and hoped for the best. Well, I got about a 50% survival rate.
Place a jar over each cutting to form a sort of miniature greenhouse for each cutting. It is extremely important that the soil moisture for the cuttings does not dry out at this rooting time. The jar will help to hold humidity in, but can be a problem if it is subjected to a lot of hot afternoon sun, as it will overheat the cutting and kill it, thus the need for shielding against the exposure to the hot afternoon sun when you root roses. Watering of the planting site every other day may be required to keep the soil moist but do not create a standing water or muddy soils situation.
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 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.
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.
There will be disappointments along the way, when many rose seeds fail to germinate, or perhaps they do germinate, only to die several weeks later from damp-off disease. Sometimes a rose seedling will turn out to be as ugly as sin, or very sickly, and you will reluctantly have to throw it away. Other times they will be just ho-hum, or look too much like its parent, and therefore have no value. But, just when you don't expect it, you might discover that one of your rose seedlings turns out to be very special.