Despite their reputation for being finicky, most roses are simple to grow and easy to propagate at home. “Propagate" simply means to reproduce a plant easily from a simple cutting. Unlike seeds, which produce very different plants, rooted cuttings produce replicas of their parent. You don't have to be a trained rosarian to reproduce treasured family heirlooms or favorite garden roses.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pruning: Dead, weak and sickly stems can lead to disease problems. Pruning these away will increase air circulation to the center of the plant and minimize fungus problems. Pruning also stimulates new growth, and allows you to shape the plant in a pleasing manner. Spent flowers should be removed during the growing season to encourage reblooming. Use a scissor-action pruner for the cleanest cuts.
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.
Some roses root easier than others — old-fashioned heirloom types often root better than modern hybrids — but don't let that keep you from trying your hand at replicating garden favorites and sharing your love of roses and gardening with family and friends. RootBoost™ and GardenTech® brands are here to help you learn and succeed in all your gardening projects, so you can experience all the joys of gardening.
Black Spot: Rose plant leaves with black spots that eventually turn yellow have black spot. This is often caused by water splashing on leaves, especially in rainy weather. Leaves may require a protective fungicide coating, which would start in the summer before leaf spots started until first frost. Thoroughly clean up debris in the fall, and prune out all diseased canes.