Growing roses from seed can be challenging, since the majority of seeds you collect often won't germinate regardless of your efforts. Fortunately, most rose plants produce a large quantity of seeds inside their rose hips, so it usually isn't necessary to achieve a high success rate. Keep in mind that the plants that grow may be different in appearance or other characteristics from the mother plant, especially if that plant is a hybrid of two varieties grafted together.
Cover the stem with plastic or a mason jar. To cover the stem with plastic, insert two eight-inch (20-cm) sticks or wires into the soil on either side of the stem to prop up the plastic. Cover the pot and stem with a clear plastic bag, and affix the bag to the pot with an elastic or twine. With a mason jar, simply place a large mason jar over the stem.
When pruning, be judicious. If you prune too hard in autumn, plants can be damaged beyond recovery. Instead, wait until spring, when plants begin to leaf out for the new season. (Roses are often not the earliest plants in the garden to respond to spring’s warming temperatures, so be patient.) Give the plant time to show its leaf buds then prune above that level.
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.
Put the rose cuttings directly into water. It’s very important for the rose cuttings to stay hydrated so that they don’t dry out before you plant them. Immediately after you take the rose cuttings, put them in a cup of room temperature water until you’re ready to transfer them. Ideally, you’ll be ready to put them into the soil right after you cut the stems.
Plant the rose bush seeds approximately ¼ inch deep in a seed-planting mix in seedling trays or your own planting trays. The trays need not be more than 3 to 4 inches deep for this use. When planting rose seeds from various rose bush hips, I use a separate tray for each different group of seeds and label the trays with that rose bushes name and planting date.
The Misting Method: As you get more sophisticated in your rose propagating methods you may eventually want to set up a misting bench. It can be an open-air bench or one enclosed in a greenhouse, or even a small misting box, similar to the one my husband Bob built for me. (Refer to "How We Made Our Misting Box," from Rose Ecstasy. You could choose to rig it up with a manual or an automatically-timed mister, whatever your time, money, or expertise will allow. I am fortunate to have a very handy guy for a husband, who is a good sport whenever I come up with these crazy project ideas.
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.
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.