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.
To plant in a garden, choose a spot with bright but indirect light, so cuttings won't be stressed by too much sun or heat. Northern and eastern exposures are perfect rooting spots. Cultivate the soil in your new propagation bed about 4 to 6 inches deep, so it crumbles easily. If your soil is heavy, incorporate a small amount of sand, so that new roots can penetrate without much effort.
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.
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.
Northern gardeners need to know exactly what zone a rose is hardy to. Southern gardeners must also watch to see what zones are recommended for each particular variety, as some roses perform very poorly in hot and/or humid weather. Read the catalogs carefully and, if possible, purchase your roses from a local or regional grower. They will be able to advise you from experience about how a particular variety will perform in your area.
The next step how to grow roses from seed is to sprout the rose seeds. After having gone through their “stratification” time, take the containers out of the refrigerator and into a warm environment of around 70 F. (21 C.). I do my best to time this for early spring when the seedlings would normally be coming out of their cold cycle (stratification) outside and starting to sprout.
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.
Caring for rose bushes is important to their overall health and vigor, especially when it comes to watering. Roses require at least an inch of water weekly throughout their growing season, beginning in spring or following spring planting. While overhead watering is suitable before the onset of new growth, it is often better to water these plants at the soil line using soaker hoses or similar means. Rose bushes are very susceptible to fungal diseases, such as black spot and powdery mildew, especially when their foliage is kept too wet.
To start rose bush from cuttings, once the rose cuttings have been taken and brought to the planting site, take out a single cutting and remove the lower leaves only. Make a small slit with a sharp knife on one or two sides of the lower portion of the cutting, not a deep cut but just enough to penetrate the outer layer of the cutting. Dip the lower portion of the cutting into a rooting hormone powder.
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.
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.
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.