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.
As soon as the rose seeds have been removed from the rose hips, rinse the seeds in a solution of purified water (any bottled water will do) with 5% bleach. This would be about two teaspoons of bleach per cup of water. Rinse the rose seeds with plain bottled water in a strainer, then soak the seeds in straight 3% peroxide for 24 hours. CAUTION: Do not mix bleach with peroxide because there could be a chemical reaction.
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.
The easiest way to begin experimenting with rose hybridizing, especially for the beginner, is to simply let some of your roses self-pollinate themselves, so they will "go to seed" and set hips. I have found that Playboy, Hurdy Gurdy, Peggy T and Fairhope are some of the easiest roses to set hips, and there are many others. Let the rose hips stay on the rose bushes at least four months before harvesting.
Select two roses that you want to cross-pollenate. The blooms should not be too tight, perhaps about one-half to 3/4 open. Carefully peel off all the petals. The rose stamens inside should look golden yellow and fresh. With sterile tweezers or cuticle scissors, carefully remove all the stamens at the base of the rose hip, so you do not damage the pollen sacs (anthers). Place the rose stamens into separate, clean film canisters, and place the canisters in a dry place, but not in direct sunlight.
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.
Prune the roses. Pruning roses keeps them both beautiful and healthy. The goal is to clear away crowded areas to open up the bush, which helps prevent rotting and disease. The pruning strategy differs according to the season, but the cut you make is always the same: prune just above a bud eyes, the areas where branches form. They look like small circular swells and are usually located above a set of mature leaves. Make a down-slanted cut on an outward-facing bud eye.
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.
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.
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.
This is a fungus called black spot. Left untreated, it can cause all the leaves on your roses to turn yellow and fall off. It will also affect nearby plants, as it spreads by spores. Remove ALL INFECTED material and throw it away or burn it. Do NOT leave it on the ground as this fungus is very hardy. It can survive winter and travels very easily, even after being removed from the affected plant. Spray your plants regularly (bi-weekly) in the growing season with a good fungicide (I like the Bayer products). You can also add a little bit of dish soap and baking soda to a spray bottle with water and spray the entire plant.
After the rose seeds have soaked overnight, rinse them in a strainer and place them into the blender with at least a cup of plain purified water (making sure all seeds are covered), and turn it on for a few minutes. It usually doesn't chop up the seeds, but rather, it will clean off the pulp remaining from the rose hip, which would otherwise mold if left on the rose seed. You may see a few seeds chopped up, but those usually aren't viable anyway. Flush the rose seeds again through a strainer using fresh purified water.
Once you have had several weeks of below-freezing temperatures, cover the base of the rose with 12 inches of soil or mulch, and then cover the canes with straw, leaves, pine boughs or even foam insulation. Climbing roses can be wrapped right on their supports, or you can lay them on the ground and cover the canes with straw or brush. In severely cold climates, hybrid teas are sometimes partially dug up, laid down onto the soil, and the entire plant is then covered with more soil or mulch.
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.
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.
Ever wonder if you could root and grow roses from a branch of your favorite rose bush? Roses actually root rather easily. However most roses are grafted onto the rootstock of a different type of rose than the top, flowering portion, so the rose you root and grow may look nothing like the rose you started with. Grafting is done to improve strength, disease resistance, or hardiness, and even if you do get something resembling the parent rose you took your cutting from, it might not have that rose's hardiness. Rooting a rose cutting may not be hard to do, but it is something of a gamble.
When you transplant your roses, be sure to dig a much bigger hole than you think you need (for most types, the planting hole should be about 15 to 18 inches wide), and add plenty of organic matter such as compost or aged manure. This will feed your plant in the years ahead. Some old-timers recommend placing a 4-inch square of gypsum wallboard and a 16-penny nail in the hole to provide calcium and iron, both appreciated by roses.
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.