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.
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.
Alfalfa provides solid nutrition to roses, supplying nitrogen, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and other nutrients, including a fatty acid known to promote plant growth. Work alfalfa meal or pellets into soil around roses (1 cup per large bush; one-half cup for miniature roses). You can also brew alfalfa tea by soaking alfalfa meal or pellets in water. Discover tips on making and using alfalfa tea from the American Rose Society.
Some people don't bother to take the time to do this, but others do. While the rose seeds are soaking, you will see that some sink to the bottom and some float on the top. The seeds that float are sometimes not viable, so you might want to throw them away. The rose seeds that sink are said to be the good ones, and are the ones to plant. There are pros and cons to this theory, and many rose hybridizers simply plant all the rose seeds that are harvested.
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.
I bought hybrid tea roses last year. Not long after the first blooms, we moved one because it was interfering with the sprinkler system. It looked unhappy at first, but continued to bloom throughout the season. This year, it does not have so much as one leaf, no new foliage whatsoever, however, there is still green inside the stem towards the base of the cane. Is it done for, or is there a chance it will come back in it's second rear?
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.