Grandma's Mason Jar: For the beginner this is probably the easiest way to take rose cuttings. Not much equipment is needed, just a clear quart-size glass jar and some cuttings from your favorite rose. For you modern sodapop lovers, a 2-liter plastic bottle with the bottom cut off will work just as well. Cut a piece of rose stem about 6 inches long, remove the bottom set of leaves, and just stick the stem into the ground (or into a pot) a couple inches deep, and cover with a jar or bottle. You will need to periodically water the soil around the jar, otherwise the rose stem will dry out. It will take a couple of months for the rose stem to take root and begin leafing out with its new growth. The best time of year is spring or early fall. If you live in a mild climate, then winter and summer can also be successful for rooting roses. Intense summer heat of 100 degrees is not conducive for taking rose cuttings, nor are 32 degree or below winters.
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.
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.
Everybody has a story to tell of how their grandma would stick a piece of rose stem into the ground and then place a Mason Jar over the stem to make it grow. There are tales of how the early American settlers of the 1800's traveled to the far reaches of the wild west in covered wagons, with grandma bringing along "starts" of her favorite roses from back home. Perhaps the treasures of these "monsters on wooden wheels" were raided, and they discovered the Yellow Rose of Texas hiding under the bonnets of the women. Or maybe the settlers used their precious "starts" to barter for provisions along the endless dusty trails.
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.
While your cuttings take root, keep them covered and moist. In a garden bed, a simple DIY mini greenhouse does the trick. Just place a bell jar, a garden cloche or an overturned mason jar over the cutting. A clear plastic bottle with the bottom cut out and the cap removed works, too. Water the soil regularly to keep it moist, but not soggy. Your mini hothouse will keep the humidity high inside.
So grandma had the right idea in the first place, and she really did know what she was doing. It has always been fun to start roses from cuttings. Some people get their kicks by going "rose rustling" in the deserted cemeteries of old and forgotten mining towns. Others just take a twig from their favorite rose and stick it into the ground in their backyard. There is nothing complicated nor scientific about taking cuttings of roses and rooting them to "start" a new plant. There are various ways of taking rose cuttings, so let's tell you how.
The Baggie Method: This was the first method I ever tried. Here you fill 2-inch plastic pots with potting soil, insert the rose stem halfway inside the pot, then put the pots into a one-gallon plastic zip-lock bag. You can get four 2-inch pots into each gallon bag. I didn't like this method because it caused many of the cuttings to rot since the bags tended to fold over and therefore prevented the air from circulating. The success rate of this method is not very good. It may be helpful to place a couple of small sticks inside the bag to help keep it upright and full of air.
Fertilize the roses. After they are established, roses should be fertilized a few times per growing season. Use fertilizer (either liquid or granule) in early spring, when you see the first few leaves sprout. Use it again after the first bloom, and again if there's another bloom. Stop fertilizing the roses at the end of the summer, just before Labor Day.
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.
Most softwood rose cuttings will root within 10 to 14 days.1 To test their progress, tug very gently on the cuttings. You'll feel a slight resistance as the new roots form and grow into the soil. A gentle fish- or kelp-based fertilizer during this time provides beneficial nutrients. Once roots are established and plants show strong new growth, you can transplant your new roses to more permanent garden homes.