If you order bare-root roses from a mail-order company, order early (late winter or early spring). The roses are usually shipped in the spring because bare roots when plants are fully dormant, well before they have leafed out. They’ll look like a bundle of sticks on arrival. Note that they are not dead—simply dormant. Check that the packing material is moist and keep them in a cool dark place until ready to plant.
Just as with many other shrubs, roses can be grown from cuttings. It’s not a fast process – it may take a couple of years before your new plant produces flowers. But if you have a favourite rose, it can be fun to try. The cuttings need to be taken fresh from a healthy plant – don’t try to grow a new rose bush from the bunch of cut flowers you have sitting in a vase. And as roses bushes are pruned during winter, this is the most convenient time to take and pot up your rose cuttings.
Please keep in mind that many rose bushes are grafted rose bushes. This means that the bottom part is a hardier rootstock that will withstand cold and heat better than the top and more desired part of the rose bush. Starting a rose bush from cuttings places the new rose bush on its own roots, so it may not be as hardy in cold climates or in extreme heat conditions climates. Being on its own root system can cause the new rose bush to be far less hardy than its mother rose bush.
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.
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.
Select the pollen parent flower. Remove the petals and harvest the stamens -- the male flower part that has the pollen -- as in the previous two steps. Check the stamens immediately to see if they are producing fluffy, mature, yellow pollen. If so, proceed to pollination. If not, look at stamens in the vials daily. Use them for pollination when mature pollen is coming loose from the stamens.
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.
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.
Soaking the seeds is a crucial step if your seeds will germinate properly and stay clear of any diseases. You MUST not mix the bleach with the hydrogen peroxide as this results in a chemical reaction. 3% peroxide for 24 hours is just fine. This is also a good time to perform the water float test. Remove all seeds that float as they might not be viable.
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.
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.
Be aware of your variety’s needs. Rose care will depend a lot on the variety you’re raising. Some roses like William Baffin and Lady Hillingdon climbing roses are more drought tolerant, for example, while others need more water. Some varieties can withstand less sunlight than others. Rose varieties should also be pruned differently depending on the variety and your climate area.
Taking rose cuttings can lead to a new crop of beautiful, successful roses. Like many other plants, it's important to choose a sunny spot for your rose cuttings that has moist soil. Cutting strong, healthy stems right above a set of leaves makes for great growing conditions, and dipping your cutting in a rooting hormone will help the roots take faster. By keeping your rose cuttings well hydrated, you'll have strong roots in no time.
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.
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.
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.
Take a sterile Q-Tip or small sable artist's brush, and dip it into the rose pollen you want to use. Then dab the pollen-coated Q-Tip or brush onto the stigma of the rose you have selected as the seed (female) parent. You could also simply use your finger to apply the pollen to the rose. Repeat this procedure after four hours, and then again after another four hours. Label the rose hip with the name of the seed parent as well as the pollen parent, i.e. Fairhope x Miss Flippins. The name that appears first is always the seed parent (the mother), and the second name is the pollen parent (the father).
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.