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.
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.
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.
Despite their reputation for being finicky, most roses are simple to grow and easy to propagate at home. “Propagate" simply means to reproduce a plant easily from a simple cutting. Unlike seeds, which produce very different plants, rooted cuttings produce replicas of their parent. You don't have to be a trained rosarian to reproduce treasured family heirlooms or favorite garden roses.
I too, have tried the cut rose flower method, but haven't yet been successful--perhaps because there are chemical additives that the roses have soaked up, or because there are no nodes (which are the points where new shoots grow out), or because the stems have spent much of their energy producing the flowers...BUT, perhaps if the flowers were immediately cut off and some rooting hormones applied to the bottom cut ends, that may work.
Water the planted rose seeds well and place them outside in direct sunlight (no need for Grow Lights). If there is still danger of frost, then you will need to place the seed trays in a protected location such as under a tree or patio. You will need to keep the rose seed trays watered and don't let them dry out. After about six weeks, or when the weather starts to warm up, the little rose seedlings will start to sprout. They will continue to sprout as long as the weather is cool, but will stop sprouting when it gets too hot.
Label the canisters with the name of the pollen parent. Do not put a lid on the canister so they will dry out and not get moldy. After a few hours (on some rose varieties), or the next day (on other varieties), the pollen sacs will burst open, thereby releasing the pollen. Sometimes you will need to shake the canister so that the rose pollen will release from the pollen sacs. The black film canisters make it easy for you to see the pollen, which looks like a fine yellow powder. The pollen will stay fresh for about two weeks.
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.
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.
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.
A special stainless steel screen on the handle of the unit raises up when it is dry. When this happens, it throws the mercury switch which opens the solenoid valve and starts the misting cycle. When this stainless steel screen accumulates enough mist, the weight of the water drops it down again, shutting off the mercury switch, closing the solenoid valve. It needs practically no care or maintenance and can be left on, unattended day and night. This control unit is a very practical instrument which will have a long lifetime of carefree maintenance. There are no clocks to adjust, and it is not affected by water conditions. It works simply on the weight of water. The major benefit of the Mist-a-Matic is to control the misting cycle according to weather conditions. Too much water promotes disease and wastes water. Too little water causes leaves to wilt and failure to root. The Mist-a-Matic distributes the correct amount of water. In hot weather, the unit will turn on more frequently as the water evaporates. In cooler weather, the unit turns on less frequently. For operation, you will need to plug the unit into an electrical outlet. You need to hook it up to a water source with misting nozzles.
The plant will become dormant—and you want it to stay that way; it is the natural state. After the first deep freeze, put is in a room or place (garage) with no heat and natural light (window). You can add some water occasionally but this is not intended to be “watering”; the plant is dormant and will not take it up but the soil can be lightly moist. Bring the plant back outside when it shows signs of coming back to life. Plant it, per the guidance above, when the soil warms.
Rose propagating methods have changed over the years, from the simple own-root varieties of the Victorian era, and progressing to the budded hybrids of the 20th century with its many options of exotic understock such as Rosa multiflora, Dr. Huey, Manettii, and Fortuniana. Now, rumor has it that many of the modern hybridizers and commercial growers are interested in returning to the simplicity of yore. Today's commercial rose growers are finding that budded roses are just too labor-intensive and expensive to produce. Because of this, it appears that we can look forward to more own-root roses being introduced and sold at our local nurseries in the future. Own-root roses will eliminate suckering and hopefully will eventually help to eradicate mosaic virus.
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.