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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Selecting a disease-resistant rose is the single most effective way to avoid problems and the need for chemicals. You might start by considering some of the old rose varieties, many of which have natural disease resistance. You can also look to many of the modern roses, which are now being bred for improved disease resistance. Hybrid teas are notoriously disease-prone, and seem to lure every insect pest from miles around. They can be difficult to grow without an arsenal of chemical dusts and sprays.
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.
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.