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.
Learn when it's safe to transplant seedlings. The first two leaves visible are usually "cotyledons," or seed leaves. Once the seedling grows several "true leaves," with a more typical rose leaf appearance, it is more likely to survive transplanting. It is also easier on plants if they are transplanted to a larger pot for a year or two, and then transplanted outside.
Choose rose varieties. Did you know there are 13,000 varieties of roses? Some roses grow better in certain regions than in others. When you're choosing what type of rose to grow, take some time to research the specifics of your growing region, then look for roses that have characteristics you find appealing. Take their shape, size, and color into account when choosing varieties to grow. Roses fall into the following categories:
Why choose an old-fashioned rose over a modern hybrid? Many of the old rose varieties offer more fragrance, more complex and interesting blooms, greater disease resistance, easier care and more interesting forms. But modern roses can offer all-season blooms, and a much broader range of colors and flower forms. Some are also far more cold- hardy and disease-resistant than any of the old-fashioned varieties.
Growing roses from seeds is not the fastest method for propagating roses but has several advantages. Roses from seeds take a little longer but then you end up developing a new set of varieties. Professional hybridisers select a new line of easy to grow and disease resistant rose to propagate. However, for you, each seedling will be a surprise when they finally bloom. It is like opening your birthday present when you were a kid. You never really knew what to expect! That is the same feeling seeing those little seedlings opens up for the first time.
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.
The rose seeds can be planted right away if you have harvested them as late as November, December or January (in Southern California) or early spring after danger of frosts in your area. Place the rose seeds about one-half inch deep in a very light mixture of 50% sterile potting soil and 50% vermiculite. Some rose hybridizers use Sunshine Mix #4. You can use small pots or shallow trays to plant your seeds, whatever works for the space you have, as long as they have good drainage. Nursery flats work well for this. Lightly dust the rose seeds with RooTone or Captan before covering with soil. And then dust the top of the soil again, which will hopefully help to prevent damp-off (a disease which kills young rose seedlings). Amateur rose hybridizers concerned with toxic chemicals may want to periodically spray the seed tray with diluted peroxide and water instead of the more toxic Captan.
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.
One way to stratify the rose seeds is to place the cleaned seeds on a paper towel (a heavyweight brand such as Bounty). Then moisten the paper towel with a solution of half & half purified water and peroxide (to help prevent mold). Fold the paper towel closed, encasing all the rose seeds in the moistened paper towel. Then place the towel full of seeds into a plastic zippered bag. Mark the seed variety and date on the outside of the plastic bag with a permanent marker, and then place the bag into the refrigerator set at about 34-38 degrees. Never freeze the seeds, and do not let them dry out. The moistened paper towel should remain moist in the closed plastic bag for many weeks.
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).
America's most popular flower is also one of the very oldest flowers in cultivation. There are over 2,000 different rose varieties to lure us with their history and fragrance. This is because the rose, like the orchid, cross-breeds readily—a trait exploited first by nature, and then by horticulturalists. Today, we can choose from old-fashioned favorites, as well as modern varieties that are the result of intensive breeding programs throughout the world. The rose is a flower with a rich past, and an exciting future.
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.
Water. Irrigate roses deeply but infrequently, applying water directly to soil using soaker hoses or drip irrigation. Water needs vary based on weather and soil, so check soil with your finger. Water often enough to create consistently moist soil – not overly wet, not bone-dry. To prevent diseases, keep foliage dry, especially if you must water late in the day.
Buy bare root or potted roses. Once you've picked out the types of roses you want to plant, decide in what form you want to buy them. Bare roots are the roots of roses that are planted directly into the ground. You can also buy young roses that have already been planted in a small pot, and transplant them to the ground or another pot. Either type may be purchased in a nursery. Rare rose varieties may be found online.
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.
Cathryn Chaney has worked as a gardening writer since 2002. Her horticultural experience working in the nursery industry informs her garden articles, especially those dealing with arid landscaping and drought-tolerant gardening. Chaney also writes poetry, which has appears in "Woman's World" magazine and elsewhere. Chaney graduated from the University of Arizona in 1992 with a Bachelor of Arts in English.
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.