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.
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.
It is generally agreed that "old roses" include species or wild roses; albas; Bourbons; moss roses; China roses; Noisettes; Portland roses; rugosa roses; Scotch roses; centifolias; hybrid pimpinellifolias; damasks; gallicas; hybrid perpetuals; tea roses; and musk roses. Those classified as modern rose varieties are hybrid teas; floribundas; polyanthas; grandifloras; miniatures and dwarfs; modern shrub and landscape roses; climbers and ramblers; and rugosa hybrids.
Pick a sunny spot to plant your rose cuttings. Where you place your cuttings is especially important if you’re planning on growing them outdoors. Choose a spot that’s sunny but that’s not in direct sunlight — you don’t want them to dry out. Putting the rose cuttings in a pot or container is alright as well, just make sure the container is deep and wide enough for your rose cuttings to grow.
I have successfully taken rose cuttings with both new and old wood. It is important to let the new stems sufficiently mature. The new wood is usually mature enough after the stem has just finished blooming. If you don't let the stem mature enough, then it usually becomes limp and will die before you can get it to root. I take cuttings from new rose stems in the spring right after the first bloom cycle. Then in early to late fall (in Southern California) I prefer to use more mature or old wood. When using old wood in the fall, I will remove the rose cuttings from the Mason jar, baggie, or mister, after only several weeks since it is cool enough then for them to root on their own as long as I water them daily.
NOTE: During my move, I had cut several rose branches and placed them in a grocery paper bag in my garage--only to have forgotten to bring them home for a week. The branches had been in a broiling hot enclosed garage without water, and needless to say, they looked pretty dried out to a crisp. But I didn't want to just toss them out yet (these were the climbing Charisma roses), so I got an empty plastic detergent tub and completely immersed the stems for 2 weeks (no changing water). Then I stuck them into soil and hoped for the best. Well, I got about a 50% survival rate.
Water: Roses require more water than most other landscape plantings, especially during the first year as the plant is getting its roots established. The best way to water your roses is with drip irrigation. It concentrates the water at the root zone where it is needed, and keeps the foliage dry to minimize disease problems. A good, thick layer of organic mulch will help conserve moisture, reduce weeds, and encourage healthy root growth. As the mulch breaks down, it will also add organic matter to the soil.
A gentle way to clean the rose seeds is to use a Cuisinart or other brand of blender with a dough blending attachment, which is made of plastic and does not have sharp blades. You can blend the rose seeds using this gentle dough attachment for several minutes without any damage to the seeds. Do not use a blender with sharp metal blades as damage to the rose seeds may occur.
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.
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.
Pruning: Dead, weak and sickly stems can lead to disease problems. Pruning these away will increase air circulation to the center of the plant and minimize fungus problems. Pruning also stimulates new growth, and allows you to shape the plant in a pleasing manner. Spent flowers should be removed during the growing season to encourage reblooming. Use a scissor-action pruner for the cleanest cuts.
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.
Monitor the rose cuttings to ensure they’re hydrated and taking root. Keep an eye on the cuttings to make sure they’re never dried out, as well as to make sure the cuttings are taking root. You can test to see if the roots are growing by gently tugging on the cuttings. You should be able to feel a slight resistance after a week or 2, meaning the roots are growing well.