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.
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:
Alfalfa provides solid nutrition to roses, supplying nitrogen, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and other nutrients, including a fatty acid known to promote plant growth. Work alfalfa meal or pellets into soil around roses (1 cup per large bush; one-half cup for miniature roses). You can also brew alfalfa tea by soaking alfalfa meal or pellets in water. Discover tips on making and using alfalfa tea from the American Rose Society.
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.
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.
Remember that light changes as the angle of the sun shifts throughout the season. If you live in the upper half of the U.S., choose a site that will offer full sun year-round. The more sun you have, the more flowers your plants will produce. In the lower half of the U.S., choose spots with a little bit of afternoon shade. This protects blossoms from the scorching sun and helps your flowers last longer.
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.