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.
Be aware of your variety’s needs. Rose care will depend a lot on the variety you’re raising. Some roses like William Baffin and Lady Hillingdon climbing roses are more drought tolerant, for example, while others need more water. Some varieties can withstand less sunlight than others. Rose varieties should also be pruned differently depending on the variety and your climate area.
Roses are usually grouped into one of two broad categories: old roses and modern roses. Old roses are those varieties discovered or developed prior to the introduction of the hybrid tea rose in 1867. But like everything else in the world of roses, when it comes to determining how a particular rose should be classified, it’s not always crystal clear.
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.
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.
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.
Allow rose hips to develop by leaving dead flowers on the plant. The flowers are typically pollinated by insects, or pollinate themselves in some varieties, so there is no need to pollinate by hand unless you are breeding specific plants together. Leave the flowers on the rose plant without cutting them. After they wither, small fruits known as rose hips will develop in their place.
Although miniature roses have always been grown on their own roots since the 1950's when they were first introduced, Ralph Moore of Sequoia Nursery in Visalia, CA, near Fresno, offered many of the larger roses on own-root along with his vast selection of minis. His Playgirl floribunda has always been sold by Ralph as own-root cuttings in 4-inch pots, as well as a good assortment of other own-root floribundas and old garden roses. Unfortunately, Mr. Moore is now deceased and his nursery is closed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After the rose seeds have soaked overnight, rinse them in a strainer and place them into the blender with at least a cup of plain purified water (making sure all seeds are covered), and turn it on for a few minutes. It usually doesn't chop up the seeds, but rather, it will clean off the pulp remaining from the rose hip, which would otherwise mold if left on the rose seed. You may see a few seeds chopped up, but those usually aren't viable anyway. Flush the rose seeds again through a strainer using fresh purified water.
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.
To get the best success, yor rose seed will need a period of stratification (a cold period of about 6-12 weeks). Its a good idea to time this so that it coincides with when they would naturally start to grow in spring – probably around early March, depending on weather conditions. I would look to sowing them in late November/ December and popping them outdoors or if we have a mild winter then stick them in the fridge!
The next step when you grow roses from cuttings is to use a pencil or metal probe push down into the planting site soil to make a hole that is deep enough to plant the cutting up to about 50 percent of its overall length. Place the cutting that has been dipped into the rooting hormone into this hole. Lightly push the soil in around the cutting to finish the planting. Do the same thing for each cutting keeping them at least eight inches apart. Label each row of rose cuttings with the name of the mother rose bush it was taken from.
Remove all but the top 2 leaflets on the stem, cutting just above the top set of leaves. You need to remove the excess leaves for the same reason we removed the flower in Step #2. They're taking up too much of the plant's energy. However we want the stem to continue to photosynthesize and feed itself until the new roots form, so we need to leave a couple of leaves.
When pruning, be judicious. If you prune too hard in autumn, plants can be damaged beyond recovery. Instead, wait until spring, when plants begin to leaf out for the new season. (Roses are often not the earliest plants in the garden to respond to spring’s warming temperatures, so be patient.) Give the plant time to show its leaf buds then prune above that level.