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.
Select two roses that you want to cross-pollenate. The blooms should not be too tight, perhaps about one-half to 3/4 open. Carefully peel off all the petals. The rose stamens inside should look golden yellow and fresh. With sterile tweezers or cuticle scissors, carefully remove all the stamens at the base of the rose hip, so you do not damage the pollen sacs (anthers). Place the rose stamens into separate, clean film canisters, and place the canisters in a dry place, but not in direct sunlight.
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.
Most softwood rose cuttings will root within 10 to 14 days.1 To test their progress, tug very gently on the cuttings. You'll feel a slight resistance as the new roots form and grow into the soil. A gentle fish- or kelp-based fertilizer during this time provides beneficial nutrients. Once roots are established and plants show strong new growth, you can transplant your new roses to more permanent garden homes.
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.
To plant in a garden, choose a spot with bright but indirect light, so cuttings won't be stressed by too much sun or heat. Northern and eastern exposures are perfect rooting spots. Cultivate the soil in your new propagation bed about 4 to 6 inches deep, so it crumbles easily. If your soil is heavy, incorporate a small amount of sand, so that new roots can penetrate without much effort.
This is a fungus called black spot. Left untreated, it can cause all the leaves on your roses to turn yellow and fall off. It will also affect nearby plants, as it spreads by spores. Remove ALL INFECTED material and throw it away or burn it. Do NOT leave it on the ground as this fungus is very hardy. It can survive winter and travels very easily, even after being removed from the affected plant. Spray your plants regularly (bi-weekly) in the growing season with a good fungicide (I like the Bayer products). You can also add a little bit of dish soap and baking soda to a spray bottle with water and spray the entire plant.
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.
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.
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.