Have you ever tried growing roses from seed? If not then you’re missing out on one of the more fun ways to add roses to your garden. The majority of rose you produce will be of a lower quality. Poor color or fragrance, disease prone, or perhaps poorly shaped foliage. But the delight of that first “perfect” rose…. a rose that has never been in existence until you created it, makes all of those failures worthwhile.
Growing roses from seed is not a difficult endeavor at all, however it is an unusual way to go about growing roses because roses are most commonly sold on rootstock for easy planting and cultivation. However, let us take a look at growing roses from seed.
The only thing you really need, is patience. It will be up to 2 years before you see the fruits of your labor. Miniatures will tend to bloom in their first year, but many other varieties will take an extra year. But don’t let that stop you, the excitement of a new rose type opening up it’s first flower is fantastic.
Let’s suppose you cross “rose A” into “rose B”. That means you will use the pollen from rose A, and rose B will produce the seeds. The results will be different that if you had crossed the other way. So always try to cross both ways if you can.
Rose seeds are obviously important for breeding and hybridizing your own roses. Who knows, maybe you will come up with a All-American breed in your backyard!
A good candidate to extract the seeds from is a flower with big hips. Yes, this is a good trait for roses! Besides being useful in cooking and food, the hips hold the seed. Its basically a fruit similar to an apple or orange. Not all types have hips or seeds, so some you may not even be able to do this. You need to cut open the ripe hips, remove the seeds and carefully clean them of the pulp. Failure to do so can cause the seeds to get moldy.
If you want to have seeds that are a hybrid, you need to cross-pollinate across roses, since all of them have both female and male sex organs. The plants may self-pollinate, or it might be done by bees or birds. There are whole books devoted to breeding and hybridizing. In fact, roses helped lead to some of the first research on genes and heredity.
The downside to using seeds is that it can take several seasons for a plant to really mature, so you won’t know what you have for a while. Not only that, but it may not have the exact characteristics you want. Each rose will have some traits from the mother and father plants, but not be a perfect blend. It can take many cycles before you have a nice specimen.
This is why breeders work so hard! A quicker way to propagate your plants is with cuttings. A properly prepared cutting can give you nice flowers within one season. You’ll also know exactly what you’re getting bloomwise. You can also buy bare roots varieties and plant them too to get some different breeds in your garden.
Pollinating The Rose
There are two part to the rose that concern us. The stamens (male parts) and the stigmas (female parts). The general principle is to collect pollen from the stamens of one flower, and then use that to fertilize the stigmas of another. Sounds simple? It is!
Step 1. Collect the pollen
Choose a rose flower that has just opened, and strip all the petals off. Now you have a clear view of the stamens – these need to be clipped off and stored in a paper envelope, or a jar lid. Put them somewhere warm overnight, so they dry out and drop their pollen.
Step 2. Prepare the flower to be pollinated
You are looking for a flower that is on the verge of opening. That way, the stigmas should be ready, but hopefully no insects have been inside yet to pollinate it. Strip off all the petals and stamens, then dab a little pollen on the stigmas.
I like to cover the pollinated flower with a small plastic bag at this point. Just secure it at the base with a twist tie. This stop any insects getting onto the stigmas. Usually I leave the bag on for a week or so, then remove it. You should also put a name tag on the stem, so you know what pollen was used.
Step 3. Collect the hips
Midsummer is the ideal time to pollinate the rose. With any luck, the hips will start to swell, and will be ready to harvest in early autumn (fall). Some people plant the seed straight away, bt I feel ‘stratifying” the seed will give you a much better germination rate.
Step 4. Stratify the seeds
That’s just a fancy name for chilling them! You are basically mimicking the winter conditions, which will improve the germination. Strip the seeds from the hips, and place in a jar of moist sand. This is placed in the refrigerator until early spring. I put in a layer of sand, then a layer of seeds, another layer of sand, and so on until the jar is full.
Don’t let the seeds dry out, otherwise you will not be able to successfully plant them. Remove any debris from the seed to keep it clean and sanitary, and then choose one of these two systems to get your roses growing:
The first system
…involves putting a handful of slightly damp vermiculite into a plastic bag, inserting the seed into the bag and placing the bag in the crisper section in your refrigerator. Your seed baggie should stay put for 90 days, and you should make sure that it is properly labeled if you plan to do this with multiple seeds at one time.
After 90 days you can sow the seed into a flat or a pot, depending on what space will allow. Make sure that each pot or flat is properly labeled. Within about a week you will begin to see germination, and this should continue for about a month. Once you have seedlings, you can transplant them into their own pots once they have between four and six true leaves.
Grow them indoors until they are prepared to thrive on their own outside.
The second system
…involves germinating the seed by sowing them directly into pots or flats that have been filled with soil. Use a sterilized and artificial soil if you are operating using flats. If you are using soil that has been around for a while, pour boiling water through the soil to kill off fungal issues and to properly sterilize the soil.
The seeds do not need to be planted very deeply, but rather should be barely covered by the soil. Firm the soil down over the seeds to make sure that the seed is in contact with the soil. The seed needs to be kept damp, so the soil should always be kept damp as well.
Choose a protected location and keep the flat outdoors. Cover the flat with door screen or similar material to keep ants and mice away from the seeds, and leave the flat until spring.
…for growing roses from seed is to take a large nursery container, cut the bottom away, and sink it into the ground so that only the top lip of the container is showing. Sterilize your regular garden soil using boiling hot water, then sow the seeds and cover them just slightly using sterilized soil or vermiculite.
Over the span of two years the seed will germinate, and as the seedlings reach four to six true leaves you can transplant them into their own pots. After two years there should not be that many remaining viable seeds so the area can be dug up, sterilized and reused again.
Step 5. Plant out the seeds
Once the outside temperature has warmed up a little, then I plant the seeds out in the same way as any other seeds. I prefer to use individual peat pots, and keep them in a cold frame until they have germinated. They wont be planted out in the garden until they have several sets of true leaves.