Grow Roses From Seed

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 failiures worthwhile.

Briar rose seeds
Briar rose seeds by John Tann, on Flickr

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.

Pollinating The Rose

Stamens of the rose
Click to enlarge

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 nametag 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, but 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 Rose seeds need that cold period, in order to trigger the germination process. Stratifying is basically mimicking the winter conditions. Strip the seeds from the hips, and place in a jar of moist sand. This is placed in the fridge 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.

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.