How To Get More Roses From Your Own Garden

There is a small trick to growing roses from cuttings

The trick is in when to take the cutting.

With your thumb, gently push sideways against the green thorns on the shoot you are considering cutting.

  • If the thorn bends over and doesn’t easily come away from the shoot, the cutting is too green and it will not root easily.
  • If the cutting fights back and (punctures your thumb) doesn’t release easily, it is too woody and will not root well.
  • However, between these points is a time when the thorn will not bend and will suddenly release from the shoot with a little pop with a medium amount of pressure.

Then you’ll get good results with cuttings at this level of maturity.

Photo by Tiffany Chan on Unsplash

Roughly When Is This?

This time is roughly when the flower buds start to open up on the first flush of blossoms.

What roses can be propagated this way?

I’ve done every kind of rose in this manner — from hybrid teas to hardy shrub roses. It may not be economical for commercial nurseries to do this but if you want roses on their own roots, this is an easy skill to master.

Other considerations

  • I’ve found that spraying rose cuttings with an anti-desiccant works very well to assist in the rooting process. This stops the cutting from losing moisture.
  • I’ve also found that growing roses from cuttings is much easier if I take those cuttings in the morning rather than later in the day. There is less water stress or plant stress early in the morning and a happy plant roots faster.
  • Bottom heat is almost a necessity if you want to see rose roots any time this century. I use a heat mat with a temperature of 72F to keep the shoots warm.
  • I have heard of gardeners who have inserted their rose cuttings in glasses of water and been successful but I’ve never done this and wouldn’t really recommend it for consistent results.
  • But if you have more glasses of water than rose cuttings and you’re only doing one or two cuttings — go for it but don’t count on it.
  • I also use warm water when watering and misting the rose.
  • Roots should appear any time after 4 weeks and sometimes sooner.
  • Do not jiggle the rose cutting around to see if there are roots. You’ll disturb the emerging roots and perhaps kill them.
  • In general, treat rose cuttings like any other tender shrub or cutting. You’ll know you’ve been successful when the rose cutting starts growing new leaves and starts growing into a new rose.

What about growing own-root roses — is it difficult?

No.

They’ll grow just like any other shrub.

Just understand that tender roses are usually grafted to increase their hardiness as well as their flowering so you may have difficulty overwintering tender hybrid tea roses depending on where you live.

In a USDA zone 4, I can root all the tea roses I want but none make it over that first winter. Sigh…

Shrub roses and tough roses grow more slowly on their own roots and may not flower quite as much but you can succeed with them.

Having trouble overwintering roses? Click here

Here are more notes about growing roses.

Growing Roses From Seed The Simple Way

There’s a simple way and a harder way(s) to grow roses from seed. This is all about the simpler way.

I won’t go into the transferring pollen and details of getting a rose to set seed (many roses will do it naturally) on this page but what to do once you see that big red rose hip developing on the plant.

Also be aware that if you’re starting seeds of a hybrid rose, the resulting plants/flowers are not guaranteed to resemble the parents. In fact, the odds are they won’t

Two Simple Systems For Growing Roses From Seed

Like all things, different gardeners (particularly rose gardeners) swear by some arcane method of growing roses from seed. There are two simple systems that mimic nature but in doing a little research to see if there was a new and improved technique, I found rose fanciers using everything from formaldehyde and fungicides to hydrogen peroxide to “improve” their germination rates.

And these techniques might even work. But I know that Mother Nature has been at it a lot longer than we have and while these fanciers might get an extra percentage or two (there’s even dispute over this) of germination, I’m happy describing this simple system for growing roses from seed for you to follow and get decent results (and more roses than you’ll know what to do with anyway).

Once you have the seed, there are two simple systems for growing roses from seed.

rose hip
Image by Peggy Choucair from Pixabay

Rose hips – the seed is inside the hip. Wait until it dries and begins to shrivel before harvesting seed.

Vermiculite and A Baggie

The first is to put a handful of barely-damp vermiculite into a baggie. The vermiculite should not be sopping but not dry either. Write the name of the rose and today’s date on a label (I can recommend regular pencil on bits of plastic cut from a yogurt tub) and insert it into the baggie. Put the seed into the baggie. Put the baggie into the refrigerator crisper. Mark a date 90 days later on the calendar.

90 days after sowing, take the baggie out of the refrigerator and sow the seed into a pot or flat. You can use pots and sow the seed so it is an inch apart if you don’t have the space for flats. Label each pot or flat. You’ll start seeing germination in a week and it will continue for upwards of a month.

Transplant the seedlings into their own flower pots when they have 4-6 true leaves and grow on until they are ready to be transplanted outdoors. (after all danger of frost).

Note that not all the seed will germinate. In this case, you can either throw away the pots or keep the pots cool and damp all summer to sit outdoors. Growing roses from seed using pots from this point on is the same as the technique below.

Sowing into Pot System

The second method of germinating seed is to sow it directly into pots or a large 10×20″ flat filled with soil. The soil in the flat should be a sterilized soilless soil mix. If you’ve had the open bag around for a while, pour a kettle of boiling water slowly over the flat of soil to sterilize it and kill of any fungal problems.

The seed need only be barely covered and not planted very deeply. Firm the soil down after you’ve planted the flat so that the covering soil is in contact with the seed. It is important to keep the seed damp.

Cover the seed flat with door screening and secure it firmly. The door screening will be necessary to protect the seed from mice and ants.

Put the flat outdoors in a protected location. Leave until spring.

In spring, you can bring the flat indoors to give it a little heat or you can leave it outdoors to germinate on its own. Once the seeds have germinated, transplant as above and grow on until planted in the garden.

Leave ungerminated seed in the flat and keep damp and shaded all summer. Allow to stay outdoors the second winter and then germinate the slower second crop of seedlings the second summer.

Toss the flat away after two seasons.

Alternative System

An alternative system to growing roses from seed is to cut the bottom off a large nursery container and sink this into the ground so that only the lip is showing. Sterilize the regular garden soil inside the pot by pouring several kettles of boiling water over it. Sow the seed in place and slightly cover with vermiculite or sterilized potting soil.

The seed will germinate over two years and you can remove the seedlings when they have reached 4-6 true leaves, transplanting them into pots for growing on and transplanting into the garden when large enough.

After two years, there are not many viable seeds left and you can dig up the area – sterilize it again and start some other seeds in this space.

In growing roses from seed, I have not allowed the hips to stay on the canes over the winter but I’m told by rose growers in more moderate climates than mine (USDA 7) they have sown seed that has stayed on the canes and it has germinated quite nicely after being chilled outdoors on the cane.

If you’re in a tough climate for roses, you may want to check out this resource.

Bottom Line

These are the easy ways to germinate rose seed and work as well as any other but, and it’s a big but, the germination percentage of germinating any rose is never great so celebrate each one you succeed with.

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