Growing roses from seed can be challenging, since the majority of seeds you collect often won’t germinate regardless of your efforts. Fortunately, most rose plants produce a large quantity of seeds inside their rose hips, so it usually isn’t necessary to achieve a high success rate. Keep in mind that the plants that grow may be different in appearance or other characteristics from the mother plant, especially if that plant is a hybrid of two varieties grafted together.
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.
Note: The seeds you harvest may grow into a plant with different characteristics. This can occur if you are harvesting from a hybrid rose variety, or if the rose is pollinated with pollen from a different, nearby rose variety.
Remove the rose hips once ripe. The rose hips will start out small and green, then change color as they grow until they are completely red, orange, brown, or purple. You may pick them at this point, or wait until they are just beginning to dry out and wrinkle. Don’t wait until they are fully dry and brown, as the seeds inside may have died by this point.
Cut the hips open and remove the seeds. Cut open the rose hips with a knife, revealing the seeds inside. Pull these out with the knife tip or any other utensil.
The number of seeds in each rose hip varies greatly between rose varieties. There may only be a few per rose hip, or several dozen.
Wipe the pulp off the seeds. If the pulp is left on the seeds, it may prevent them from germinating. One quick way to remove the pulp is to place the seeds in a sieve or mesh, running water through it as you rub the seeds against the sides.
Soak the seeds in diluted hydrogen peroxide (optional). A mixture of water and hydrogen peroxide may reduce the growth of mold on the seeds. Stir 1.5 teaspoons (7 mL) of 3% hydrogen peroxide into 1 cup (240 mL) water. Keep the rose seeds in this solution for at least one hour.
Some studies suggest that a little mold growth can actually help break down the casing surrounding the seed, but this treatment is still recommended to prevent mold growth in larger amounts.
A light dusting of anti-fungal powder for plants is an alternative to this step.
Place the seeds in a damp material. Rose seeds typically won’t sprout unless they are kept in cold, wet conditions, mimicking a winter environment. Place the seeds between two layers of lightly dampened paper towels, or in a container of dampened salt-free river sand, peat moss, or vermiculite. This is the first step in a process called stratification. If you are using store-bought seeds and the label says they are already stratified, skip to the planting seeds section below.
Leave the seeds in the fridge for several weeks. Put the seeds and moist material in a plastic bag or seedling tray in a plastic bag or seedling trays, and keep them in a cold area of a refrigerator, such as an otherwise empty crisper drawer.
Do not keep them in same area of the refrigerator as fruit or vegetables, which can release chemicals that prevent the seeds from developing
Keep the seed medium slightly damp. Check at least once or twice a week to see whether a sprout has emerged from the seed casing. Add a few drops of water to each paper towel whenever they begin to dry out. Depending on the rose variety and individual seeds, the seeds could take anywhere from four to sixteen weeks to germinate. Often, 70% or more of the seeds never sprout at all.
Fill a container with sterile seed starting mix. Small seedling starting trays make it easy to care for many seeds at once. Alternatively, use plastic drinking cups with a hole punched in the bottom, to make root growth easier to view.
Regular soil is not recommended, as it may not drain well enough and cause the seedlings to rot.
Plant the seeds. Some store-bought seeds can be planted immediately. If you germinated your own seeds as described above, plant them as soon as they begin to sprout. Plant with the sprout pointed downward, as this is the root. Lightly cover them with soil, about 1/4 inch (6 mm) deep. Space seeds at least 2 inches (5 cm) apart to minimize competition.
Sprouted seeds should emerge as seedlings within a week. Store-bought seeds that do not require home stratification may take several weeks. Seeds that have not been stratified, using the germination process above, may take two or three years to emerge.
Keep the seedlings in warm, moist soil. Keep the soil damp, but not soggy. A temperature between 60 and 70ºF is(16–21ºC) is ideal for most rose varieties. The seedlings typically thrive on six hours of sun or more each day, but you may wish to research the parent rose’s variety to get a better idea of what your rose’s prefer.
Learn when it’s safe to transplant seedlings. The first two leaves visible are usually “cotyledons,” or seed leaves. Once the seedling grows several “true leaves,” with a more typical rose leaf appearance, it is more likely to survive transplanting. Transplanting is also easiest in winter or early spring, not during the height of the growing season.
It may be a good idea to transplant the seedlings soon if you notice the plant is root-bound, with its roots encircling the container.
Do not transplant it outside until after the last frost.
Transplant to a larger pot or outdoors. When you decide to transplant, wait for cool, cloudy weather or early evening, when the plant is losing less water. Moisten the seedling to keep the soil around it together. Dig a hole in the new location, large enough for the root mass, then remove the soil around the seedling in a clump. Transfer this soil clump into the new location, filling the hole with potting soil if the ordinary garden soil is low quality. Water the soil thoroughly after transplanting.
Try to plant to the same level as before. Do not bury part of the stem that was previously above the soil level.
Care for your roses. Once the transplanted seedling is looking healthy again, you can start watering it as normal. Fertilizing a few times during the warm growing season may help your plant grow and bloom if you follow the fertilizer instructions, but keep in mind that some varieties of rose will not bloom at all during their first year of life.
Things You’ll Need
Paper towels (or see instructions for alternatives)
Rose hips or rose seeds
3% hydrogen peroxide (optional)
Seed starting mix
Ask about varieties of roses available at a gardening store to find out which are best suited for your climate and garden.
Be skeptical if advised to float the seeds in water to test whether they can be planted. While this may work for some other plants, rose seeds often float whether or not they are defective.
How to Grow Healthy Roses by Controlling Powdery Mildew
How to Prune Rose Bushes
How to Plant Roses
How to Grow Roses
How to Replant a Rose
How to Grow a Rose Bush from Rose Bush Cuttings
Sources and Citations
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