Two Simple Systems and And Alternative to Growing Roses from Seed
Growing roses from seed isn't all that difficult and is something I'd
recommend to anyone interested in playing in their rose garden.
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.
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).
Take the red rose hips off the rose when they are fully red and ripe.
Or you can wait until they start to wrinkle and dry out just
The point is that we don't want to let the seeds dry
out on the rose (and die) if we let the rose hip wrinkle and dry right
The seed can be removed from the hip and sown immediately. Try to
remove any chaff or debris from the seed hip just to keep things clean
and sanitary but there's no real need to soak the seed or treat it in
Once you have the seed, there are two simple systems for growing roses
Vermiculite and A Baggie
The first is to put a handfull 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 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 10x20" 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
Leave ungerminated seed in the flat and keep damp and shaded all
summer. Allow to stay outdoors a second winter and then germinate the
slower second crop of seedlings the second summer. Toss the flat away
after two seasons.
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
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
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.
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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