While people typically propagate rose plants from cuttings, you can also grow roses from seed. Rose seeds are often difficult to germinate, so you’ll need a patient hand. If you start with healthy seeds and complete the proper steps, you can produce new rose plants in a few months.
How to Grow Roses from Seed in 4 Easy Steps
If you’re interested in growing roses from seeds, follow these steps.
1) Gather Your Seeds
The first step to growing roses from seed is collecting mature seeds. Rose bushes produce seeds in fruits known as rose hips.
Look for rose hips in the late fall. These fruits will start out green and then transform into red, orange, or brown shades. Your goal is to remove the rose hips after they turn a warm shade but before they dry up.
Cut the ripe rose hips open with a knife and look at the seeds—they should be smooth and light in color. Carefully remove the seeds from the rest of the rose hip with a knife or fork.
2) Stratify the Seeds
Once you have your rose seeds, you’ll need to complete a process called stratification. This involves exposing the seeds to cold temperatures to help break their dormancy.
While outdoor seeds naturally complete this process when winter arrives, you’ll need to create conditions that mimic the natural environment. Fortunately, you already have a place that replicates winter temperatures: the refrigerator!
Place the seeds in between two pieces of moist paper towel and then place them in a sealed plastic bag. Pop the bag in the refrigerator and allow the seeds to hang out for six to ten weeks.
During this period, check the paper towel about once a week. Spray it with water if you see it’s dried out.
3) Sprout the Stratified Seeds
After you’ve stratified the seeds, they are ready to plant. You can start with this step if you’ve purchased seeds that have already been stratified.
Gather a tray or shallow pot with drainage holes and fill it with a suitable soil mix for potted roses. The best type of mix can hold a bit of moisture while also allowing excess water to drain. I like a mix like FoxFarm Coco Loco for starting seeds (via Amazon).
Once the container is full, make indentations in the soil that are about a quarter of an inch deep. Place a rose seed in each indentation and then cover it with soil. Water gently so the soil is moist.
Place the seeds somewhere warm, about 65–75°F. They don’t have to be exposed to light at this point, so either a light or dark location is okay. Check the soil every few days and water if it becomes dry.
You should begin to see seedlings emerge within a few weeks. However, don’t be surprised the majority of the seeds don’t germinate—this is common for roses.
As soon as you see the first seedling emerge, move the seeds to an area that receives 10–12 hours of bright light.
4) Repot the Seedlings
Once your seedlings have their first set of true leaves, you can repot them into individual containers. You should still use a soilless potting mix to allow for proper drainage.
When you repot the seedlings, remember that their roots are sensitive. That means you should avoid touching the roots as much as possible.
Continue to water the repotted seedlings and ensure they have access to lots of bright light. When the seedlings are about six inches tall, you can plant them outdoors in the ground.
Notes About Hybrid and Patented Roses
While it’s fine to experiment with growing roses from seed, you should keep in mind that many modern rose varieties are hybrids. That means they result when plant breeders intentionally cross-pollinated two different varieties.
Hybrid roses often provide many desirable characteristics, such as disease resistance, large blooms, or drought tolerance. However, hybrid varieties will not breed true. In other words, hybrid plants produce seeds that exhibit genetic variation.
That doesn’t necessarily mean their offspring will be unfavorable, but it does mean they won’t be identical replicates of the parent plants. They may have different colored flowers, grow shorter, or bloom at different times of the year.
You should also be aware of trademarked and patented roses varieties. While you may think saving seed from these plants is illegal, it’s not. It is illegal to market trademarked varieties using the same name and to propagate patented varieties by cuttings.
How Long Do Roses Take to Grow From Seed?
After you stratify rose seeds and plant them in a warm environment, they will take a few weeks to sprout. It will take a few more months for the plants to reach a size where you can plant them outdoors.
How Do You Obtain Rose Seeds?
Rose seeds are located in rose fruits known as rose hips. Wait until the rose hips turn red or orange, and then cut the fruits in half. You can then remove the seeds using a fork or knife.
How Do You Propagate Roses?
The easiest way to propagate roses is by taking a stem cutting or dividing mature plants. However, you can also propagate plants from seed.
Why Aren’t My Rose Seeds Germinating?
Rose seeds must first be stratified—meaning they must be exposed to cold temperatures—before they can germinate. Even after proper stratification, most rose seeds may still fail to sprout.
Growing Roses From Seed – Wrapping Up
Growing roses from seed is possible, and it can even be a fun project to complete. However, it requires some patience and accepting a good bit of failure.