Friday 24 September 2010

rose babies

rose hipsrose propagation

My kitchen window sill at the moment is a little rose nursery, aren't they sweet! Propagating rose seeds is not quite as straightforward as other seeds but the fun thing is that if you do propagate a rose seed you are producing a unique rose variety that no one has ever grown or seen before. Doesn't that sound like fun (well it does to a plant nerd like me)!

Rose breeders grow thousands of seeds to produce each named variety. They breed and cross breed to preserve the most favourable characteristics and the most beautiful flowers. And when they find the perfect plant they graft it on to rootstock to make a million clones. That doesn't mean though that we can't have fun growing our own. Or that the fun and anticipation of waiting for your rose to flower for the first time won't be equally exciting. There's always the chance you'll make something amazing!

Rose seeds need to be coerced to break their dormancy before you can grow them. In a warm climate like Sydney's that is replicated by a few months in the fridge, wrapped in damp kitchen paper or cocopeat, in a sealed bag. Not hard to do, and if your partner is already tolerating gocco screens in the crisper and daylily pollen in the freezer, all the easier!

Last winter on a visit to the Central West I pruned my mother in law's roses. She has over thirty established rose plants which had missed a year's pruning and so most of them were taller than me. I really love my wonderful mother in law and I actually enjoy a bit of pruning so it was great to shape them all for her. It also gave me the chance to collect a pile of beautiful ripe rose hips from her lovely David Austin, hybrid tea and climbing old fashioned roses and bring them home to harvest.

Once home I split open the hips and collected seed. I gave them a cursory wash and wrapped them in damp kitchen paper and a ziplock bag, sealed to keep the moisture in, and then threw them onto a shelf in my fridge.

About a month ago as the weather started to warm I got them out again and left them on the kitchen bench. Every couple of days I unwrapped them to see if any of the seeds had split and started to germinate. This is the third time I've done this, the first two times I collected hips in a local park for my experiment. The first year one seed sprouted and I was so excited I managed to kill it with kindness. Luckily the next year one germinated and I coaxed it through to flower, you can see it here on my blog.

This time I've had much more luck. As of today I have six tiny seedlings growing in little pots on my kitchen window sill and more seeds coming to life in the bag! Once your seed has sprouted in its little paper nest, take it out carefully and put it just under the seed raising mix in a small pot. Water the pot and keep it sheltered in a plastic bag which will act as a mini greenhouse (just like the rose cuttings we took back in autumn).

If you are very lucky then in about a week's time a little pair of seed leaves will open followed closely by your first little rose leaf. Sometimes the little rose plant even flowers soon after that, my last plant did. If that happens I'll show you here.

If your seeds don't appear keep putting them back in the fridge (for at least a week each time) and taking them out again. Eventually some should get the message!


  1. I love the droplets of water on the seedling. Brilliant photo.

    I never knew they were quite so tricky to get started. But I hope some day to have some rose bushes of my own and give this a go.


  2. Love the photos, so clear. You are clever. It makes the roses even more special. Charmaine

  3. I've been away for awhile but am 'back-in-the-loop now and have very much enjoyed catching up with things over here. Your Spring flower photos are beautiful, and these pics of your rose babies particularly exquisite. Although I'm not blessed with very green fingers and will likely never try to propagate rose seeds I loved reading your description of the process!
    P.S. Also, thanks very much for your comment a while back on my 'cats in windows' collection ^-^

  4. It's nice a thinkg to engage with and appreciate our surroundings and all that nature has to offer...even the small details - enjoy the roses :)

  5. I have ordered A LOT of rose seeds!!! I plan on putting up a privacy fence/trellis across the front of my mother-in-law's yard. what I plan on putting there are climbing roses and climbing strawberries so when our walkers go by they will be allowed to pick a couple and take them home :)

    By the time I get them it will be in May I hope! What do I need to do when I get them? go ahead and put them in the fridge as you explained or put the packets in the freezer until next year? I wasn't born with a green thumb, but, I intend of having one this year :):)


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