How to start roses from seed using rose hips in autumn

rose hip with flowers in background
The red ball that forms after the flower fades is the rose hip, which encases the seeds. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by David Clark, CNLP

If you want to try to start roses from seed, autumn is the time to do it.

However, because of cross-pollination, there is no guarantee that the plant you get from those seeds will flower true; that is, those seeds may not produce the same kind of flower that your original plant produced. On the other hand, you may find a new and exciting variety!

What are rose hips?

The rose hip is the fruit of the plant. It will be a green or red ball that forms when the flower drops off.

Collect the hips in the fall, once they have softened and feel squishy.

Harvesting the rose seeds

Squeeze the rose hip pulp with the seeds into a small bowl filled with water. Swish the pulp around to remove the pulp from the seeds. Pour off the water, saving the seeds.

Next fill a one-cup measuring cup with water to the one-cup line and add a teaspoon of bleach. This will be used to sterilize the seeds.

Add the seeds to the bleach water and let them sit for about 20 seconds to sterilize them. Pour the bleach water solution plus seeds into a fine kitchen strainer lined with cheese cloth or gauze and rinse well with clear tap water.

Expose the seeds to cold temps

Next we have to stratify the seeds to mimic outdoor weather. Get a small plastic lunch bag, put in a small amount of dampened peat moss and add the seeds. Seal and mark the bag with that day’s date and then a date 60 days into the future.

Keep the bag at 35 degrees Fahrenheit for the 60-day period.

Plant the rose seeds

Get a four-inch plant pot and fill it with sterile soil-less seed-starting soil. Plant the seeds about one-quarter inch deep.

Place the pot in a very bright area or under grow lights and keep the soil moist. The seeds should germinate in about two to six weeks.

Grow the seedlings on until they have at least two sets of true leaves. At that point, they can either be potted up separately and grown on, or planted outdoors once the threat of frost has passed.

About David Clark: A nationally and internationally known gardening educator, David Clark teaches a series of horticulture classes at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. He can also speak to your group. Find out more here.

16 Comments on “How to start roses from seed using rose hips in autumn

  1. Hi Mick, what an interesting plant! And it’s a great way to use boutonnieres to remember a special event. Thanks for sharing.

  2. My Aunt and uncle went to a wedding and later their button holes ,one red and white were grafted to another bush and eventually it grew half red half white bush

  3. Hello Liz!
    Yes, you certainly can start the seeds outdoors in your USDA growing zone. It would not be necessary to stratify them in your refrigerator. Thank you for your comment!
    Kind regards,
    David R. Clark, CNLP

  4. Why not just plant them outdoors in fall? Why artificial winter in fridge? I live in zone 3 part time only. Thanks.

  5. Hello Kim!
    I would plant the seeds about a half inch deep and 1 inch apart. Some folks have a better germination rate if they then enclose the moistened and seeded pot in a plastic baggie, and place the whole in a refrigerator for 6-12 weeks to stratify them. Stratification breaks seed dormancy issues, and assists in germination. Additionally, you can dust the top surface of the pot (after seeding and before putting into the refrigerator) with regular kitchen cinnamon to help avoid any mold issues.
    Keep us posted with your results!
    Kindly,
    David R. Clark, CNLP

  6. I have 3 roses that originally came from my grandmother’s rose garden. All are old fashioned roses. Would it be best to try growing starts from seeds (the hips are prolific this year) or from cuttings? I’d love to get some starts for my daughter’s new home.

  7. Hello William Jaworski!
    The phenomenon you are (luckily!) witnessing is what many plants do without human intervention: propagation via offshoots.
    Perhaps your cutting successfully calloused and formed a preliminary root system. Then, the node or directly above the rooted end sprang to life, because it is the closest to the new roots and the most viable.
    It could also be that the new shoot did arise directly from the callous tissue. This would be similar to micropropagation/tissue.
    You must have had good technique with the root8ng process, otherwise you would not have been successful.
    Congratulations!
    Kind regards,
    David R. Clark, CNLP

  8. I have a really crazy question. I planted from cuttings. The cutting has not developed leaves. But about 2 inches away a new plant has appeared that seems to have small yellowish thorns. Is it possible that the plant would root and just grow a new stem from the roots? Is it possible that it has generated an off shoot stem?

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