When I raised roses for the first time, I had no understanding of the different stages of its life cycle. Because I didn’t know the growth stages, I had no idea how to recognize if there was an issue with my growing technique. I also had a lot of anxiety and impatience as I waited for my seedling to start flowering.
Through the years, I’ve raised multiple different types of roses from seed to full bloom and I’ve observed them grow from one stage to another.
If you are going to try to raise these beautiful, classic flowers, you should familiarize yourself with the life cycle and growth stages. If you raise them correctly, these perennials will reward you with beauty. It will prepare you to handle any problems as they arise because you understand the changes in your rose plant as it fills out your landscape.
Total Growth Time
Because of the size of the Rosa genus and all its varieties, the time it takes from planting the seed to physiological maturity varies widely. Physiological maturity in rose plants can happen as fast as 6 weeks or take as long as 10 years.
Even though physiological maturity can take a decade, once a rose seed has germinated, it can grow and produce flowers relatively quickly.
It’s worth mentioning that while species roses come true from seed, cultivars and hybrids do not. They are usually grown vegetatively. Vegetative propagation is carried out through grafting, hydroponics, and the use of bare root roses. Hybridizing and growing these cultivars is quite interesting, but that’s another article for another day.
That still leaves over 150 species that do come from seed. This accounts for the marked differences in the time it takes for a plant to mature fully.
3 Ways of Reproduction
Roses can reproduce in 3 different ways: seed, layering from the canes, and root sprouts.
Roses reproduce sexually by way of seed. These seeds are stored in a portion of the rose called the rose hips. These seed-filled bulbs are also referred to as the fruit of the rose.
Rose hips begin to develop in mid to late summer. As they mature through the autumn, the hips will start feeling leathery to the touch. They will remain there through the cold of winter.
The rose hips’ leathery case helps protect the seeds from the scorching summer sun and the bone-chilling winter winds.
The seeds have another layer of protection within the rose hips called spicules. Spicules are dark shell-like material that completely encases the seed. As the seeds develop, mature completely, and head into dormancy, they play a crucial role in protecting that seed well enough to keep it viable through the frigid winter.
The seed production of a rose bush is quite remarkable. Each branch of a large rose bush can contain up to 50 panicles. Each panicle contains an average of around 50 hips, but that number can go as high as 100.
There can be anywhere from 1 to 22 seeds in a rose hip. The average number of seeds is between 7 and 10. This means that the average cane or branch contains around 17,500 seeds. There’s no telling how many canes are on a given rose plant, but a single plant can wind up producing between 500,000 and 1 million seeds.
This large seed production improves the chances of some of the seeds reaching a viable germination site.
Root Sprouts and Canes
These two are placed in the same section because they are both the rose’s means of asexual reproduction. These methods of asexual reproduction ensure the continuation of the species. Suppose environmental conditions or features of the landscape are not conducive to reproduction by seed. In that case, the rose still has a way to keep the circle of life turning through its two manners of asexual vegetative reproduction.
Root sprouts that aren’t growing too deep into the topsoil can reproduce into complete, new rose plants. Root cuttings were how the rose bush was first dispersed in the United States.
As for reproduction through canes, as longer, bowing branches fall downward, they will eventually touch the soil. It’s at this point of contact that the tip of the cane will sprout new roots. These new roots are the beginning of a new plant.
You can increase asexual reproduction by pulling rose canes that are already falling towards the earth the rest of the way down. This is known as “layering” the roots. Layering your roses is beneficial to the plant’s strength. Growing in this interconnected fashion encourages them to spread horizontally both above and below the soil.
This is the second portion of the life cycle of the rose. In this stage, the rose plant will spread both its seeds and any vegetative growth from the canes and roots. The seeds are dispersed by either gravity or catching a ride with a bird or other animal.
Rose seeds are built to even endure passing through an animal. The spicules protect the seeds as they go through the very acidic digestive system. This allows the seed to disperse as far as the bird or animal can travel before leaving their excrement somewhere. This dispersion could be several miles from the mother plant. The seeds dispersed by animals have a better shot at germination because they are coated in feces as they move through the digestive system. Which is a ready-made fertilizer.
In wild-growing rose plants, the seeds that fall to the soil after the plant has matured are subject to the cold soil temperatures through late autumn and winter. The seed has evolved to make these colder temperatures a necessity for germination.
Planting Tip for Cold Stratification
If you already have a rose plant that blooms, you can collect your own seeds by gathering the rose hips that contain them. Simply cut them in half and extract the seeds
If you choose to buy the seeds for your roses, you’ll need to know whether they have undergone proper cold stratification. If not, you’ll have to simulate the cold temperatures yourself by placing your seeds into a refrigerator set at 40℉ for 6 to 8 weeks. The seeds will need to be contained in moistened soil or a wet paper towel.
You do have the option of allowing nature to take its course and plant the rose seeds in the fall to endure the winter outdoors. However, the environmental variables beyond your control could affect the seed’s ability to germinate in the spring.
Before placing the seeds into the refrigerator, you should test their viability. Do this by placing the seeds in a bowl of water for 24 hours. When you return, the seeds that float can be discarded. The plump, heavier seeds that sank to the bottom are your viable seeds. Sow them in 3 to 4 inches of potting soil or fold a paper towel over them. Ensure that your stratification medium is moist (not wet) and stick them into their simulated winter.
Germination and Seedlings
At this stage, if your rose plant is grown from seed, you’ll see the development of a seedling as it makes its way through the soil. Roses grown in planters can be moved to your garden when your plant grows to be 6 inches tall.
Root sprouts or cane layering will develop a juvenile plant above the soil.
Once the root sprouts or canes develop bud shoots or the seeds germinate, the young plant will grow slowly and have a low growth habit.
In the rose’s period of vegetative growth, it becomes an altogether aggressive plant. Oftentimes, this aggressive period of growth does not occur until after being planted for about 1-2 years.
At this stage of growth, little buds surrounded by sepals will form. These sepals are the small green leaves that you commonly see at the base of the flower. These buds will bloom into the rose flower that we all know and love.
Pollination and Seed Production
Once the flower is in full bloom, it will produce nectar that attracts pollinators like bees and birds. As a pollinator reaches for the nectar, pollen will cling to the hairs on its body and legs. When it moves around the plant, the pollen makes its way to the female sex organ, or pistil.
And the cycle begins again.