Fertilizing Bushes with Hips

There’s been a lot of questions regarding fertilizing bushes with hips on them. I have my experience which has been negative but I’m wondering what others have done?

Hi John:

I have had mixed results. For roses that only set hips poorly, new hips seem to abort when the parents are fertilized. However, for the really excellent hip setters, fertilizing them gives them a boost and they will produce more blooms and set still more hips. Those are the kind of mammas that I like best!


I’ve had terrible luck with fertilizing bushes that have hip but I am trying to sell my house so all my bushes are in pots. I can see that they need something that’s why I posted this to see what others experience has been. Any Suggestions?

All of the plants that I use for hybridizing (mothers) are in pots. I cut them back only slightly in the spring and fertilize them with liquid fertilizer and supplement with organics. That will be the only time that I fertilize the plants for the rest of the year. I pollinate the first initial flushes of blooms which come about 4-6 weeks after the initial fertilization. Hip set is usually very good as long as there have been no new applications of nitrogen.(yes, some plant varieties will form hips even with regular fertilization. However, you had better be sure of those varieties) I simply water the plants during the next few months knowing that the plant may become stressed. That is OK. I have very few hips drop. Bottom line-- I would never recommend fertilizing the plants with hips developing. Water them and they will survive.

Many roses can and do perform well as seed parents even when given regular doses of fertilizer. Most of my seedling selected seed parents easily formed hips during their seedling stage when they were being evaluated in the greenhouse (where they are kept on a steady diet of soluble fertilizer and pelletized slow release fertilizer).

One of my primary objectives in rose breeding has been to develop good seed setters/germinaters. You definitely need to know how your seed parents will behave before adding fertilizer. However, I agree with David that as a general rule, it is best not to fertilize seed parents after an early spring dose of fertilizer, this is especially true for roses that are unknown to you.

I will try to get and post a photo of one of my brand new seedlings that is covered with hips that I cannot wait to use as a seed parent next year.


Here is a photo (I hope that I can post it) of the new seedling that I was talking about above. It is a cross of {‘Halo Today’ X [‘Geisha’ X (‘Tobo’ X ‘Singin’ in the Rain’)]} X ‘Baby Love’.

It is a light yellow single with 5 to 8 petals and appears very clean. This plant has been fertilized regularly since the new seeds were planted in January 2003. During the evaluation process, I routinely snap off blooms after they are evaluated when a decision has been made to keep the seedling (otherwise the whole plant is eliminated). Then after about the 2nd or 3rd bloom cycle, I let the new seedlings form hips if they are so inclined. During this time, the seedlings are regularly fed.

New clean seedlings that set hips so well are then tested as potential seed parents by planting 100 - 200 seeds ‘OP’ seeds. If there is a good germination rate, the new seedling is added to my seed parent stock and used immediately. In this way, the generation time is reduced when goals may require several generations.

Jim Sproul

Oh my God, I just passed out on my keyboard!

Thanks eveyone for your responses. The seedling looks great Jim. I think I know what to do. Good luck to eveyone with your seedlings this year.