Starting Out

I want to try breeding roses and have read everything I can find on the Net.

There is plenty of information available and I have practiced dessication and pollen collection on any available bloom. In the process I have come up with many questions that are not answered or my understanding is off and other things that are probably just procedural.

could someone please advise on.

1 How many blooms will I need to breed to get a worthwhile result.(on average)

2 Will a Ist year bush produce normal pollen quantities.

3 Do I need to select a strong stem to carry the hip.

4 If one plant is strong and the other frail should strong plant be chosen as the seed parent.

  1. Highly random and subjective

  2. Not often

  3. Not always but it’s good to do so (in general). In some occasions, small side branches work well too.

  4. Yes

Russ- Welcome to the world of hybridizing roses. It is a wonderful and rewarding hobby . I would highly recommend joining the Rose Hybridizers Assoc (RHA) whose address is listed on this website. They also offer two excellent booklets at a very affordable fee. One booklet is titled Rose Hybridizers For Beginners and the other book is more advanced on information about hybridizing. Both of these books along with my membership have been very helpful. The books carry the basic information on hybridizing. Remember we must learn to walk before we can run.

Best of Success Hybridizing,

Milford Clausen

Hi Russell:

Yes, the RHA booklets are a good bet to answer many of your questions.

The variability that I think Jadae is talking about relates to the variability in rose fertility, hip set, number of seeds per hip and germination rates (not to mention that some crosses will tend to produce better seedlings than other crosses). Many roses have very poor fertility as seed parents. One thing that you will find among rose breeders is that methods and strategies will vary. That should be expected since one can expect different results depending on climate and culture. I will give you answers from my perspective.

Assuming that you have highly fertile seed parents and are using fertile pollen, I would answer your questions as follows:

  1. Good seed parents set hips at least 90% of the time for me. Average number of seeds per hip (remember quite variable, but average is noted here) for me = 11. Good seed parents give me at least 30% germination (some will give 80% or more). About 1 seedling in 100 is worthwhile in my experience (about 1 in 1,000 has potential for commercial introduction). The answer, given those parameters would be: x pollinations = 100 seedlings / (0.90 hips/pollination * 0.30 germinated seedlings/seeds planted * 11 seeds/hip) = 34 pollinations

  2. A first year bush, if it is a good pollen parent, will produce adequate pollen.

  3. Strong stems are not necessary to carry hips. In fact, the twiggy growth is often preferable to use on reluctant seed parents. That being said, rose varieties with stronger peduncles will tend to produce seedlings with stronger peduncles. That may or may not be a desirable trait for you.

  4. When planning crosses between roses, the most important consideration is which variety is better at setting hips and producing viable seed. That is the seed parent to use in your crosses.

Jim Sproul

Thank you Jim

This is just the information that I need especially your figures on pollanations required.

As I have only 2 & 3 bushes of each variety the pressure is on to get a signifficant no. of pollinations. I have allready decided that I will need cross both ways to get numbers up,so that which way will be irrellavant now. This is probably true of the stem size as well but I would like your opinion on using a bud on a strong watershoot for a seed parent.

Another problem I am having is that the stamens that I have collected(trials for the real thing)do not appear to release their pollen freely. What can I do to improve my pollen yield or to acheive good release.

I am hoping that next year when the roses are stronger and I start the program earlier that I will be able to be more selective with what I do and hopefully I will gain some experience this season.

If my pollinations fail I will collect O/P hips from a local garden and at least get experience with the growing side this year.

Thank you again.


This is new for me also, and all very exciting!

Jim & Jadae - I’m confused; does that mean it’s O.K to work with just one bush of a particular variety or would my chances of getting something worthwhile increase by working with two or three bushes of that same variety?

In other words, what kind of bush yields as many as 1000 seedlings? It must be one helluva bloomer, and hip setter to allow for all of this.

I just extracted 150 O/P seeds from the Apothecary, never mind seedlings. Perhaps I’d have obtained more seed if I had pollinated intentionally, but I doubt it could have been anywhere near 1000. Am I mistaken?

Russ, you might want to try a drier environment to get better release of pollen. If there is too much humidity in the area where you keep your collection containers your pollen release will not be as good. Also, I have had better pollen release with paper containers…just a personal preference. Now, I had to try a number of different locations until I hit one that really allowed the pollen to release well. I also found that giving the stamens a little more time helped with pollen release…in other words, more than just a few hours. It could also be that you are collecting the stamens a little too early in the bloom stage. Try collecting from the same rose, but from blooms at different stages and then compare the pollen release. That should give you a good idea on what you get depending on the bloom stage.

Dee, in the past, I have only had one bush of each type that I work with. I will likely begin having multiples of a select few of my favorite parents. But, I don’t think it is necessary…particularly when you are just starting out and exploring to see what your 'favorite" parents are going to be. You do certainly increase your chances of getting that one good rose that is good enough for commercial release by having multiples of a particular parent. But, when just starting out, it really isn’t necessary until you have a good idea of where you are going with your breeding. In the beginning, I would say it is just good to get out and try a lot of different parents and combinations to see what you get.

As for germinations…I have never had as many as 1000 seedlings in a single year of breding, and I typically do about 200-300 crosses in a season. However, it can certainly be done as in the amazing operation that Jim Sproul has going on. But again, I would only suggest that you work up to that level rather than trying to start there. I’m not saying you wouldn’t be capable of doing it…just that when first starting out I think (and this is just my personal opinion) that it is important to take things at a moderate pace and really get a good feel for what you are doing before going all out en masse. Again, just a suggestion to consider. :astonished:)

Dee, trial and error. For example, I found out that Solitaire is a seed machine WITH good qualities so I used it a lot this year. But using one cultivar is boring to me. I will use unknowns on purpose to just find out. It makes this hobby very dynamic. As a hobbyist, I can only afford the time, money and space for 1-2 plants. I will not use Solitaire as much next year because I will give it a break since it produced a hip for every single bloom possible this year. This gives me area to explore new seed parents. Other hybridizers will often use the same female parent repetitively and that is okay, too. So the moral is to do what works best for you. There is no set mold.

Does that help?

Russ and Dee, I agree entirely with Michelle and Jadae. Start out where you feel comfortable. My first year, I planted only open pollinated seeds and had about 50 seedlings. Russ, I would definitely try with OP seeds first. Germinating seedlings once you get the hang of it isn’t difficult, but starting out, I had lots of problems. You will want to work out the problems before growing your own crosses that were painstakingly made!

As for numbers, some rose produce an incredible number of seeds. You will want to use seed parents that work. That was the most important step for me - finding good seed parents. Unpruned roses work better as seed parents than carefully pruned ones.

As for obtaining pollen, most roses are good pollen parents, but there are exceptions. Pollen should be collected from blooms that will be opening up to show the anthers on the day that you collect the anthers. Collect it in the morning before the anthers shed their pollen. This too will take trail and error since roses vary so much.

You will thoroughly enjoy this hobby. No other hobby beats it in my opinion!

Jim Sproul

A lot of good comments that I agree with… but I’ll add my “two cents worth”.

Two of my favorite seedlings (from my own crosses, which almost always involve species roses) are from:

  1. a cross that only produced a single seed

  2. a cross that produced less than a dozen seeds

Neither of these has much commercial potential, but I think they each have enormous breeding potential. So, depending on your goals, sometimes difficult parents and relatively unproductive crosses can be worthwhile too.

So… don’t think that you HAVE to follow any advice TOO closely. Do what you think is best and have fun with it.

We look forward to hearing about your first seedlings.


Yes, Jadae, everyone here is infinitely helpful :slight_smile:

And thanks, Tom, for that interesting bit.

The questions just keep on coming.

I still can’t get pollen release. My method on HTs had been to remove stamens with tweezers when the bloom is near to opening and put into glass containers.(This method tears the filament. Would this have an adverse affect.) I kept them on my bench in the kitchen so was able to watch closely, there has been no sighn of pollen release up to 48 hrs. I now put them in paper cups in a spare room hoping this will help. This was from a first year bush that does not appear to have much pollen on the stamens(in comparison to another bush I have tried).

It is my aim to make to make specific crosses so I need to find ways to get pollen from difficult parents

I read somewhere that you can grind the stamens to release the pollen and have tried that.I am sure that it releases the pollen but I don’t know what to do after that. Should the pollen be screened out, if so how would I do that.

If I were to collect pollen from a variety in advance of need,say over a few days, could the different collections be stored in one container or should they be kept separate. Should they be air dry, refrigerated or frozen.

I would like to have exess pollen available to compensate for all the mistakes I am sure to make at pollination.

This is a marvelous forum,I think the advice and support given here make for a wonderful experience as a rose breeder.


When I need to crush pollen, I do not do any screening before using.


About pollen release.

My method is put anthers into a thin-wall tea cup (white color is best), store in house in dry place 24 hrs, then tap the cup repeatedly & sharpely on a counter top; this tapping causes the pollen to release, and maybe is what you are not doing. The pollen is then easily separated from the chaff.

May be your anthers do not dry snell enough.

I put mines under an incandescent lamp. More or less than 40cm according to temperatures.

With my limited experience and small scale of the hobby, I’ve found that the following method works great for me: I collect the anthers into small plastic film containers or clear 2-ml Eppendorf tubes used in labs. I place the tubes with lids open into a 1-litre airtight food container with some dry calcium chloride (from hardward store) in the bottom. Once or twice a day I flick the tubes sharply with my finger to get the pollen released, and it may take 1 to 3 days to get it properly released. The clear Eppendorf tubes are great because you can easily see the pollen in the bottom and they are easy to flick sharply without the anthers flying around or pollen getting lost. After this you can gently remove the anthers from the tube or just leave them there. I store the pollen tubes in the fridge in another airtight container with some CaCl2 to keep them from absorbing humidity (which they do very easily and are probably destroyed).


Crushing pollen, Henry?

Does that not damage the pollen sacs?

How and what do you crush it with?

What do you mean by screening?

**What exactly does released pollen look like?

Is it visible, and does it resemble a fine yellow powder?

What should I be looking for?

I didn’t think the creation of something so gorgeous will put out so easy. Finding a “dry place” might pose problems in this humid province. Would a hair drier work, lol?!

I feel the anxt coming on already :frowning:


I’ve collected anthers in plastic cups for use and had some success with that, but most of the time I just pull all of the petals from a few buds (unopened, but that would open the next day) of the intended pollen parent. I have some plastic lids with lots of holes punched in them, that I put over a full cup of water. I use this as a sort of vase to keep the stems of those petal-less flowers down in water. By morning they’ll usually be shedding lots of pollen. I find small mirrors (you can purchase cheaply at craft stores) to be great for collecting purposes. I just tap the flower with tweezers (right over top the mirror) and the pollen dusts the mirror. Or often times I’ll just use the petal-less flower to dust the intended seed parent directly. And I know I probably would look like a drug addict, to anyone looking in a window; but a straight-razor blade works best for gathering that dusting of pollen (on the mirror) into little piles for storage. For long term storage, I’ve frozen mine in gelatin capsules, stored in a plastic container with silica gel (dessicant). I’ve heard that powdered milk works also, but have never tried it. I can’t think offhand what the longest storage time is that I’ve had success with, for rose pollen. But, I know I’ve used pollen from a late blooming daylily species, H. citrina, on an early blooming daylily species in the following year, so… close to a year for that one.

I hope you find some of this helpful.

Good luck to you, Tom


“I read somewhere that you can grind the stamens …Should the pollen be screened out, if so how would I do that.”

I’m with Henry here, I don’t see the need to screen. After applying pollen to an intended seed parent I will often dump the entire remaining contents of my collection cup on the seed parent. So, I wouldn’t worry about the extra debris that comes along with the pollen.

“If I were to collect pollen from a variety in advance of need,say over a few days, could the different collections be stored in one container or should they be kept separate.”

That depends on your goal. Do you want a mixture of parents every time you pollinate or do you want to have one specific pollen parent for each specific seed parent you pollinate? If you don’t care about having a mixture of parents possibly contributing to the seed parent you are pollinating, then there is no reason why you can’t mix the pollen and store in the same container.

Dee, yes…released pollen looks like a fine yellow powder. There will be varying shades of it…but it is pretty obvious in the collection container when you have pollen released. Sometimes it can be only a little and resemble just a faint hint of yellowish dust in the bottom, and other times it will look like someone dumped yellow sawdust into your container. It just depends on the rose. As for finding a less humid location…try cabinets or closets…anywhere humid air is less likely to penetrate as easily. I tried all over the house and garage before I finally found a good dry cabinet to put my collection cups. Do some experimenting. Collect pollen from the same rose in a couple of different containers (preferrably from blooms at about the same bloom stage) and put them in different parts of the house or wherever. Then compare to see which ones have better pollen release. That should give you a good idea of what locations might be more appropriate for your pollen needs.

The first few steps can be a little daunting when you first try. It just takes a little experimenting to find what methods are going to work for you in your own environment. But, once you get going it really gets much easier. Try a number of different suggestions you see here, or combinations of them and see what you are comfortable with. It is going to be a little different for everyone.

Some species pollen looks like white flour, too. It looks weird haha.