Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

Rainbow Rose Seed Ripoff

20150908AA reader asked me about “Rainbow Rose” seeds, offered on the Internet with a photo of a spectacularly multicolored rose. She wanted to know if it was true that you could get flowers like that from seed.

The answer is no. No rose seed will ever give a flower like the one above. The whole thing is a hoax.

You can however easily create your own rainbow rose at home. All you need is a long-stemmed white rose (easily available at any florist) and vegetable dye.

20150908BFor the multicolor effect, prepare 3, 4 or 5 glass of water and a add a different color of vegetable dye to each glass. Now, using a knife, split the rose stem lengthwise into 3, 4 or 5 sections about 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) in length. Next insert each stem section into a different glass. Within hours, the dye will rise up into the petals of the flower, giving you a rainbow rose (also called a tie dye rose).

20150908C
Rainbow carnation.

You can also make rainbow carnations or even rainbow orchids using the same method. The important thing is to start with a white flower or at least, very pale shade pink or yellow one. The vegetal dye won’t be as effective if you use a dark pink or red rose, as the rose’s natural color will dominate.

What Do Rainbow Rose Seeds Give?

Vendors of “rainbow rose” seeds rely on the fact that very few people actually succeed in germinating the seeds they sell and even fewer ever get them to bloom. If the plants don’t germinate, or die before blooming, it must be the client’s fault, right? And if so, who’s going to complain? Besides, perhaps the seeds really do contain a mix of rose varieties that will give a “rainbow of colors”. If so, I guess they can legitimately claim that they delivered the goods: roses of various colors, although nothing that resembles the photo accompanying the ad.

False Germination Information

Suppose you do buy rainbow rose seed. If so, do not follow the instructions that come with them. They simply suggest sowing the seeds and keeping them in a warm spot… pretty much a guarantee you’ll get little or no germination. That’s because most rose seeds need a cold treatment (cold stratification) to germinate well.

Here’s how to really get rose seeds to germinate:

20150908D
Rose seed needs a cold treatment to germinate well.

Sow the seeds in a pot of moist potting mix, ideally in December or January, covering the seeds with about 1/4 inch (5 mm) of mix. Place the pot in a transparent plastic bag and seal it. Put the bag in the refrigerator and leave it there for at least 10-12 weeks. Afterwards, place the bag in a warm spot (about 72˚CF/21˚C) with good light but little or no direct sun.

Germination can take 2-6 weeks. When the plants do come up, remove the bag and move the seedlings to a sunny window. Water as needed so they don’t dry out. When they have four leaves, transplant them into individual pots.

When summer arrives, acclimate the young plants to outdoor conditions, then plant them in a sunny location. Most roses won’t bloom before their second or even third year. Be forewarned these will not likely be award-winning roses, but are more likely be small-flowered and rather scrawny plants.

The Laidback Route to Rainbow Roses

So you still want to grow roses in a rainbow of colors? My suggestion is to buy a half dozen or so quality, disease-resistant, reblooming, and, if you live in a cold climate like I do, hardy roses from a local nursery. It’s faster and the results really will meet your expectations!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

3 comments on “Rainbow Rose Seed Ripoff

  1. Brilliant tutorial ! Can we actually use this to create black roses? Would love to see how that looks honestly.

    • I’m not sure that black ink would color the cells deeply enough: they might appear gray instead. But you could certainly try.

  2. Thank you for this information. I recently purchased some rainbow rose bush seeds online. So I’m a little disappointed. But happy to learn how to sew them correctly so that I have a chance of getting some kind of roses. Hopefully. LOL thank you again for the information.

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