Rosa rugosa Thunb.
Rugosa rose, saltspray rose, beach tornado
4-6' high x 4-6' wide, 8' possible
Zone 2a USDA
Northern China . Korea . Japan
There is nothing more beautiful than the perfection
of a rose in mid-summer. The glorious fragrance wafting
up from perfectly formed petals make it clear why this
is the flower of choice for many people.
Unfortunately, to obtain the perfect rose one must
often have the perfect soil, a perfect watering
regimen, and a lot of time. To those of you who
don't fall into this category, I offer you Rosa
It may sprawl a little more than the hybrid teas that
we see nowadays, and the flower petals tend to flop
this way and that. All in all, it often has a kind
of shaggy, unkempt air about it
but that's what gives this plant its character. Named
for the wrinkled (rugose) surface of its glossy green leaves,
this rose is a charmer that can soften and naturalize
It's a carefree rose, picky only about drainage. It
will grow in salty conditions, shade, full sun, and
poor soil, so long as it's well-drained. Along the
East Coast it even grows right in the sandy beaches!
There's other reasons to grow this beauty besides the
low maintenance. Large blooms cover this plant in
early summer, giving way to sporadic blossoms up to
the first frost. And Oh! The fragrance is
sweet and pleasant, carrying for yards at a time.
The blooms later give way to lucious brick-red rose
hips so large that they look like cherry tomatoes.
And if that weren't enough, sometimes the yellow to
orange to red fall color can be excellent!
If you have the space, this is the rose for you. There
are many select cultivars available that will heighten
the plant's natural beauty. Choose one and you will
never regret it.
The clean, beautifully deep green foliage of this
rose distinguishes it from most others. Each
compound leaf is made up of 5-9 smaller leaflets,
each heavily veined and wrinkled (hence the
rugosa, for rugose).
Alternate and odd-pinnate, containing 5-9
elliptic to elliptic-obovate leaflets, each 1 - 2 1/2"
long with acute or obtuse apices and serrate
margins. Rugose and glabrous above, reticulate
and pubescent beneath.
With colors ranging from white to yellow, pink, and
purple, these gorgeous blooms can be either single,
semi-double, or double.
Opening in June, these 2 1/2 to 3 1/2" blooms
sweeten the air and attract bumblebees with their
fragrance. The blooms will continue sporadically
Perfect, 2 1/2 to 3 1/2" across, borne solitary or
in clusters. Pink, white, yellow, or purple with
yellow stamens, pedicels short and bristly.
View a larger version!
Looking like clusters of ripe cherry tomatoes, the orange
to red rose hips are oval and glossy, lasting until
Orange to red 1" glossy, depressed-globose hip
Fall color varies widely among members of this
species, ranging from yellow to bronze or an excellent
orange-red. Certain cultivars are known for their
better autumn coloration, including 'Albo-plena',
R. x calocarpa, and 'Fru Dagmar Hastrup'.
The stems on this rose are incredibly spiny, densely
covered in short, gray, needle-like thorns about
1/4 to 1/2" long.
There is an advantage to this prickly barrier
other rodents aren't tempted to go out for a
midnight snack with this plant!
Most roses have quite a few insect and disease problems,
and Rosa rugosa is no exception. Fortunately,
its extreme vigor and care-free culture allow it to
compensate quite well for any other short-comings.
The most common problems include powdery mildew, cankers,
rusts, black-spot, aphids, beetles (Japanese beetles
especially seem to enjoy this plant), borers, leafhoppers,
scales, mites, slugs, and more.
This rose can be propagated by seed, softwood
cuttings, or hardwood cuttings.
If grown from seed, cold stratification at 40°F
for 90 to 120 days to prepare the seedcoat for
Hardwood cuttings should be collected anytime in
November through early March, then stored at 35°
to 40°F in sand or peat. When spring rolls
around the cuttings should be planted outside with
only the top 1" of the cutting protruding from the
Softwood cuttings are also possible from July through
September. All but the top leaf should be removed,
and IBA and 1000 ppm IBA talc or quick dip are
recommended for higher success rates.
The best way to propagate this species is through
cuttings, despite literature suggesting the contrary.
They should be gathered in June-July and dipped in 8000
ppm IBA-talc, followed by a brief dormancy cycle.
This is an easy-to-grow species, although well-drained
soil is key to its success. Slightly acidic soil is
preferred, although the plant is adaptable enough
for this not to make that much of a difference.
It is extremely salt tolerant and can grow well in
pure sand when
I was vacationing in Maine, white and pink flowering
forms grew along both rocky and sandy shorelines.
Given its splendor and easy care, there are all kinds
of possibilities for a plant like Rosa rugosa.
It works quite well as a single specimen, en masse,
or either as a trimmed or unkempt hedge. The sweet
summer fragrance makes it especially nice near windows
or walkways, although it needs to be given space so that
the thorny stalks don't grow into passageways.
Its tolerance to saltspray and semi-drought
resistance also make it an ideal screen along
parking lots or other paved surfaces.
Double, pure white flowers, dense low habit. No hips,
but high disease resistance and yellow-orange fall
Semi-double, mauve-pink flowers, compact habit, and
yellow-orange fall color. Hips insignicant and
foliage dull, but high disease resistance.
'Blanc Double de Coubert'
Similar to 'Albo-plena', but more vigorous with
'Fru Dagmar Hastrup'|
Also known (incorrectly) as 'Frau Dagmar Hastrup', but
the name is Danish, hence the 'Fru'. This is my
favorite, with beautiful, extremely fragrant
silver-pink blooms and
bright yellow stamens. Hip production is high,
and fall color is yellow to orange. Disease resistance
on this compact form
is also higher than any other culitivar available.
Although popular in the trade, members of the
Grootendorst selections ('F. J. Grootendorst,
Grootendorst Supreme', 'Pink Grootendorst', and
'White Grootendorst) have lower disease resistance,
lanky habits, and other less attractive qualities.
The other cultivars mentioned here are far
superior and worth the extra time spent hunting
This popular cultivar has lilac-pink semi-double blooms
with good hip production. It does tend to get more
leggy than the "better" selections.
Traditionally, roses have long been valued for
their culinary, medicinal, cosmetic, and aromatherapy
properties. Although only R. gallica is listed
as having any medicinal properties, most old roses
still have valuable curative properties.
Rose vinegar was once used for headaches, especially
those induced by heat. The leaves also act as a
mild laxative, and rose oil is highly antiseptic.
Much more popular are the cosmetic and culinary values.
Rose hip jam, jelly, syrup, and candies are quite
popular. Other variations include rose butter a stick of butter is wrapped
in rose petals and sealed in a jar overnight. The
next day, the butter has a delicate flavor that can
be spread on bread and served with a few fresh rose
petals, like a sandwich.
Many perfumes are made from rose oil, and the petals
and rosehips are often found in potpourris for their
color and fragrance.
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