Rugosa rose produces loads of beautiful, fragrant, rosy violet flowers in early summer and sporadically in late summer and early fall. Hybrid cultivars of rugosa rose have white, light pink, deep pink, and purplish red flowers. This dense-growing, wide-spreading shrub rose is exceedingly cold hardy and disease resistant and has handsome, wrinkled, deep green foliage that often develops yellow, orange, and red tints in the fall. In addition, this rose produces showy fruits, or hips, that provide a bright splash of red-orange through the fall and early winter.
Common name: Rugosa rose or Japanese rose
Botanical name: Rosa rugosa
Plant type: Deciduous shrub
Zones: 2 to 9
Height: 3 to 8 feet
Width: 3 to 8 feet
Family: Rosaceae, rose family
· Sun: Full sun.
· Soil: Prefers well-drained soil with ample organic matter but tolerates a range of soil types, including clay and sand. Slightly acidic soil pH is best.
· Moisture: Consistent moisture is preferable, but rugosa rose has fairly good drought tolerance.
· Mulch: None, or a 1- to 2-inch layer of organic mulch such as small wood chips, composted leaves, or cocoa bean hulls.
· Pruning: Rugosa roses take well to pruning, though their thorny stems can make it a daunting experience for the gardener. Prune in spring to reduce height.
· Fertilizer: Apply a balanced fertilizer once or twice during the growing season.
· You can grow species from seeds. Seeds require a cold stratification period of three to four months. Sow seeds outdoors in the fall, or place the seeds in a plastic bag with some slightly damp sphagnum peat moss and store in the refrigerator for three to four months. Then sow seeds indoors under lights.
· Propagate cultivars from softwood cuttings taken in mid- to late summer. Treat with a rooting hormone.
Pests and diseases
· Resistant to rose diseases such as blackspot and powdery mildew.
· Aphids, mossy rose gall (caused by a small wasp), and Japanese beetles may affect rugosa rose.
· Rugosa rose is amazingly salt tolerant. It has naturalized along sandy beach areas in New England, where it is sometimes called “saltspray rose.” It also tolerates road salt that is applied in cold climates.
· Harvest the large, red-orange hips to make jelly. These large, colorful hips give this rose one of its other common names—beach tomato.
· Mix rugosa roses with other roses, flowering shrubs, small evergreens, and perennials. Or use them as a low hedge or foundation planting.
· ‘Alba’ (also listed as var. alba): Blush pink buds open to pure white flowers
· ‘Albo-plena’ (also listed as var. albo-plena): Double white flowers
· ‘Belle Poitevine’: Semidouble, mauve-pink flowers
· ‘Blanc Double de Coubert’: Semidouble to double white flowers
· ‘Dart’s Dash’: Large, semidouble, mauve flowers and showy red-orange hips
· ‘Fru Dagmar Hastrup’ (also listed as ‘Frau Dagmar Hartopp’): Fragrant, light pink flowers
· ‘Hansa’: Large, fragrant, semidouble purplish red flowers
· ‘Roseraie de l’Hay’: Large, fragrant, double purplish red flowers
· ‘Thérèse Bugnet’: Large, double, medium pink flowers; reddish canes add winter interest
All in the family
· Rugosa rose is used in shrub-rose breeding projects because its genes contribute cold tolerance and disease resistance to the resulting hybrids.
· Rugosa roses originated in Japan, Northern China, and Korea, but they have naturalized in a number of places in North America.
· The rose family is a huge and diverse group of plants that includes many ornamental and food-producing plants, including apples, peaches, cherries, raspberries, mountain ash (Sorbus), hawthorns (Crataegus), spireas, and, of course, roses.
(Text by Nancy Rose, photo of Rosa rugosa ‘Alba’ courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden’s Kemper Center for Home Gardening.)