Rosa rugosa are disease resistant scented rose plants that are easy to grow in almost any soil or climate.
Rosa rugosa are bush roses native to Japan, China and Korea. Though not considered an “old rose”, they have been valued in their native lands for more than a thousand years for their fragrance, hardiness and the medicinal properties. These rose plants were introduced to the western world in the mid-19th century.
In their native land, R. rugosa, also known as rugosa rose, Japanese rose or beach rose, grew wild along the coast. These rose plants were hardy enough to withstand the salty ocean spray and thrived in any kind of soil, even sand. Today, rugosa roses are valued for that hardiness and their disease resistance, and are often used as rootstock for less hardy varieties.
Hardy Bush Roses
In Latin, rugosa means ‘wrinkled’ and R. rugosa gets its name from the distinctive crinkled texture of its leaves.
Rugosa roses are a bush rose that are hardy from USDA zones 3 to 9. They will grow four to six feet high and with the same spread unless kept in a smaller form by regular pruning. They are a rounded bush rose with thick thorny canes that require heavy gloves when handling.
The rose bush spreads by suckers that grow from the root. Most varieties are easy to control by annually digging the spreading canes. They are best, however if they can grow where their spread can be controlled naturally by rock or a lawn that is regularly mowed.
Scented Rose Flowers
Rugosas are a scented rose with showy fragrant flowers that can be from two to four inches. They are repeat bloomers with a flush of flowers in June and continual blooms until August. Depending on the cultivar, flowers can be white, light pink to very dark pink.
Removing spent flowers will encourage more blooms, but stop deadheading in July to allow a crop of rich red rose hips to develop.
Easy to Grow Bush Roses
Rugosa roses are very easy to grow rose plants. They require full sun to bloom well and prefer well-drained, slightly acidic soil to bring out their best colour. However, they are quite adaptable to poor quality soil and higher pH levels.
These roses do not require pruning at all, although damaged or dead canes should be cut away at any time of the year. If pruning for shape, the cutting should be done very early in the spring just as the leaves are budding out. Pruning too late may delay blooming for a couple of weeks. Fall pruning will remove the rose hips that are an important food supply for small over-wintering birds.
Popular Scented Rose Varieties
Fru Dagmar Hastrup is a scented rose with light pink, slightly frilly petals. This bush rose is hardy to USDA zone 3 and provides fall interest with yellow-orange foliage and red rose hips.
Blanc Double de Coubert has semi-double, pure-white, fragrant roses but doesn’t develop many rose hips. This rose bush grows to five feet tall and wide and is hardy to zone 3.
Grootendorst Supreme is a sport of F.J. Grootendorst that blooms constantly from June until frost with very double dark red flowers on dark green foliage. This sport is much hardier and disease resistant than the parent and is hardy to zone 3.
Thérèse Bugnet has double, medium-pink, scented rose flowers that come in one large flush in early summer with sporadic flowering until frost. The canes of this cultivar turn bright red when the weather cools providing winter interest.