Content Detail

Rugosa roses are known for their extreme hardiness, alluring spicy fragrance, attractive fruit, and fall color. Rugosa roses are large, 4 to 6 foot high shrubs, suitable for difficult sites, and tend to have fewer disease problems.

  • Family (English) Rose
  • Family (botanic) Rosaceae
  • Tree or plant type Shrub
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Small shrub (3-5 feet), Medium shrub (5-8 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 2, Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Moist, Sandy soil, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, clay soil, Dry sites, Occasional flooding, Road salt
  • Season of interest early summer, midsummer
  • Flower color and fragrance Fragrant, Pink, Purple, White
  • Shape or form Multi-stemmed, Round, Thicket-forming
  • Growth rate Moderate

Size & Form:

Rugosa rose usually grows 4 to 6 feet high and wide. It is an upright, sturdy shrub with stout stems. The branches are often allowed to gracefully arch and develop a spreading form. The plant will sucker and form colonies.

Native geographic location and habitat:

Native to Japan, China, and Korea.

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife: 

Many species of birds are attracted to the fruit which ripens in August and often persists through winter.

Bark color and texture: 

Stout, bristly stems are incredibly spiny, densely covered in 1/4 inch needle-like thorns. 

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture: 

Alternately arranged, the pinnately-compound leaf is made up of five to nine smaller oblong leaflets, slightly serrated, with heavily veined and wrinkled (hence the rugosa) texture. The dark green leaves turn a beautiful orange-red fall color.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size: 

Clusters of mostly single, 2 to 3 inch wide, pink flowers with showy yellow stamens open in June and continue throughout the summer with sporadic blooms until frost. Flowers are sweetly fragrant. Hybrid colors include red, pink, lavender, and white and can be single or double flowers.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions: 

Attractive, large, 1 inch, cherry-like fruits ( rose hips) can be bright red to orange-red.  Fruits ripen in August and often persist into winter.

Plant care: 

Rosa rugosa is adaptable to many different soil types, including those that are temporarily wet, however it will not tolerate extremely wet conditions. It is salt tolerant and grown on its own roots, making it more hardy than other roses. Winter protection is usually not needed. Occasional pruning is needed to remove dead canes.  

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances: 

Thick leaves are less prone to fungal problems, rust, and Japanese beetles. Thorny stems deter rabbit and rodent damage. This plant can sucker aggressively.

Blanc Double de Coubert rugosa rose (Rosa rugosa ‘Blanc Double de Coubert’):

Grows 4 to 5 feet high and wide. This vigorous grower is very resistant to black spot and powdery mildew. A sturdy shrub rose with stout, upright stems. Clean, glossy dark foliage and clusters of semi-double, white, highly fragrant flowers with yellow stamens. Plant rarely produces hips.

Charles Albanel rugosa rose (Rosa rugosa ‘Charles Albanel’):

A small, 2 to 3 feet high and wide mounded shrub with double mauve flower in summer, followed by bright orange-red rose hips. Fall color is a golden yellow.

Frau Dagmar Hastrup rugosa rose (Rosa rugosa ‘Frau Dagmar Hastrup’):

Grows 3 to 4 feet high and wide. This vigorous grower is very resistant to black spot and powdery mildew. Fragrant, silvery-pink, single blooms with showy yellow stamens appear in June. This prolific bloomer produces large, red hips in great quantity that color as early as July. The plant’s rich, dark green foliage turns an excellent yellow to orange color in the fall.

Hansa rugosa rose (Rosa rugosa ‘Hansa’):

Grows 4 to 5 feet high and wide with a rounded habit. Fragrant, reddish-purple flowers followed by showy red rose hips. The dark green, crinkly foliage turns a golden orange in fall.

Purple Pavement rugosa rose (Rosa rugosa ‘Purple Pavement’):

A 3 to 4 feet high and wide shrub with umbrella-like habit. Flowers are a ruffled purplish-red accented with yellow stamens. Attractive yellow rose hips contrast well with the dark green foliage.


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