Garden roses are a favorite plant of many gardeners, but for others they require more care than they are willing to give. If you are one of those who believe garden roses are too difficult, the Rosa rugosa may be the rose for you. Rugosa roses provide recurrent bloom, fruit, and foliage color. In addition, they are disease resistant, cold hardy (growing in zones 2 to 7), and survive on poor, dry soils. Rugosa roses grow 2 to 6 feet tall and are often used as hedges or as background plantings in perennial gardens. They also look attractive in massed plantings. These plants are native to northern China, Korea, and Japan. Once established, the only care required is annual renewal pruning. This involves removing the oldest canes at ground level during late winter or early spring before growth begins.
Some recommended rugosa rose hybrids include:
- 'Blanc Double de Coubert' -- this hybrid has semidouble to double white, fragrant flowers with yellow stamens. Blooms late May through early October. It has dark, glossy green foliage with yellow fall color. It grows 4 to 6 feet tall. It is highly resistant to blackspot and powdery mildew. Its main drawback is sucker production and lack of showy hips.
- 'Albo-plena' -- this variety has double white fragrant flowers with dark green foliage. It grows 4 feet tall and is blackspot and powdery mildew resistant. It does not produce hips.
- 'Belle Poitevine' -- the plant has large semidouble mauve-pink flowers with yellow stamens. It does not have a strong fragrance or produce long-lasting hips. It is resistant to blackspot and powdery mildew. It has a dense, compact habit, growing only 3 1/2 to 4 feet tall and wide. It has a yellow to orange fall color.
- Rugosa x calocarpa has large, single, purplish red flowers with showy stamens. It grows 4 to 5 feet tall and has a dense, mounded habit. It turns burnt orange to red and maroon in the fall for excellent fall color. It also produces orange-red hips with tiny spines. It is highly resistant to powdery mildew and blackspot.
- 'Frau Dagmar Hastrup' -- this variety produces fragrant light pink flowers with yellow stamens. It has large red hips that appear shortly after the first flush of flowers so both flowers and hips are present throughout the season. The hips remain showy until November. The plant grows 2 to 4 feet tall and has yellow to orange fall color. It has good blackspot and powdery mildew resistance as well.
Some other rugosa roses to look for include: 'Delicata', 'Hansa', 'Scabrosa', 'Schneezwerg', 'F. J. Groutendorst', and 'Therese Bugnet'. These varieties are also winter hardy but do not show the same disease resistance as the ones listed above.
Rugosa roses offer flowers, fragrance, color variety, easy care, hardiness, and disease resistance all in one. What more could a person want from a rose.
This article originally appeared in the May 13, 1992 issue, p. 80.