Updated date:

What Is a Rugosa Rose and How to Care for a Rugosa Rose

Cindy loves to get her hands dirty. She had her first flower garden when she was four years old.

The rugosa is a very hardy and disease resistant rose making it ideal for the beginning gardener. The rugosa rose will add year-round beauty to your garden through its flower, hips and foliage. The rugosa is a wonderful addition to a wildlife garden providing food for both pollinators and birds, and habitat for many other creatures.

The rugosa rose is a great addition to any garden provided there is enough room for its needs, and your safety - it has a profuse amount of thorns.

The rugosa rose first appeared in emperors' gardens in Japan, China and Korea. The rugosa rose is a species that grows especially well on the coast; therefore, it is hardy and tolerates sand and saltwater sprays.

A rose by any other name is still a rose …

The Rosa rugosa (Latin name) is also known as the Ramanas Rose and the Japanese Rose.

Two Japanese words by which it is known, hamanashi and hamanasu, translate to “shore pear” and “shore eggplant,” respectively. The Korean people refer to the rugosa as haedanghwa, which means “flowers near seashore.”

Some of its other common names include Hedge Hog Rose, Rosa Rugosa Hedge, Beach Rose and Saltspray Rose. Some people refer to its fruit, which are called hips, when giving the rugosa its name, commonly calling it a Beach Tomato or a Sea Tomato.

Learn More About the Rugosa

What does a Rugosa Rose look like?

Since the rugosa rose is a shrub that readily produces suckers, it grows into dense thickets with an approximate height of 39”-60” inches (1-1.5 meters). The stems of the rugosa are densely covered with thorns. Because of its thick growth habit and profuse thorns, the rugosa is often used as a formal and informal barrier hedge. It has been known to reach a height of 6 feet (1.8 meters) and a width of 10 feet (3 meters).

The rugosa produces flowers March through October, but it will bloom heaviest during its initial bloom in the spring. Its flowers are pleasantly scented, about 2.4”-3.6” (6-9cm) across, with wrinkled petals that are white, pink, red or lavender. Rugosa flowers are often single (with a circle of petals around a center disk), but may also be semi-double or double.

The hips (its fruit) produced by the rugosa are large -- approximately .8”-1.2” (2-3 cm) in diameter -- and profuse.

Uses of the Rugosa Rose

The rugosa rose is an ornamental plant that is used to beautify gardens all across Europe and North America. It is also widely used as a barrier plant.

The sweet clove-scented flowers are often used to produce potpourri.

Advantages of the Rugosa Rose

The Rugosa has some distinct advantages over other roses:

  • Cold hardy
  • Pest resistant
  • Does not require grafting -- grows on its own roots
  • Tolerates salt-spray

Because the rugosa has significant resistance to rose rust and rose black spot, it is frequently used to hybridize with other varieties of roses.

Rugosa roses are notoriously known to have stems that are profusely covered with vicious thorns; therefore, rugosas should be planted in locations that will not require you to reach into them and in places where you will not accidentally back into them.

On some cultivars, it's almost impossible to find any portion of the cane that is not completely covered with thorns.

The thorns can even be profuse, although small, on the buds of the flowers.

The thorns can even be profuse, although small, on the buds of the flowers.

Native to seashores, it is tolerant of salt-spray. This characteristic makes it useful for planting along roadways that require applications of salt for de-icing purposes. The rugosa is also fairly maintenance free.

It propagates easily, both from hardwood and softwood cuttings. These “pencil” cuttings can be planted in the spring after the danger of frost has passed.

Planting Requirements of the Rugosa Rose

The rugosa rose is more tolerant than the common rose. Its growing requirements include:

  • grown in zones 3 through 9
  • prefers moist, but well-drained soil
  • prefers a slightly acidic (5.6 to 6.5 soil pH), rich organic soil
  • prefers full to partial sun

Despite these preferences, it is very adaptable and can be grown in poor soils composed of clay, sand, rocks and other inorganic elements. It also tolerates soils that range from acidic to alkaline and will tolerate drought and high humidity, as well.

Rugosas do well with typical rose fertilization and spraying programs. They adapt better if planted in the spring and are well watered during their first growing season.

If you don't deadhead your rugosas, hips will form and ripen in the fall and lasting through the winter. Related to and similar to crab apples, the hips are very high in vitamin C. They can be used to make jams, jellies and teas.

Birds relish rose hips, and if allowed to remain on the bushes, can provide birds with food through the winter months.

Birds relish the hips of the rugosa rose and will feast on them throughout the winter.

Birds relish the hips of the rugosa rose and will feast on them throughout the winter.

Rugosas can bloom profusely. Notice all the newly formed buds waiting to burst forth.

Rugosas can bloom profusely. Notice all the newly formed buds waiting to burst forth.

These two pictures clearly show the differences between the leaves of the rugosa (above) and the typical rose (below).

Rugosa in Latin means "wrinkled". This refers to the wrinkled or crinkled appearance of their leaves. The veining of the rugosa leaves is also more pronounced, and the leaves themselves are more leathery.

Typical Rose Leaf

Typical Rose Leaf

Problems to Look Out For

Rugosas are notoriously disease resistant and are used in hybridization programs because of this resistance. Occasionally, they may have problems with:

  • black spot
  • stem canker
  • borers
  • aphids
  • mites
  • Japanese beetles

rosemagazine.com reports, "Most specimens do not like to be sprayed with anything (except plain water) ... do not recommend applying any pesticides or fungicide ... (or) phytotoxicity is quick to follow and the shrub will rapidly defoliate..." They advise to "let Nature take its course" if pest beetles become a problem; however they may be controlled using applications of beneficial nematodes (Steinernema or Heterorhabditis sp.).

Rugosa roses are easily naturalized and have the potential to become invasive. Therefore, caution is advised when used in your landscape plantings.

Where to Plant and Not Plant Your Rugosa Rose

If you have a wide bed in which you have plantings, the Rugosa would do well along the back edge. (Remember that it can be invasive, however.) It also makes a beautiful focal point. Planting in a smaller garden should probably be avoided altogether. A single plant can also be planted where it can lean against a building or fence. Because the canes are tall and arching and will bend under the weight of their profuse flowers, caution should be used in planting them in areas where people will walk. Their thorns are profuse and vicious.

How to Prune a Rugosa Rose

Before trimming or pruning your rugosa, you will need to decide how large you would like for it to become. If you choose to keep it small, you can cut it down practically to ground level once the danger of frost has passed early in the season. If you want a large and more natural-looking rugosa, you can do very little trimming removing only a small amount of old wood and suckers. To encourage newer fuller growth and to help the plant fill out, you will need to prune 3”-10” (7.6-25.4 cm) from the tops, or tips, of your bushes in the spring.

Do not prune your rugosa rose bushes if expect a frost is expected within 6 weeks of pruning.

Non-Hybrid Varieties to Consider:

  • 'F.J. Grootendorst' – filled with clusters of cranberry red flowers.
  • 'Hansa' - double, fragrant lavender to pink flowers followed by an abundance of orange hips. Recommended for first time growers.
  • 'Henry Hudson' - smaller growth habits with white flowers.
  • 'Sandy' - Created specifically for sand dune stabilization.
  • 'Terese Bugnet' – dependable heritage variety with deep red stems providing winter color.

Hybrid Varieties to Consider:

Hybrid Varieties are more disease resistant than the non-hybrid varieties; however, hybrids have less to no hips, and are less fragrant.

  • 'Blanc Double de Coubert' - semi-double to double white, fragrant flowers; 4 to 6 feet tall; blackspot and powdery mildew resistant; produces many suckers; lacks hips.
  • 'Albo-plena' - double white fragrant flowers; 4 feet tall; blackspot and powdery mildew resistant; does not produce hips.
  • 'Belle Poitevine' -- the plant has large semi-double mauve-pink flowers; very little fragrance; no hips; blackspot and powdery mildew resistant; 3 1/2 to 4 feet tall and wide.
  • Rugosa x calocarpa - large, single, purplish red flowers; 4 to 5 feet tall; produces orange-red hips with tiny spines; powdery mildew and blackspot resistant.
  • 'Frau Dagmar Hastrup' - fragrant light pink flowers; large red hips; both flowers and hips are present throughout the season; 2 to 4 feet tall; blackspot and powdery mildew resistant


The rugosa rose beginning to show its magnificent fall color.

The rugosa rose beginning to show its magnificent fall color.

© 2011 Cindy Murdoch

Comments: "What is a Rugosa Rose? Rugosa Rose Care"

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on September 19, 2017:

Angela, it really is hard to diagnose issues such as this over the internet. It could be issues with watering, not enough or too much, lack of fertilizer, insects, storm damage ... etc. The list goes on and on. I hope you are able to find the problem. Rugosas are so pretty!

Angela Pennell on September 07, 2017:

Sections of my Rugosa rose bush is dying off. What's happening?

Eileen on July 09, 2017:

I have had problems with my rugosas. Most notably the buds turn yellow and do not mature.

You stated that they do well with a fertilizing and spraying program. Yet, later on you discourage this. Also, the grower (Heirloom Roses in WA) discourages use of pesticides. They recommend a daily spray of water in the early am to knock off the pests. Would like to see a response and thank you!

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on March 07, 2012:

Nare Anthony - This is not a rose you would use as a cut rose, but it is great for wildlife. This is one of the reasons I really love this rose!

Nare Gevorgyan on March 06, 2012:

This is just so awesome! I had never heard of this rose :)

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on December 27, 2011:

davenmidtown - every seed catalog and book store is like that for me. Oh and let's not forget the candy store!

I haven't heard of that catalog. I will definitely check it out!

David Stillwell from Sacramento, California on December 27, 2011:

I like the bakercreek seed company catalog... its like the JC Penny catalog when I as six and Christmas was coming.

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on December 27, 2011:

davenmidtown - Glad to see you back again to enjoy the roses. We are getting ready to order some. Just got our first gardening catalog in the mail. So ready for spring, and it really hasn't been winter yet. Our cold months are typically January and February.

Thanks so much for stopping by.

David Stillwell from Sacramento, California on December 27, 2011:

This is still a great hub HSB: I think these roses are so fragile when they bloom that it is a joy to just stand and watch them. I can see why the Emperors loved them so.

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on November 30, 2011:

f - yes, f, they are. Thanks! Blessings to you also.

f on November 30, 2011:

YW. So many of the official genus names are Latin anyway. Blessings.

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on November 30, 2011:

f - thank you!I can see what you mean about the different languages, but I do believe it is probably Latin. Since many languages are derived from Latin, they would have some of the same characteristics.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing an excellent point!

f on November 30, 2011:

I see; ty. It does sound a little like Latin and Italian. But anyway, it does lend itself easily to a highly syllabic language such as Japanese also: Ru Go Sa. (Same comment could apply to Korean, too.)

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on November 30, 2011:

f - I believe it is Latin, since that is the genus species name.

Great question, and thanks for stopping by!

f on November 30, 2011:

Sounds almost Italian in its name. I wonder what the origin of the name is: Italian? Latin? Japanese? Korean?

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on November 30, 2011:

Beth Pipe - good to see you. I am glad you enjoyed this. Thanks for stopping by!

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on November 29, 2011:

Hello, Movie Master! So good to see you again! I don't know what zone you are in, but these are really pretty, and they smell wonderful.

Have a great week. Thanks for stopping by!

Beth Pipe from Cumbria, UK on November 29, 2011:

Stunning pics and really interesting info. What a lovely hub to read as I'm winding down for bed. Thank you.

Movie Master from United Kingdom on November 29, 2011:

What a lovely long flowering period for this rose, stunning pictures, this is one I shall have to look out for!

Many thanks for a great hub and voted up, best wishes MM

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on November 28, 2011:

Ardie, hello! Maybe you can give this one a try and break that streak. It is a nice rose if you can avoid the stems.

I am pleased that you found it to be stunning!

Always glad to see you and thanks!

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on November 28, 2011:

f - I am happy that you enjoyed the hub! Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read and to comment. I really appreciate that!

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on November 28, 2011:

Hi, eddiecarrara! I approved both of your comments as they both say something a little different. I try to respond to comments in the order that I receive them, and I generally do not approve them if I do not have time to answer them sufficiently. When people take the time to leave such great comments as you have done, I want to make sure that I acknowledge them like they deserve to be acknowledged.

You are the 2nd person that has stated that they are going along the Atlantic coast. And since they are not native to the continent, that means that they have escaped. And in that manner, they can become invasive. Its stems are so thorny that most animals would avoid it, unless they were small enough to run through and between it.

I am pleased that you enjoyed this information. I hope to be able to provide other articles that you will enjoy as well.

Thanks for stopping by and for commenting. I do love those comments!

Eddie Carrara from New Hampshire on November 28, 2011:

In NH we call this a sea rose, I find it growing along the coast usually in the front of houses, like a hedge, it's very aromatic but very invasive if it's planted it the right spot, as you mentioned. I tried to plant some in one of my gardens, but I planted it to close to the woods and it didn't have enough sunlight to take off, it's just as well, I didn't want it to take over my garden, I just loved the smell of the rose. Great hub, information packed! voted up and interesting :)

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on November 28, 2011:

Hello, brittanytodd! So good to see you! I will be visiting the forum in just a little bit to see how you are doing on your 30 in 30! I am so glad you have decided to do it with me!

I am glad that you enjoyed this hub! Thanks for visiting and I'll be seeing you around!

Sondra from Neverland on November 28, 2011:

Stunning, as always! This sounds like my kind of rose since I can't grow/keep ANYTHING I plant :)

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on November 28, 2011:

Hello, Donna! Good to see you again! We had them planted at our previous two homes, but have not done so at this home yet. I think we plan on doing that this next year.

They are really pretty, but they are very prickly. Where I planted them two houses ago, I had a particularly troublesome week that grew and spread from the roots. I eventually had to just work on keeping the week cut back lower than the roses, because there was no way to reach into them to week. They are very vicious. But they do put out a lot of hips. Rose hip tea is very healthy to drink and has lots of vitamin C.

Thanks for stopping by and for sharing. I really appreciate it when someone shares with their social networks.

Eddie Carrara from New Hampshire on November 28, 2011:

Here in NH we call it a sea rose, I find it growing along the coast in front of houses, like a hedge. It's a very aromatic flower and it has profuse blooms as you mentioned, I tried to grow it my back yard but there's not enough sun. I had planted it back near the woods because I didn't want it to take over my garden. lol. Great hub, lots of good information, voted up and interesting :)

f on November 28, 2011:

Excellent hub. Voted up.

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on November 28, 2011:

Denise - I am pleased that you enjoyed it! I love using pictures, just in case you hadn't noticed. LOL

Thanks for visiting and taking the time to leave such a kind comment!

Brittany Kennedy from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii on November 28, 2011:

These photos are beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

Donna Cosmato from USA on November 28, 2011:

Wow, what an awesome amount of research must have gone into creating this hub! Excellent information and what beautiful and unusual roses. I'd love to hear more about your experiences with them as we have a rose bush we need to replace this year, but we haven't chosen a variety as yet. Voted up and shared via social networks.

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on November 28, 2011:

Wow! What a thorough hub you've created. I love the gorgeous photos. You've really done an exceptional job here!

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on November 27, 2011:

I would imagine that they would. As big as they are, and as flat as they are, they would have a lot of surface area to hold themselves on the water. If the hip were too heavy, you could even cut the majority of it off before floating. But I think they will float. I have not planted them at this house yet, but we are planning to this next spring.

David Stillwell from Sacramento, California on November 27, 2011:

I would not think they would hold up much as a cutting flower... I wonder if they would float in a bowl?

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on November 27, 2011:

davenmidtown - These roses are really pretty. But it is hard to make them into a cutting flower because of the deadly thorns. Thanks for the votes and for sharing!

David Stillwell from Sacramento, California on November 27, 2011:

Great hub HSB This is what I had in mind when I said Rock Rose... they are so beautiful and delicate. Voted up and shared.

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on November 27, 2011:

Happyboomernurse - I am pleased that you enjoyed the hub. I don't know what growing zone you are in, but I bet it is quite possible that these are the roses that would be there. Not many roses would tolerate the saltspray. If you were to get close enough to them while they are in bloom, I bet the fragrance would be heavenly.

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. And thanks for the votes.

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on November 27, 2011:

Nice comprehensive and informative hub with great photos illustrating the points you were making. I believe there are a lot of these roses at the Delaware shore. We've had a very mild fall and they seem to still be blooming quite profusely.

Voted up, useful and interesting.