Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Permaculture Plants: Rugosa Roses

The Rugosa Rose has a wonderful rose aroma

Common Name: Rugosa Rose, Japanese Rose
Scientific Name: Rosa rugosa
Family: Rosaceae

The large fruits of the Rosa rugosa... well, large compared to other roses.

The rose almost needs no description.  This species is a thorny shrub that can form dense thickets up to 6 feet (2 meters) tall.  Flowers are fragrant and are white to dark pink.  Rosa rugosa will produce fruits called rose hips which are 0.5 - 1.5 inches (1.25 - 3.8 cm) in diameter.

Rosa rugosa by Karen Klugein

This rose is native to eastern Asia where it has been cultivated for about a thousand years.  It has been rather extensively introduced to Europe and North America.


  • Rosa rugosa is also called the beach tomato, sea tomato, saltspray rose, and beach rose - this is due to the large fruit (compared to other roses) and its salt-tolerance. 
  • It is highly resistant to common rose diseases (especially rose rust and rose black spot) and it hybridizes (cross-breeds) with other rose species well - this is why it is used by many rose breeders
  • Rose hips are very high in vitamin C

 Rosa rugosa in its natural environment (the beach) in one of its naturalized homes (New Hampshire)... although it can grow in just about any well-draining soil

Primary Uses:
  • Fragrance
  • Extract juice with a steam juice extractor
  • Fresh eating of hips and flowers
  • Preserves, jams, jellies, etc.
  • Herbal teas
  • Dried
  • Syrups
  • Cordials
  • Soups (a Scandinavian favorite)
  • Fruit leather
  • Rose Hip Candy

Secondary Uses:
  • Shelter to birds and small mammals
  • Fall and winter fruit for birds and small mammals
  • General nectar source for insects (especially bees)
  • Nectar source for hummingbirds
  • Hedge
  • Screen
  • Erosion control
  • Flowers can be used for perfumes and other fragrant uses (like pot-pourri)

Yield: 1 bushel (35 liters), up to 75 lbs, but it depends on the size you allow the thicket/hedge/bush to grow.
Harvesting: Late summer into autumn.  Pick anytime after the hips are fully colored.  Most people cut the hip in half, scoop out the seeds and hairs, and then process the fruit.  You can nibble the fruit off larger hips with Rosa rugosa - it is refreshingly tart.  Some will say that the best time to pick the hips is just after the first frost.  The flesh of the fruit will be soft and sticky and easier to process.  I have not tried this yet, so I do not know first hand.
Storage: Fresh hips will store for only a week or two

Rosa rugosa Rose Petal Jelly and Rose Hip Jelly

USDA Hardiness Zone: 2-7 (all the way to 10 depending on which source you read)
AHS Heat Zone: 9-2
Chill Requirement: As this is a fruiting plant from a Temperate Climate, some chill likely increases yield, but I cannot find any research on this topic.

Plant Type: Shrub
Leaf Type: Deciduous
Forest Garden Use: Shrub
Cultivars/Varieties: Many available.

Pollination: Self-Pollinating/Self-Fertile, typically by bees
Flowering: Late spring to late summer and early autumn

Life Span: Can be almost perpetual if you allow the suckers to develop into a new plant

Rugosa roses turn a brilliant yellow in autumn.

Size: 4-6 feet (1.5-2 meters) tall and 4-8+ feet (1.5-2.5 meters) wide
Roots: Shallow, suckers will form and slowly spread outward
Growth Rate: Fast

Another beautiful variety, Rosa rugosa Regeliana
Notice the honey bees on the flowers

Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Tolerates light shade (about 50%)
Moisture: Medium to Dry
pH: 5.1 – 7.0 (acid to neutral)

Special Considerations for Growing:
Tolerates juglone (natural growth inhibitor produced by Black Walnut and its relatives).  Obviously, the thousands of varieties have not all be studied for this, but it appears that at least the more “wild” or less developed roses are not inhibited by juglone.

By seed, needs at least 16 weeks stratification for germination.
Can dig up and replant suckers in a new location.

Minimal.  May have to remove suckers to keep plant from spreading, and occasional pruning of older stems will improve the appearance.

  • Can spread easily through suckering root system - thicket forming.
  • Can easily pop up and grow where not planted through seeds spread by birds and other small animals.

Rosa rugosa Blanc Double De Coubert... a beautiful variety


  1. I love my rugosas.. I first planted them as a catch crop for aphids but was delighted to find every manner of not just ladybugs but lacewings, assassin beatles, and parasitic wasps using them as home.

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  3. I love this wild rose it is wildly grown in Denmark.The flowers smell soo good and i picked one everytime I passed by then smell it and put up in my right ear. Then once I saw an old couple picking the hips Id stopped and asked them if what they going to do w/ it because back then I had no knowledge about it. then the couple said we will make a jam from it then I was so amazed and said wow! really? anyway thank you for sharing.

  4. Rugosa rugosa can be used as a rootstock.
    See whip grafting.