Over 20 rose species are native to various parts of North America, but some are rarer than others. Most bloom only once a year and bear single, pollinator-friendly single flowers in white, pink, or rose. When the petals fade, native roses develop nutritious scarlet hips that are a treat for birds and animals, not to mention the humans who sometimes forage for them. Some natives are armed to the teeth with lots of sharp prickles, making them perfect for boundary or privacy hedges. Species like Rosa blanda, which feature relatively smooth stems, can hold their own in more “civilized” situations.
The following native roses have the widest North American geographic distribution, making them good candidates for wild gardens.
Remember that wild landscapes and gardens can be “wild” without looking completely unruly. They are created using native species and emphasize biodiversity, habitat creation, sustainability, and beauty. Plant placement can be naturalistic while also be civilized and pleasing to the eye.
To use native roses most effectively, provide enough space. Many, but not all varieties grow tall and relatively wide, with a tendency to form dense thickets if left to their own devices. They look great planted alongside bold native Adam’s needle (Yucca filamentosa), breezy native bunch grasses like Shenandoah switch grass (Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’), and native purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea).
Species roses have gotten by on their own for millennia, but they will respond with more flowers and hips if given a good start with a quality soil amendment like Fafard® Premium Topsoil, alfalfa meal natural fertilizer, and regular of water. All bloom and perform better if given open air and full sun. Prune seasonally to keep plants tidy and to promote good airflow, which will dissuade fungal diseases.
Native roses are not available in big-box stores or even most garden centers. The best way to locate specific species is to seek out mail order nurseries that specialize in species roses. High Country Roses is one such source.
This is the most important step! Old roses are often the most fragrant and beautiful, but they are more often maintenance nightmares. Classic Hybrid Tea and Grandiflora (and other) rose varieties were bred for their voluptuous, iconic flowers, with little consideration for the plants’ overall vigor and disease resistance. Consequently, they’re susceptible to a slew of diseases including blackspot, powdery mildew, and stem cankers. They’re also easy marks for rose chafers, Japanese beetles, rose slugs, and a host of other insects that prey on roses.
Roses thrive in full sun and rich, healthy, humus-rich soil. Before you plant your rose, amend the soil with Fafard Premium Natural & Organic Compost. It adds rich organic matter for increased water-holding capacity and porosity. Follow up by adding fertilizer formulated for roses. This will encourage strong growth and flowering.
Ample air circulation helps too. Plant your prize rose in a hole that’s at least twice as wide as its root ball, and amend the backfill and surrounding soil with compost and organic fertilizer. Then apply a 1- to 2-inch layer of mulch to keep the roots moist and cool (and keep the soil microorganisms happy!). Plants should be well spaced to allow air flow.
While we have made every effort to ensure the information on this website is reliable, Sun Gro Horticulture is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. All information in this site is provided “as is”, with no guarantee of completeness, accuracy, timeliness or of the results obtained from the use of this information.