I Love Rosa rugosa…I Hate Rosa rugosa

Sep 30, 2017 | Gardens

Imagine: Talk about a love/hate relationship! Yes, I have one with this rose.

Name: Rosa rugosa aka rugosa rose or beach rose

Type of Plant: A thorny, spreading rose that has the ability to grow just about everywhere.

Why I love this plant: In a genus populated with prima donnas and varieties known to be persnickety, this shrub is remarkably hardy, disease free and willing to grow in the poorest soil. The flowers are fragrant (in some cultivars especially so) and the rose hips are both beautiful and tasty.

In fact, ask my friend and pod-cast host, Ellen Zachos and she’ll tell you that the hips are wonderful in in jelly and cocktails. See her recipe for a cocktaithat honors National Podcast Day here.

 Why I hate this plant: This plant is a land grabber. It’s not content to stay in the area where you want it to grow…you can be sure it will make a play for the lawn, the neighbors yard and your driveway. I also hate the fact that because this plant suckers off to the sides with space in between clumps, it allows weeds to grow in and around the roses. But the plants are so thorny that it’s hard to get in and pull the weeds out.

A Word to the Wise: In order to keep these plants full and bushy, plus tend to the weeds regularly, cut them down to six inches every other year. This will prompt new growth and allow you to weed between the plants. If you don’t think that you’ll get to this regularly, be prepared for your rose patch to become filled with random vines and weeds.

***FORAGER ALERT!*** My friend Ellen Zachos gives the recipe for rose hip liqueur on our Plantrama blog! Use this to create wild-crafted cocktails such as the Podcasters Punch that Ellen made.

When the red hips appear on Rosa rugosa in September they are almost more lovely than the flowers.

Rosa rugosa flowers are sweetly fragrant, which is why many people use them in sea-side plantings where they sit and enjoy the scents and views.

This plant has naturalized on beaches because of its salt-tolerance and ability to grow in pure sand. It is not a native plant in North America, however.

Don’t you wish these branches and rose hips would stay like this through December? It would be the perfect plant for holiday decorating.

Normally I would put my Saturday plant post in the “Love This!” category, but I can’t honestly do that with this plant. So it’s going under “Gardens” since I don’t have a category called “Ambivalence.”


  1. Debby Gunschel

    I love Rosa Rugosa because I was brought up near Horseneck East Beach and I spent a lot of time at the beach when I was growing up..
    In my late teens , my girl friend and I decided to try making Rosa Rugosa jam. The jam is tedious to make, because you have to remove the thistle inside the each hip, .But we thought it worth it, as it was our very favorite jams. A jam that made your eyes roll back into your head with exstacy when you tasted it.. Nector of the Gods!!! They must sit around in Heaven and eat it a lot!
    The Jelly is easier ,to make but you don’t get as much bang for your buck.

    • CL Fornari

      I’m sure that the jam is totally worth it!

  2. Jacob Nickerson

    I was hoping to take my daughter with me on some hip collecting jaunts later this fall in an effort to make homemade candles that harness this rose’s beautiful fragrance. Do you or Ellen have any suggestions on how to extract a material capable of being mixed in with the candle wax?

    • CL Fornari

      I’ve never heard of Rosa rugosa being used in candles. Are you sure you’re not thinking of bayberry? The rose hips aren’t fragrant -only the flowers.

      • Jacob Nickerson

        Thank you so much for that information. Bayberry is certainly readily available near my home in Harwich as well. Do you have any advice on extracting that material from bayberries?

        • CL Fornari

          Jacob – I haven’t done it. I’m sure a quick Google search will find the information you need.

  3. Carolyn Reed

    Nice to find + read about Rose Hips–Thank You. Now to find the Recipe for the Jelly… ALL very Interesting..


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