Wild roses like the potato rose are currently experiencing a noticeable renaissance, because many gardeners have become aware of the fragrance and the original vigor of the “original rose” Rosa rugosa and are enthusiastic about the unproblematic natural roses. This is about care and cutting and the possible uses of the potato rose.

Caring for the potato rose

The Rosa rugosa is one of the easiest to care for plants that one can imagine.

It has almost no demands on its location as long as there is a little light there – at least light penumbra would be good, full sun is just as well and gladly tolerated. In terms of soil, the potato rose is completely undemanding, and where potato roses cannot thrive, people should probably stay away.

The Rosa rugosa grows on sandy soils with almost no nutrients, on salty soils with little vegetation, when the wind blows strongly around its nose, it still clings to the last bit of dune five meters from the sea, there are beautiful pictures on the Internet, on which very tender young shoots of a potato rose are just undeterred breaking through the mighty thick concrete slabs of a former military installation.

If you read that the leaves of the potato rose can turn yellow on chalky soils, it seems to indicate that they cannot tolerate any reasonably normal soil. That is wrong, a potato rose will not have any problems in normal soil, whether the pH value is more acidic or more calcareous (alkaline). It just doesn’t tolerate any excess lime in the soil, then it develops (like most other plants too) leaf chlorosis, because a soil with too much lime at some point no longer enables a normal supply. Especially if this soil is also heavily compacted – very many plants will not grow on such soil, and the potato rose will probably be one of the last to give up.

Potato roses can be planted in autumn or spring, the shoots are then cut back to a few buds, after planting they should be well watered once. If a long period of drought follows immediately after planting, you should give the potato rose a little more watering to help it take root without problems. But actually that’s it with the care, once your potato rose has grown, it will almost certainly develop splendidly even if you never look at it again.

To cut

However, you can pay attention to it, every two years, because then the potato rose will benefit from a strong pruning. The potato rose sets flowers and fruits on the young wood of the season, if you shorten it every two years in winter / spring so that only about a quarter remains, you ensure good branching. You select the strongest shoots and leave four to five buds on them, the weaker shoots only keep two to three buds, the top buds should face outwards. The potato rose develops a beautiful, loose growth habit, which in the following year, without any pruning, develops a particularly large number of flowers and rose hips. In this growth form the Rosa rugosa will be 1.5 meters high.

If the potato rose does not stand as a free-standing green area but is in a hedge, it is pruned every spring. You then thin them out by removing the oldest two to three shoots. These shoots are cut away just above the ground so that the potato rose forms new shoots from the base, thus keeping the plant young. The shoots obtained grow up to 40 cm per year, with such pruning care a free-growing hedge with potato rose can grow up to 2 meters high.

If a potato rose has been allowed to grow freely for too long, at some point it will no longer look good in the upper area, with widely spaced, thin and sparsely decorated branches. Then it’s time for a radical pruning, a potato rose can easily be “put on the stick”, that is, cut down to the ground. The plant then sprouts completely anew and is further cared for in one of the forms just described.

But: Caution is advised with the Rosa rugosa

When fresh gardeners have informed themselves about the care of the potato rose, the faces of the new gardeners are usually beaming: A blooming wild rose that grows in any soil, cannot be stopped by salt or lack of nutrients, after which neither fertilizer nor additional watering needs – that sounds wonderful, you really can’t go wrong with that.

Yes, you can, namely whenever you plant the Rosa rugosa somewhere where it can spread unhindered. This applies above all to the wild forms, but to a limited extent also to the hybrids.

The potato rose likes to develop root runners and rhizomes with which it expands to the sides. Every sprout that gets into a sandy soil somewhere takes root, every root fragment a few centimeters long becomes a new plant, even if it is no longer attached to the mother plant. A number of birds also ensure the spread of the potato rose, the seeds that are excreted germinate almost everywhere.

Potato roses were planted on dunes in many coastal areas to prevent erosion, where they have developed such an aggressive spreading behavior that they overgrow entire stretches of land. If spreading potato roses have had a good start, it is almost impossible to contain them again. Potato roses overgrown in the open countryside sprout again after mowing, after multiple mowing, neither by sheep nor by burning the roots can be prevented from sprouting again and again from the remains.

In the meantime, the potato rose (not native to us, see below) is therefore regarded as an invasive neophyte with regard to landscape design, which is only used with caution. In the home garden, the control options are of course completely different, but here too the planting should be done carefully, choosing the right variety.

Varieties and hybrids

The Rosa rugosa comes from East Asia; it is native to southern Kamchatka, northern Japan, Korea and China, where it has been cultivated for around a thousand years. The fast-growing rose came to Europe in the luggage of the Swedish naturalist Carl Peter Thunberg, who hired himself as a surgeon for the Dutch East India Company in order to get to Japan and to explore (and smuggle) the flora there. When he left Japan in 1776, he had seeds of Rosa rugosa with him, which reached London with him in 1778, and in 1796 a nursery near London offered the first potato roses for sale. From there it slowly spread across Europe; the German botanist von Siebold probably even introduced it again from Japan in the middle of the 19th century.From then on, the potato rose made “its career” in Germany, at the beginning of the 20th century it was so widespread that it is often described as a native plant.

At that time the potato rose was already introduced in two types, the normal Rosa rugosa with pink flowers and the white potato rose “Alba”, which is already an Asian cultivated form of the “real potato rose”. These healthy, resilient and strong wild forms of the potato rose can perform special tasks in the garden (which will be explained below).

The vigor of the new plant quickly delighted the European breeders, they produced many hybrids, which mostly inherited the wrinkled foliage (potato herb = potato rose), but also the long flowering time, the magnificent rose hips and resilience.

Hybrid forms of Rosa rugosa have now emerged in many colors and for a wide variety of uses, at least the first dozen of the most important and successful hybrids are briefly presented below:

  • “Agnes”: Old variety, grown at the end of the 19th century from Rosa rugosa and a natural mutation of the Asian wild rose Rosa foetida (Persian Yellow), yellow flowers with an expressive lemon scent, robust and healthy, a vigorously growing rose bush with an extremely large number of thorns for well-fortified free-growth hedges or solitary positions.
  • “Blanc double de Cubert”: Also bred over 100 years ago, white bloom and bushy growth, permanent bloomer with a sweet scent and beautiful autumn color, needs a sunny location as it is not very rainproof.
  • “Dagmar Hastrup”: Bred in 1914, delicate ground cover rose with pastel pink flowers and large yellow-red rose hips, beautiful in low hedges, flat plantings and small groups.
  • “FJ Grootendorst”: “Carnation rose”, with ruffled petals, cultivated from 1918, carmine-red flowers and up to almost 2 m high, bushy growth, uncomplicated and suitable for any bright spot in the garden.
  • “Hansa”: Magenta rose from 1905, permanently blooming with a strong sweet scent and lacquer red rose hips, robust all-rounder.
  • “Mme Georges Bruant”: Beautiful and very old (1887) Rosa rugosa with creamy white, semi-double flowers, well scented and very hardy.
  • “Moje Hammarberg”: Originated in 1931, magenta bloom and very natural “messy” growth, otherwise uncomplicated.
  • “Pink Grootendorst”: Mutation by FJ Grootendorst from 1923, flowers appearing in thick clusters in clear pink with frayed edges, little fragrance.
  • “Rosa x paulii”: White rose from 1903, interesting arched growth and scent of cloves.
  • “Rosa rugosa rubra”: Bred in Great Britain around 1800, dark magenta, unfilled flowers with bright yellow stamens, bushy growth and a sweet fragrance.
  • “Pink dwarf” :, abundant dwarf form from 1985, pink, well-scented, semi-double flowers.
  • “Roseraie de l’Hay”: violet color wonder with ruffled petals, grown in 1901, strong, fruity scent and attractive autumn color.

That was a dozen of probably several hundred cultivars of the potato rose, with every halfway assorted rose dealer you can get over 100 varieties of Rosa-Rogusa-Hybrids, the selection of your favorite variety will certainly keep you busy for a while.

However, this article is first about the general benefits of the potato rose for the home garden, which is why we will now introduce you to the various possible uses:

Quick garden design with the potato rose and its hybrids

The Rosa rugosa in its most original (wild) form is always your willing partner when quick and uncomplicated greening is required, but should only be planted in a free location in the garden with a root barrier.

With the wild form, a really quick greening can be achieved if you can use it in garden areas in which you do not have to bury a root barrier first. For example, on top of a frieze wall that has not been stabilized with earth but with cement, then the root runners can hardly spread. If you choose a variety whose rose hips you can use well and pick the rose hips fairly quickly, the spreading through seeds by birds will remain within tolerable limits.

The wild form of Rosa rugosa is also a good rose for designing slopes if you can integrate root barriers on the sides of a slope without much effort. This is e.g. This is the case, for example, with a slope that has just been filled up or that has already been built, the potato rose, with its powerful roots, quickly stabilizes the slope and also prevents erosion. Even on steep slopes, where proper engineering-biological slope stabilization takes place, a root barrier can usually be integrated without any problems when setting up the fastening with geo-grids and earth cover, so that the strong roots of the potato rose only develop their strength where it is desired.

The hybrid forms of the Rosa rugosa have inherited the resistance (insensitivity to diseases) and the absolute winter hardiness as well as the abundance of flowers and the scent from the original form of the potato rose. These new garden varieties are easy to care for, but are not considered to be as proliferative as the wild forms (you should still expect that you will occasionally have to dig up a young rose).


The Rosa rugosa is an almost uncanny wild rose that can help with quick greening of the garden in any variety. With regard to wild roses, however, this article was only the first “appetizer”. The potato rose, with its innumerable hybrid forms and unusually easy propagation, offers many possibilities, and the native wild roses such as the dog roses Rosa sect. Caninae with their many species have not yet been mentioned at all.

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