Rosa rugosa (“Korean Rose”)

Rosa rugosa (“Korean Rose”) is also known as as wrinkle-leaf rose, saltspray rose, beach tornado, Japanese, and Turkestan rose.  This wild rose originated in Siberia and the Far East (the Japanese made a delicate yellow silk dye from the roots) and came to Europe in 1796.


This is no gutless florist rose--it has a very sweet, old-fashioned fragrance and is quite spiny. Indeed, it makes a great hedge for keeping out snoopers, or plant it under a window to deter burglars. At our orchard, Rosa rugosa is a major part of the living fence that helps keep out deer. Spines also keep rabbits from eating the bark in the winter.

This plant gets 4-6 ft tall and just as wide. Rosa rugosa will grow pretty much anywhere except soggy soil and will even grow by the beach. It is hardy to the far north (zone 2, -40 F/C).  It is one of the few roses that blooms more than once a season.

Rosa rugosa will develop big hips, up to 1" in diameter, and has more flesh per fruit than many other rose hip varieties.  Birds love them.  The hips contain lots of Vitamin C and essential fatty acids. Be careful when eating the fruits not to eat the seeds, because they have hairs on them that can irritate the stomach. Rose hips are commonly used to make jams, jellies, and marmalade.

The petals are good on butter sandwiches if you cut off their white tips. Dried petals make a good tea for indigestion, or can be put into sugar to give it a rose flavor.

Tips for Growing

Start the germination process in late fall or winter. Unlike the seeds of annuals, lots of perennial seeds require a period of moist cold before they will germinate.

The easiest way to germinate Rosa rugosa is to simply plant them in a pot outside in the fall. Just barely cover the seeds with soil, and then cover the top of the pot with a screen or something else that light and rain can get through but not mice or birds.  It will germinate in the spring.

Another way to recreate the winter awakening period is to use the soak and fridge method. First, scarify the seeds by rubbing them between sheets of sandpaper and soak them for 48 hours in hot water, changing for fresh hot water every 12 hours.

After soaking the seeds, store them in a paper towel that has been wet and wrung out. Fold the paper towel over, gently press together, and put in a plastic bag (don't close it) and keep it in the fridge for 3-4 months, checking regularly for germination. Plant them as you normally would when the time is up, whether they have germinated or not.

Once your roses start to flourish, you can get many more rose bushes by allowing it to produce suckers (baby plants that grow up from the roots) or just take a cutting 6-8"/15-20cm, dip in rooting hormone, and stick in sand.

Garlic planted near this bush will help deter bugs and disease.