General gardening topics

Growing Rosa Rugosa – Shrub Roses

Last updated on March 15th, 2022

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Japanese roses, or Rosa Rugosa, are strong rose-bearing shrubs. They offer pink, white or red scented flowers and green foliage. Very easy to grow, these plants are known for their scented flowers, subsequently, producing large bright hips after flowering and are often grown as hedging.

Planting Rosa Rugosa

When planting it is best to give the shrub moist, well-draining soil and exposure to full sunlight, another attribute that makes for a perfect hedge. It does best in the back of a border, south-facing or west-facing. At its full maturity, it will reach 2.4 metres in height and spread but it is usually a good idea to prune them to keep them confined and looking their best. 

Planting Rosa Rugosa

Feeding Rosa Rugosa

It is best to use a well-balanced fertiliser once at the end of winter or the beginning of spring, and again at the start of summer. It is also recommended that you mulch at the end of winter or the start of spring to help retain moisture and improve the soil quality, as you would with most roses. 

Attracting Wildlife into your Garden with Shrub Roses

After planting, you will notice they do attract an abundance of different wildlife to your garden, as this shrub brings about birds, butterflies, bees, and pollinators/beneficial insects. The flowers are rich in pollen and nectar while the interior provides the perfect shelter for birds. 

Taking Rosa Rugosa Cuttings

You can propagate the Rosa Rugosa by taking hardwood cuttings and these are cuttings that you take in autumn. You want strong hardwood with a bit of inflexibility rather than newer and greener stems because the hardwood is more durable over winter while the new growth will rot. 

Taking cutting from Rosa Rugosa

Step 1

Take cuttings no more than 15cm in length from the top of a branch. Remove all but the top two pairs of leaves. Dip the end in rooting hormone to encourage the faster development of the root system.

Step 2

Take some small pots or containers, fill them with potting soil and insert the ends of the cuttings directly into the middle. You have a lot of options here to use, whether you opt for large containers or trays where you can evenly space out the cuttings, or individual pots for each cutting. There are propagating containers that come with plastic lids that you can alter to control the airflow, or you can just use a plastic or styrofoam cup with a plastic cup on top. 

Regardless of the method you use, the idea is to create a small greenhouse whereby you have a plastic or glass cover on top, one that doesn’t touch the leaves or the cutting directly.

Step 3

Water when needed to prevent the soil from drying out but don’t overwater because it will lead to diseases like mildew and root rot. Place the containers somewhere out of direct sunlight. Within a few weeks, you should see new growth, and come spring, you can remove the new plants and repot them elsewhere. 


When pruning, you want to wait until the end of summer, after the shrub rose has finished flowering. The stems should be pruned lightly and you need to remove any diseased or damaged stems.

when to prune Rosa Rugosa roses

To generate more vigorous growth in the future, we recommend removing 1 in every 5 of the older stems to ground level each year. 

You can read more about pruning Rosa Rugosa in this article here.

Pests and Diseases


There are many small pests that can prove problematic, although they can be removed with sprays of water, homemade solutions of detergent/water, as well as pesticides you can buy from any garden centre. Be on the lookout for red spider mites, caterpillars, rose aphids and rose leafhoppers. The good news is that Rosa Rugosa is very hardy and these pests do not usually cause any serious issues.


In terms of diseases, like most roses, black spot, powdery mildew and rust are all potential problems. Rust is a form of fungal disease that results in black spores on the leaves. Thankfully it is not particularly serious and won’t kill your plant. You can control it with pruning, getting rid of any infected spots quickly, and removing any fallen leaves so that the spores cannot collect and multiply once winter comes. Otherwise, there are fungicides you can use to spray affected roses at the first signs

Black spot on rose

A bit more serious is black spot, this is a fungal infection with purple or black spots manifesting on leaves, causing them to drop prematurely. To manage this, you can similarly collect any fallen leaves and remove them or apply a fungicide such as RoseClear.  

While the plant is commonly used as a hedging plant, you must be careful of any white, powdery growth. Rose powdery mildew can happen without proper air circulation or in areas with high humidity. You can combat it by pruning away some branches to create more air circulation, watering at the base and mulching, and spraying with a fungicide at the very first signs.

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