Water Blog

News, notes and thoughts from Blue Water Baltimore.

Native Roses of Maryland

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Carolina rose. © Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Carolina rose. © Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Are you looking to kick your native plant garden up a notch?

Do you prize native shrubs that are beautiful and support many kinds of wildlife?

Look no further than Maryland’s native roses.

These are not intensely-bred hybrid roses that belong in a plant museum: these are hardy, well-adjusted plants native to our region that play an important role in a healthy plant community.

Native roses are host to more than 120 species of native butterfly and moth caterpillars, the flowers have been identified by the Xerces Society as having special value for native bees (especially bumblebees), and the rose hips are a fantastic source of fuel for winter birds.

There are five species of rose native to Maryland, three of which (marked with *) we hope to offer for sale at Herring Run Nursery this Spring.

Most native roses prefer acidic soils, but are otherwise pretty adaptable and have a fast growth rate.

Rosa blanda (Smooth Rose)

Smooth rose is best adapted to dry, sunny areas. It is nearly thornless, and grows in colonies to a height of about 3 feet. It can be aggressive in garden soils, but handles nutrient-poor soils easily.

Rosa carolina (Carolina Rose)*

Carolina rose also suckers with a  low height, but has much more thorny stems than smooth rose. Carolina rose is very shade tolerant, but grows well in most soil types in full sun as well.

Rosa palustris  (Swamp Rose)*

Hips on rosa palustris ©Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Swamp rose is relatively upright and tall, reaching a height of up to 8 feet with thorny stems.  As the name suggests, swamp rose can tolerate soils that are wet and rich in nutrients.   This is also one of the most fragrant native roses.

Rosa setigera (Climbing Rose)

Climbing rose is more vine than shrub, and can be a fine choice for sunny areas with fertile soil. It does not readily tolerate either drought or consistently wet soils.

Rosa virginiana (Virginia Rose)*

Virginia rose is slightly taller than Carolina rose, but similar in most other respects.  It can reach a height of four to six feet, and has lustrous dark green leaves. It is relatively salt tolerant, and makes a great hedge in the right soils.