How to grow and care for dog rose

Dog rose. Getty images.

The dog rose, Rosa canina, is a vigorous shrub that’s often grown as a hedge, with pretty pink flowers in summer. Although it tends to reach around a height of 2m as a hedge, the dog rose is fast growing and, if given enough support, will climb up other shrubs or trees. It’s apparently called the dog rose because its roots were believed to cure the bite of a rabid dog. A more apt name for this native plant is briar rose and its scrambling thorny stems make it an effective boundary plant.

Wild roses flower just once, rather than repeat flowering throughout summer and into autumn. Their summer flowers are followed by a prolific display of vibrant rose hips, which are eaten by birds such as blackbirds, redwings and fieldfares, as well as small mammals like bank voles and squirrels. Rose hips are a good source of vitamin C, with 20 times the amount of vitamin C than oranges (weight for weight), and can be made into syrups or jellies.

Rosa canina will flower in early summer and produce hips in autumn. It’s an excellent plant for wildlife.

How to grow dog rose

Grow dog roses in full sun either as a large shrub in the border or as a hedging plant. It’s not strictly necessary to feed wild roses but you may want to feed every couple of weeks in spring with a general fertiliser and switch to a high potash fertiliser, such as tomato fertiliser, in summer. Prune from late autumn through to early spring, ideally leaving the rose hips for wildlife.

Where to grow dog rose

Hips of Rosa canina, dog rose

Dog roses put on their best display in full sun in moist, but well-drained soil, but they can tolerate some shade and poor soil. You will often see them in hedges in the countryside and they can be used in planting areas including coastal areas (where they make a good wind barrier), the edges of woodland, as hedging for a boundary or as an ornamental shrub.

How to plant dog rose

Checking the planting depth of a bare-root rose

The most economical way to buy dog roses is to buy bare-root plants, which can be planted between November and April. Plant bare root roses as soon as possible after they arrive. Soak the rootball well before planting.

  1. Dig a hole that is the same depth and width as your space
  2. Fork over the bottom of the hole and add some granular fertiliser
  3. Place the rose in the hole. Place a bamboo cane across the hole and plant the rose so that its base is just below the cane
  4. Add some compost to the soil that you’ve dug out of the hole. Then fill in around the rose, firming the plant in well. Water after planting

If planting dog rose as hedging, you will need around three to seven bare-root plants per metre. This varies depending on the size of plant you purchase.

How to care for dog roses

Feeding roses

It’s not strictly necessary to feed wild roses but you may choose to for a better display. If so, feed throughout spring with a general fertiliser to encourage good growth and use a fertiliser that’s high in potash, such as tomato fertiliser, once your roses start flowering. Feed every two weeks during the growing season. Water new roses in summer until they are established.

How to prune dog rose

Prune dog roses once flowering is over, from late autumn through to early spring, however you may want to leave pruning as late as possible to ensure wildlife can use the hips. Aim to remove any dead, diseased wood as well as crossing or weak branches. If the centre of the shrub is congested, remove a a couple of older stems as well.

How to propagate dog rose

The best way to make more dog rose plants is to take hardwood cuttings. This is can be done in autumn. Cut a section of new stem (from the current year’s growth), above a node (where leaves, buds and shoots emerge from the stem). Cut your stem into pieces 25-30cm long, cutting at an angle just above the top bud and straight across just below the bottom bud. This will help you plant the cutting the right way up.

Make a slit trench in the soil as deep as your spade’s blade. Push the earth back. Insert your cuttings into the trench leaving a quarter of the cutting above the soil. Firm the soil around the cuttings and water well.

Pests and diseases

All roses attract aphids, sawfly larvae and leafhoppers. These are not usually a problem unless found in large quantities, and it’s always best to let natural predators, such as birds and wasps, keep numbers under control. Depending on where you live, rabbits and deer may be a problem. Diseases include powdery mildew, rose rust, blackspot, rose replant disease and die back, although wild roses are less prone to rose diseases than highly cultivated vareities.

Advice on buying dog rose

  • Dog roses may be sold as Rosa canina
  • To find out how many plants you will need for a hedge, check with your garden centre or nursery before buying
  • Buying bare-root roses is cheaper than buying roses in pots but these can only be planted during the dormant season. Pot-grown roses can be planted all year round, apart from when the ground is waterlogged or frozen
  • Check your plant carefully for signs of pests or diseases before buying

Where to buy dog rose




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