Pruning Rosa Rugosa Roses, help!

deejavu(z7 NY)April 22, 2006

Hi all,

I am new to this site and I have 2 Rosa rugosa bushes that have overgrown (yes, I neglected them because of an illness).

Anyway, now that I am feeling better, I started to prune these bushes, I can clip them, but I can't pick up what I have clipped off because they have too many thorns and I am already bleeding from trying to put them in a garbage bag.

One of these bushes have grown to 10 feet high!

How do professionals handle these bushes?

Any advice would be appreciated.



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I always cut rugosas to the ground. They quickly grow new wood and flower as early as if the old wood was left on...only fuller.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2006 at 12:45AM
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girlndocs(8 WA)

Yes, just whack them back. Some people use power hedge trimmers.

You need leather, or at least leather-palmed, gloves to handle thorny stems. I feel your pain. Previous residents of our house planted the most Gawdawful prickly invasive boysenberries with needle-like thorns that break off in the flesh.

How come you're putting the canes in a garbage bag? Does your community have a yard waste or community composting program? Seems like a shame to put perfectly good organic material in the trash, especially since you probably have to pay to have your trash hauled off.


    Bookmark   April 26, 2006 at 3:11PM
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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

Rugosas will bloom weeks earlier on old growth than on new....I sure don't cut mine to the ground.
I use long handled anvil action loppers....allows me to chop from a distance.....and I whack the long canes into 18 inch lengths to dispose of...'s a pain....but if you never let them get so overgrown again it won't be such a chore.
Ideally, you should cut out 1/3 of the canes every year....leaving some for early bloom and promoting new growth.
Linda C

    Bookmark   April 28, 2006 at 2:49PM
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deejavu(z7 NY)

Hi all,

Thanks so much for all your advice. Kristin, I ordered those Leather Gloves so I can handle the thorns.

No, my community doesn't have anything like that. The only way for me to dispose of the clippings is to bag them (clear bag)and put them outside in front of my house. I hope the people that pick up my bags of leaves as will as the rugosa clippings will use them as compost.

I had Lyme Disease for 10 years and I couldn't even get out of bed except to see doctors. Now that I am almost recovered, I will never let those rugosa bushes get out of hand again. I have 2 of them, one I trained in the beginning to stick to a trellis door, though that metal piece is not looking good now either.

I also should get those long handled anvil action loppers because those thorny branches stick to my clothes, my hair, you name it!!

Thanks again, so much appreciated!

    Bookmark   April 29, 2006 at 7:58PM
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We have about 30 rugosa varieties. We keep the canes for winter interest but at the beginning of April cut off all the above ground growth. Living or not. The new growth is easier to shape and produces more prolific blooms throughout the growing season. Instead of trying to bag up the cut canes, we burn them. We do keep a few canes to lay over emerging tender perennial so our pets won't lay on top.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2006 at 2:36PM
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Ha Ha! Alpiner that is such an easy (& free) solution to the pet smooshing tender plants. Thanks for the tip.

So deejavu, how do your rugosas look?

Another way to p/u prickly rose canes is to use 2 rakes. I had a couple of old rakes with broken handles and simply removed them (the handles). Works like two big 'ol hands!

    Bookmark   May 23, 2006 at 2:00PM
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therandey(zone 8/9)

We have himalayan "sp?" blackberries all along our lane in a rural area. We have to cut them back. I use my loppers which have a pretty good handle on them and to pick up the canes that are cut I just use a pitchfork. The thorniness makes them stick together and you can scoot the pitchfork along and pick up a huge amount in one trip. Great if you are going to burn. If I had to live in the city, I would use a chipper instead of bagging everything up. We have a goat so I just give him all of the green stuff I don't compost. Anyway..a pitchfork works great and you don't have to handle the canes that way.
All the best..
Theresa Zone 8 or 9..I'm right on the line it seems.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2006 at 12:34AM
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deejavu(z7 NY)

Hi all,

Thanks again for your advice! I managed to clip back most of the thorny canes, now I have to get them off the grass and over to my barbeque to burn them!

I love the idea of using 2 rakes so I don't get thorns in my hands and arms.

At least I know what to do next spring before they start growing. I would like to move one but will wait until next year when I cut cut it down to the ground and it will be manageable.

Thanks again, you guys are really great!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2006 at 9:30AM
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raskell(north ontario c)

l use big kitchen tongs to pick thorny branches up from the garden, l also use them to hold the branches so that l can prune.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2006 at 3:01PM
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I'd get rid of Rosa rugosa all together, especially if you live in a coastal area. These plants are crowding out native coastal habitats (it is actually on the USDA list of noxious weeds), therefore, in my opinion, not worthy of my time or garden space. I prefer to grow species that will grow in harmony with surrounding species, which in turn means less manual care because they are naturally adapted to the site and not competing with surrounding species (including their caretaker!). As far as Rosa rugosa goes, there aren't many places I've seen it growing where it lends itself to being easily controlled, so why not spend your energy on less headstrong species that can actually enhance and grow with their neighbors rather than against them?

    Bookmark   January 13, 2007 at 9:48AM
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I tried to locate the Rosa Rugosa on the UDSA list of noxious weeds, but was unable to find it. The most current list I saw was 2006. Does "miverbena" or anyone else have a more current website reference for a list that includes the Rosa Rugosa? I've enjoyed growing them for years and have not encountered difficulty with their adaptation with other plants, but would be interested in reading the USDA's reasons for including it on the list, if it is in fact listed. Thanks!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2007 at 8:51AM
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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

I don't believe miverbena knows what she is talking about...
She's likely confusing multiflora rose with rugosa.
Linda C

    Bookmark   July 7, 2007 at 1:35PM
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What time of year can pruning be done to the rosa rugosas? I have them in front of my house (I love the smell coming in my windows all summer long!) however, they seem to be very "leggy". Can I prune them now?
Thanks to all in advance!

    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 7:34PM
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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

You can prune a rugosa any time you want!
But I wouldn't cut them back after...say August 1st because you don't want to promote new growth that won't have time to harden off before winter. Won't kill the rose...but it's better to cut it back earlier or much later after it's dormant.
Linda C

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 1:44AM
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Thanks so much for the reply--something for me to do today!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2007 at 9:22AM
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This is my second summer with my rugosas and I have not pruned them at all. This summer I only had a few blooms but a ton of rosehips. Any suggestions as to if I should prune them yet this fall or wait till spring. Thanx!

    Bookmark   October 7, 2007 at 2:07PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Does this look like Rosa rugosa to you? I found this in my back yard and it looks like some type of shrubby rose to me.

Not sure how invasive Rosa rugosa is, but it has been listed as "potentially invasive" in Connecticut at the USDA website below.

Here is a link that might be useful: USDA Rosa rugosa Plants profile

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 8:27PM
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That is definitely Rosa Rugosa. I love mine, but I need to look into it's invasive nature - Thanks for the link.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2008 at 12:49AM
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A wonderful info site to check out Rosa Rugosa: Also, my community has a terrible winter road salt problem. Everyone's front lawns are dead 1-3 feet deep! My first gardens failed in that area... So I finally put in the salt tolerant Rosa Rugosa and now my border gardens thrive!

    Bookmark   March 14, 2009 at 11:17AM
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Where is the best place to get Rosa Rugosa Roses? Is Burpees or Burgess a good place? I am wanting to get about 100 to do my yard with.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2009 at 4:07AM
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I have read all the postings for the pruning question and find from whack -to- the- ground to not- at- all!! I have about 30-40 bushes planted on the shoreline on the EAst side of my house. They get morning sun. They do not seem to be happy. There are a lot of large Oak trees nearby so there are oak leaves in the rose bed. Is the soil too acid?? Several of them (7 years old) have died. WHAT DO THEY WANT???

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 2:53PM
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schifferle(5b NE Kansas)

I've always read that Rugosas should be pruned as little as possible. That's how I treat mine.

Oak-leaf garden mulch may be acidic when fresh, but it becomes more and more alkaline as it decomposes. It really doesn't affect pH much at all.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 2:37PM
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Rugosa Roses need mostly sunshine in the day. They require little else except good drainage. They don't need to be sprayed (in fact don't like to be) and you can prune them back anytime. Our Rose Society does not recommend pruning this type of rose back to the ground, but you can if you need to it won't kill the bush. They mostly grown between 4-10 ft high. Some can be used as climbers. They can have invasive offshoots if they are not taken out.
They are not like the multiflora that are very invasive and sprout up everywhere.
Rugosa can be a very good rose for people who want shrubs that bloom all the time with no extra work.Keep them in the sun and they should be fine. There are several varieties that stay about 4-5 ft tall.
I have about 15 Rugosa bushes and they make a great hedge for me. They smell is wonderful as I walk down my driveway.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 9:18AM
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To discourage the deer,we planted about 60 Rosa Rugosa around the outside of our secret garden. The suckers are really starting to invade the inner garden so I am pulling and cutting back in order to control the unwanted canes. I use the rake technique also in order to pack them up and transport them to the stick compost area.
I have wondered what one could do with the huge rose hips the plants produce.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 10:32PM
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Something is turning the leaves on my plants yellow, then brown. They have brown spots on the yellow leaves. It's early June here in Idaho and the healthy part of the plants look beautiful, but the damage is spreading quite fast. Can anyone tell me if they have had this experience and what to spray them with ?

    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 2:10AM
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Do you have to prune at a 5 leaf junction as you do for hybrids?

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 9:19PM
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aerides(z6 Manhattan)

I've recently bought a house with a large rugosa blob at the bottom of the back yard just in front of forest. It doesn't bloom, so I'm told, and I want to get rid of it entirely. Can you dig those things up once you get rid of the canes? Will branch nippers take care of the bigger ones after I attack it with hedge trimmers? Do people use chain wenches to pull stuff like this out of the ground? Please help a newbie! Thanks!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 10:47AM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

Dig it up with a pickaxe. Just be aware that rugosas can regenerate from small pieces left in the ground, so get as much out as you can, and prepare to do so again next year if there are fragments trying to put up new canes.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 1:02AM
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