The Cherokee Rose was named Georgia's floral emblem in 1916. The very thorny, waxy white Rosa laevigata is an early harbinger of spring, blooming about the same time as the dogwoods. The name Cherokee Rose comes from the native Americans who widely distributed the plant. The Cherokee Rose is a climber, and in some parts of the southern United States it is considered a nuisance plant.
The Cherokee Rose has long, vine-like canes that are excessively thorny. Its canes can reach 15 feet in length, and its reddish-orange thorns are hooked. Its single, pure-white blooms have a yellow center. This variety is sometimes confused with dogwoods because their petals are similar and they bloom at the same time of year.
Cherokee Rose will grow in full sun to light shade. It prefers moist, well-drained sandy soil, but it's tougher than most roses and needs little care. Cherokee Rose needs water frequently for the best appearance and growth, but it is somewhat drought tolerant and also can survive occasional flooding. It will grow in USDA Hardiness Zones 7 to 9.
Cherokee rose is native to China. According to Mississippi State University Extension, it was probably introduced to the United States via England in the mid-1700s. It was first reported in Southern gardens in 1759. The rose is found in most of the southeastern states from the Carolinas to Texas.
The Cherokee Rose is very resistant to the usual pests and fungus drawn to roses. While deer will avoid this rose, birds love the large rose hips it produces. The rose hips can be up to 2 inches long and 1 inch wide.
The Cherokee Rose was the seed parent of John Fortune's rose, Rosa X 'fortuniana, according to the University of Florida Extension. Because of its vigor and ability to tolerate heat and humidity, the Cherokee Rose is used as understock for grafting many hybrid roses.