Georgia's official state flower is the Cherokee rose (Rosa laevigata), a plant widely cultivated by the Cherokee tribe in colonial times. This spring-blooming climber is actually native to China. The Peach state, however, has several roses for gardeners interested in cultivating native plants. They range from sprawling low-hedge roses to vigorous climbers, tolerant of growing conditions from dry, dusty roadsides and open woodlands to swamps and the seashore.
Carolina rose (Rosa carolina), often called pasture rose, is a small shrub that grows up to 3 feet high. Spreading by suckers, it forms thickets along Georgia's roadsides and in sandy wooded areas. Its thorny branches have medium green leaves. Carolina rose produces single 2-inch blooms or clusters of fragrant pink, five-petaled flowers in May and June. Its dark green hips (berry-like fruits that follow the roses), attractive to birds, turn red as they ripen.
While Carolina is the most shade-tolerant of Georgia's native roses, it blooms most profusely in full sun. Plant it in rocky or sandy, acidic well-drained soil. The plants, are susceptible to fungus, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
Larger than Carolina rose, Georgia's swamp rose (Rosa palustris Marsh) stands up to 8 feet high. Each plant has multiple dense, thorny branches. Their dark green foliage contrasts strikingly with swamp rose's deep pink blooms. This rose flowers between May and June in Georgia's swamps and along the wet edges of ponds, lakes and streams. Red or orange hips follow the blooms. Prominent hooked thorns make swamp rose difficult to prune. Plant this shrub in moist to wet, organically rich soil and sun to shade. Like Carolina rose, it often develops fungus.
Virginia rose (Rosa virginaina), says the USDA's Natural Resources and Conservation Service, grows along Georgia's roadsides and salt marshes and in pastures. Standing 4 to 6 feet tall, Virginia rose has glossy deep green leaves that provide red or yellow autumn color. Its sweetly scented 2-to-3-inch pink blossoms appear in showy clusters between June and August, later than those of many other wild roses. High in Vitamin C, its hips are edible straight off the plant or used in preserves. The USDA says Virginia rose does well in a sunny location with moist clay soil.
Climbing Prairie Rose
Climbing prairie rose (Rosa setigera) has up-to-15-foot branches with deep green, 13-inch long leaves and May clusters of five-petaled pink flowers with yellow stamens. The flowers gradually fade to white after opening, so climbing prairie rose may have a simultaneous range of bloom colors from deep pink to white. Birds feed on the plant's red hips. This rose grows in sun shade and moist or dry sand, loam or clay soils. Remove suckers to prevent it from becoming invasive. Prune old canes in the spring.
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