Plan the perfect garden with our interactive tool →

How to Take Care of Wild Rose Bushes

wild rose portrait image by Dumitrescu Ciprian from

Wild rose, known botanically as Rosa woodsii, is a late spring and summer flowering shrub native to prairies, woods and riparian lands in cool regions of the United States, according to Utah State University. As a wild shrub, it adapts to a fairly wide range of conditions and can regenerate itself each year from its large underground rhizomes when killed off by winter frosts. Wild rose is a relatively low-maintenance plant in the garden and does not require the consistent attention that cultivated roses do.

Provide a full-sun to partial-shade exposure and fertile soil that drains easily. Boost soil fertility by natural means with annual top dressings of compost and aged livestock manure if the planting soil is of poor quality.

Water wild rose bushes to keep the soil evenly moist but not soaking wet, when rainfall is not plentiful.

Control the shape and sprawl of the shrub by pruning in the early spring to reduce the number and length of branching canes and to remove dead wood. Late summer or fall pruning is acceptable if you do not care to provide area birds and wildlife with sustenance from the rose hips that form in the late summer and early fall and remain in place through the winter months.

Differences Between Roses & Wild Rose Bushes

Fossilized specimens from Oregon and Colorado resemble nutka roses (Rosa nutkana) or swamp roses (Rosa palustris), both of which grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3b through 10b. Wild roses, including rugosa roses (Rosa rugosa), which grow in USDA zones 2b to 9b; China roses (Rosa chinensis) for USDA zones 7b through 10b; and dog roses (Rosa canina), which grow in USDA zones 6b to 9b, occur in every temperate zone. The reproductive portions of wild roses, including stamens and rose hips, are more prominent than those of hybrids because these plants depend on them to reproduce. Foraging birds and browsing animals favor wild roses by distributing seeds and providing natural pruning -- services that would soon decimate a bed of cultivated hybrids. Different flowering times prevent wild roses from cross-pollinating, preserving each species individual characteristics. Introduced hybrids, on the other hand, cross easily with with wild roses. The accidental results of a species China rose crossing with a hybrid Damask rose (Rosa damascena) on the Ile de Bourbon (now Reunion) in the early 19th century are the beloved Bourbon roses, which combine the China rose's repeat-flowering habit with strong damask rose fragrances. If you live in USDA plant hardiness zones 2b through 10b, you can grow species and hybrid roses or see wild roses in wilderness areas. It's important you choose roses suited to your local climate.


Wear garden gloves when pruning or working around wild rose shrubs, as the thorns can easily puncture or tear into the skin.

Garden Guides