Rosa 'Sophy'

Shrub and species roses – Grow Guide

Find out everything you need to know about growing shrub and species roses, in our practical guide.

Shrub and species roses are perfect for gardens with plenty of space. They’re larger than other types of rose and are often used as part of a mixed hedge. The group is diverse with some varieties flowering once, and others repeat flowering.

Discover our top roses for scent.

Shrub and species roses are perfect for a natural, romantic garden. 

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Planting position

The majority of shrub and species roses enjoy a sunny spot but some, such as the rugosa types, will thrive in shade.

All shrub roses will grow in almost any soil as long as it is well drained – they thrive in a soil rich in organic matter. As they are vigorous, with strong roots, they need plenty of space. These boisterous roses are not ideal for container gardening due to their size and form. 

Planting technique

Container grown plants can be planted at any time of the year but must be kept well-watered if planted in summer.

In autumn and winter roses are often planted bare-root. Discover how to plant a bare-root rose. Shrub and species roses need plenty of space so be generous as growth is fast. Dig a hole at least twice the depth and width of the root ball and add in some well-rotted organic matter. Tease out the roots and drop the plant into the hole ensuring that the graft union is at soil level. Backfill and firm in place with your heel and water in well. 

Propagation

Shrub and species roses are most successfully propagated by taking hardwood cuttings taken in autumn. Remove a piece of stem of the current season’s growth that is pencil thickness and about 30cm long. Remove the soft tip cutting just above a healthy bud at an angle that is cut away from the bud as this will prevent water from settling around the bud and causing rotting (this will also help you identify the top of the cutting).

Dig a shallow trench in the garden in a sunny sheltered spot and place a layer of horticultural sand in the base. Insert the cuttings so that two-thirds of the cutting is below the surface and backfill. Ignore them and you should see sign of growth the following spring. Pot on the following autumn.
 Read more about taking rose cuttings.

Troubleshooting

Avoid planting roses in the same place as an old roses. Rose replant disease is a little understood problem but plants often struggle to thrive.

The most common rose disease is rose black spot. The spores are air borne and can be spread by using secateurs on infected plants and by the leaves fallen on the ground. Clear up fallen leaves and burn them to prevent the spread. Roses can also be affected by viruses, rose powdery mildew and aphids but the risk is lessened with good care. Rabbits and deer can also be an issue.

Pruning

Shrub and species roses require very little, if any, pruning. The majority flower on old wood so if they are hard to reach or too thorny for comfort you can get away with leaving them.

If accessible, remove any dead, damaged or diseased wood and prune back to size just above a healthy bud in February or March once the show of hips has been enjoyed. Remove very old wood that is congesting the centre of the plant to let in light and if growth is slow rejuvenate the plants by cutting a few old stems to the ground to encourage a new flush of growth.

Those that only flower once in summer and don’t offer impressive hips can be pruned after flowering by shortening side shoots by a third if required. Watch Monty Don prune shrub roses.

Bee-friendly roses

Single-flowering roses, such as the dog rose (Rosa canina) are beneficial to pollinating insects so perfect for a bee-friendly garden. 
Rosa 'Constance Spry'
Rosa 'Constance Spry'

Shrub and species roses to try

  • Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis’ – a vigorous species rose that enjoys a sunny spot and produces a mix of soft yellow and pink flower for months
  • Rosa ‘Helen Knight’ – a modern shrub rose with bright yellow single flower set against attractive serrated foliage. Can cope in semi shade. Thorny.


  • Rosa moyesii ‘Geranium’ – blood red single flowers followed by impressive red autumn hips
  • Rosa 'Constance Spry' (pictured) - a beautiful rose with double flowers and a myrrh scent. It has an arching habit and can be trained as a climber
  • Rosa canina – soft pink, single flowers followed by red hips. Ideal in a mixed hedge
  • Rosa ‘Buff Beauty’ – clusters of apricot-yellow flowers. Repeat flowers. Strong fragrance

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