Description & Overview

Early Wild Rose is a Wisconsin native, nearly thornless shrub, with beautiful pink, fragrant flowers. It naturally grows in fields, meadows, prairies, roadsides, and fence rows in dry, nutrient-poor, and well-draining soils. Upper portions of the shrub and flower stalks are usually smooth, while lower stems have persistent stiff thorns. Dense and broad mounds of green foliage are decorated with flowers starting in early summer. By late summer, bright red rose hips form adding visual interest and food for wildlife.

It may also be known as Meadow Rose or Smooth Wild Rose.

Core Characteristics

Category: Shrub

Wisconsin Native: Yes

USDA Hardiness Zone: to zone 3

Mature Height: 2-5 feet

Mature Spread: 2-5 feet

Growth Rate: Moderate

Growth Form: Broad, mounded, naturalizes

Light Requirements: Full Sun

Site Requirements: Dry - mesic

Flower: Pink, 5 - parted, 2 - 3" across, yellow center, fragrant.

Bloom Period: June – August

Foliage: Green

Fall Color: Orange - red

Urban Approved: No

Fruit Notes: Berry - like rosehip, red, late Summer

Suggested Uses

With an affinity for drier soils, Early Wild Rose performs well on slopes, banks, or hillsides, where it can spread through rhizomes, helping to control erosion. With regard to soil, the leaner the better as it helps maintain a smaller and more manageable size for residential landscapes. Conversely, rich and loamy soil will send this plant into overdrive and it will grow and spread pretty aggressively. This is great if you want to fill in an area and are okay with free-ranging roses.

Adding Early Wild Rose to a prairie or meadow restoration project increases diversity, supports pollinators and wildlife, and with room to spread, forms thickets to keep out unwanted species.

While not ideal for a central planting in a small area, Early Wild Rose definitely fulfills the look of a cottage garden with its open and ranging nature and bright pink, fragrant flowers. Plant along the border of a property or garden’s edge where it has room to sprawl.

Early Wild Rose is a pollinator magnet making it a must-have in a wildlife or pollinator garden.

Early Wild Rose is a Wisconsin native, nearly thornless shrub, with beautiful pink, fragrant flowers. It naturally grows in fields, meadows, prairies,…

Wildlife Value

Rosa blanda is a host plant for Apple Sphinx (Sphinx gordius), Poecila Sphinx (Sphinx poecila), Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth (Malacosoma americanum), Yellow-headed Cutworm moth (Apamea amputatrix), Io moth (Automeris io), Cecropia moth (Hyalophora cecropia), Lymantria dispar, and Ultronia Underwing (Catocala ultronia).

The main pollinators of Early Wild Rose are bumblebees and long-tongued bees. Bumble bees such as Brown-belted Bumble bees (Bombus griseocollis), mining and sweat bees (Lasioglossum spp.) including Cresson’s Masked bees (Hylaeus mesillae), Snowy Mining bees (Andrena nivalis), Texas Striped Sweat bees (Agapostemon texanus), Bicolored Striped Sweat bees (Agapostemon virescens), and Confusing Furrow bees (Halictus confusus) also visit Early Wild Rose.

Specialists such as the Rose Miner bee (Andrena melanochroa), Cinquefoil Masked bee (Hylaeus basalis), and Purplish Copper (Lycaena helloides) are also frequent visitors.

Other pollinators can include Halictid bees, Syrphid flies, and beetles. Only pollen is offered as a reward.

Crab Spiders often sit in the flowers waiting to attack prey, such as the above visitors. Some crab spiders change the color of their bodies to match the flower they are hunting in. Once successful in their hunt, they will chew a small and regurgitate digestive fluids into the prey’s body. This will dissolve the prey’s internal organs and then the spider sucks out the liquefied meal. Yum.

The rose hips persist through winter and into the following spring, providing wildlife with food. Upland gamebirds, songbirds, mammals, and rodents will eat the fruit. This includes Ruffed Grouse, Prairie Chickens, Cedar Waxwings, Thrushes, Robins, Deer Mice, beavers, Catbirds, Northern Mockingbirds, Cardinals, and Brown Thrashers.

Maintenance Tips

Provide good air circulation to promote healthy foliage and growth. A mulch layer around the plant will help reduce stress and help keep roots moist.

Deadhead spent blooms to improve the appearance of the shrub.

Remove any diseased areas or spots with winter injury using clean shears in early spring. Blooms are on previous years’ side branches.

Vegetative offsets will pop up. If spread is not wanted, mowing can keep these in check.

Early Wild Rose is a Wisconsin native, nearly thornless shrub, with beautiful pink, fragrant flowers. It naturally grows in fields, meadows, prairies,…

Pests/Problems

Black Walnut Tolerant: No
Deer Resistant: No
Rabbit Resistant: No

Swamp Rose doesn’t suffer from many of the diseases and pests that seem to plague hybrid roses. Native and low maintenance!

Japanese beetles, aphids, borers, scale, thrips, midges, and leafhoppers are all potential pests.

Deer and rabbits will nibble on leaves, buds, twigs, and rosehips, though, due to the prickles it is not their preferred meal.

Leaf Lore

The genus Rosa is the Latin word for “rose.” The specific epithet blanda means “mild; not strong or bitter” possibly about the lack of thorns.

Rose hips are high in Vitamin C and are often used in teas, jellies, syrups, soups, and baby foods!

The rosary comes from the practice in medieval Europe of using dried rose hips to make strings of prayer beads.

Indigenous people used Early Wild Rose medicinally. The Menominee ate the fruit skin for stomach troubles while the Mesawaki used the rosehips to ease stomach troubles, indigestion, and itching piles. The Ojibwa used the roots to treat headaches, and lower back pain, and as a wash for inflamed eyes.

Early Wild Rose can be confused with Carolina Rose (Rosa carolina) and Sunshine Rose (Rosa arkansana) because of the variability within the species.

Companion Plants

Plant Early Wild Rose with those that thrive in similar dry and sunny locations. Options are wide and could include Common Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus), Tall Cinquefoil (Drymocallis arguta), Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa), Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana), Creeping Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis), Rough Blazing Star (Liatris aspera), Prairie Phlox (Phlox pilosa), Smooth Aster (Symphyotrichum laeve), Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra), Hairy Wild Petunia (Ruellia humilis), American Pasque Flower (Anemone patens), Bird’s-foot Violet (Viola pedata), Golden Sword Yucca (Yucca filamentosa ‘Golden Sword’), Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida), and Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum).

Early Wild Rose is a Wisconsin native, nearly thornless shrub, with beautiful pink, fragrant flowers. It naturally grows in fields, meadows, prairies,…
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Written by Beth DeLain