Description & Overview

Swamp Rose, one of Wisconsin’s native roses, is common in marshes, bogs, swamps, and along ditches and streams. Fragrant pink roses with yellow centers bloom from June to July, for six to eight weeks. Flowers are followed by bright red, pea-sized rose hips in autumn as well as deep red foliage. It is an excellent choice for wet sites, streambanks, and marshy open areas where hybrid roses cannot grow.

Core Characteristics

Category: Shrub

Wisconsin Native: Yes

USDA Hardiness Zone: to zone 4

Mature Height: 3-6 feet

Mature Spread: 3-5 feet

Growth Rate: Moderate

Growth Form: Upright, semi - arching, naturalizes, suckering

Light Requirements: Full Sun

Site Requirements: Moist - occasionally wet

Flower: Light pink, 5 - parted, 1 ½" - 3", fragrant

Bloom Period: June – July

Foliage: Green, 7 - 9 leaflets

Fall Color: Red

Urban Approved: No

Fruit Notes: 1/3" - ¾" red, fleshy hip containing many dry seeds, persistent

Suggested Uses

As the name suggests, Swamp Rose prefers moist to wet conditions in at least six hours of sunlight. They don’t grow well in areas of standing water but can tolerate occasional flooding. Similarly, they do not like dry conditions. 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.

Swamp Rose has the tolerance of moisture extremes indicative of most rain gardens and is the perfect accent for such an area. Plant along the fringes of streams, or ponds and let them spread over time for a dazzling display of fragrance and color.

Forming a deep taproot and spreading through rhizomes, Swamp Rose can help stabilize banks and prevent soil erosion.

Less suitable for smaller pollinator patches, Swamp Rose is great for larger butterfly/pollinator gardens that need a filler. It is a host plant for several types of moths and bees!

Thorns make an excellent defense mechanism for this plant, but also an effective barrier or hedge. Swamp Rose spreads by subterranean runners and can colonize. Be sure to plant them with ample room to spread.

Swamp Rose, one of Wisconsin's native roses, is common in marshes, bogs, swamps, and along ditches and streams. Fragrant pink roses with yellow center…

Wildlife Value

Swamp Rose 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).

Smaller bees, mining bees, sweat bees (Lasioglossum spp.), as well as specialists including Rose Miner bees (Andrena melanochroa), Cinquefoil Masked bees (Hylaeus basalis), and Purplish Coppers (Lycaena helloides) also visit. The main pollinators are bumblebees and long-tongued bees; however, Halictid bees, Syrphid flies, and beetles will seek pollen.

Crab Spiders often sit in the flowers waiting to attack prey. 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 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.

Rose hips persist through winter and into the following spring, providing wildlife with nourishment at a time when food is scarce.

Upland gamebirds, songbirds, and mammals/rodents will eat the fruit of Swamp Rose. This includes Ruffed Grouse, Prairie Chickens, Cedar Waxwings, Thrushes, Robins, Catbirds, Northern Mockingbirds, Cardinals, and Brown Thrashers. Deer Mice, rabbits, deer, and beavers will also eat the rose hips.

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.

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

Swamp Rose, one of Wisconsin's native roses, is common in marshes, bogs, swamps, and along ditches and streams. Fragrant pink roses with yellow center…


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 palustris means “marsh-loving,” an ode to its preference for marshy soils.

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

Rose hips are high in Vitamin C and are often used in teas, jellies, syrups, soups, and baby foods. However, there is a layer of hair around the seeds just below the flesh of the fruit that can irritate the mouth and digestive tract.

The Menominee ate the fruit skin for stomach troubles while the Cherokee used an infusion of the roots to treat dysentery and worms.

Swamp rose is an indicator species of high-quality wetlands. It has a Wetland Indicator Status of OBL-an obligate wetland plant, meaning that Swamp Rose almost always occurs in wetlands (99% probability).

Companion Plants

Great companions for Swamp Rose are those that enjoy similar conditions such as Tamarack (Larix laricina), Steeplebush (Spiraea tomentosa), Speckled Alder (Alnus incana var. rugosa), Winterberry (Ilex verticillata), Meadowsweet (Spiraea alba), Fox Sedge (Carex vulpinoidea), American Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides), Harlequin Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor), Common Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius), Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), Katsura Tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum), American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis), Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana), Baldcypress (Taxodium distichum), and Black Willow (Salix nigra).

Swamp Rose, one of Wisconsin's native roses, is common in marshes, bogs, swamps, and along ditches and streams. Fragrant pink roses with yellow center…
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Written by Beth DeLain