Rugosa Rose: An Alternative to a Fence

Fences are placed between properties for several reasons; to delineate boundaries, privacy (i.e. nosy neighbors), or keep animals/kids out of an area.
Rugosa Rose: An Alternative to a Fence - News


Rugosa flowers are not only attractive but they are fragrant and attract pollinators. Photo: Tom Butzler, Penn State

For those that want something a little more aesthetic and more of a natural look, plants can achieve the same thing as a fence of wood or vinyl. Because of its many attributes, Rugosa rose is a good option for a living fence. To be placed in a landscape, a plant should have some ornamental characteristic. Rugosa rose blooms 3-4 months during the late spring/summer months. Occasionally, a few flowers pop-up in the fall. Most varieties are single (5 -petals) but a few are double. And there are multiple colors to choose from white to shades of pink, red, and violet. Very fragrant too!

The flowers give way to large fruits (called hips) that are reddish orange in color. These remain on the plant well into the fall, providing an interesting visual in the yard. For budding survivalists or those that love to cook, these fruits can be used in jams and jellies. The leaves have their ornamental quality which is bright green and very wrinkled (rugosa means ‘full of wrinkles’ in Latin). In addition, the leaves will turn yellowish in the fall.

But for this to qualify as a fence, it must have some additional characteristics. It grows to around 6 feet and will sucker and spread into the surrounding area. Combine this dense stand with the green foliage and it is very difficult to see through the other side. The only downside here is that rugosa rose is deciduous and will lose leaves in the late winter meaning privacy is lost for a few months.

But what about those neighborhood kids that always take the short-cut through the yard? The stems of rugosa are lined with numerous thorns which appear to be something created during medieval times. There is no one that will take on a thick hedge of rugosa rose after one encounter. Rugosa is easy to grow as it tolerates most soil conditions and can easily withstand our winter climate (it is hardy all the way up into Canada). It prefers open sunny areas for best growth but can tolerate light shade.

Thorns of rugosa rose cover the stems making it a difficult plant to touch. Photo: Tom Butzler, Penn State

The wrinkled leaves of rugosa rose add a little bit of interest to the landscape. Photo: Tom Butzler, Penn State

The backdrop of the green leaves adds to the floral display, notice the thick stand. Photo: Tom Butzler, Penn State

Rose hips start off green before turning reddish-orange in the fall. Photo: Tom Butzler, Penn State

Intact mature rose hip in upper left. Other two hips cut open to showcase ‘meaty’ interior and potential use for cooking. Photo: Tom Butzler, Penn State