How to Grow and Care for Dog Roses

Dog rose with fuchsia flowers

The Spruce / Autumn Wood

Dog roses (Rosa canina) are a hardy wild rose species. This deciduous shrub produces many arching stems that are covered in small thorns. The toothed leaves are a medium green color. Showy flowers appear in the late spring, and small, oval, glossy, red-orange fruits (or rose hips) follow the blooms. Besides providing visual interest for several months, these hips are particularly attractive to wildlife. 

This rose species is a good climber and will readily grow up a support structure. It also does well as a free-growing hedge to create a living privacy screen. And it can add plenty of visual interest as a solitary specimen. It has a fast growth rate and a long lifespan. In fact, because it grows so readily it is considered invasive in some areas, so check your local regulations before planting. A dog rose shrub can be planted in the fall or spring.

Common Name Dog rose, briar rose, cankerberry
Botanical Name Rosa canina
Family Rosaceae
Plant Type Shrub, rose
Mature Size  3–15 ft. tall, 3–15 ft. wide
Sun Exposure  Full
Soil Type  Moist, well-drained
Soil pH  Acidic, neutral, alkaline
Bloom Time  Spring, summer
Flower Color  Pink, white
Hardiness Zones  5–9 (USDA)
Native Area  Europe, Africa, Asia

Dog Rose Care

When planting your dog rose shrub, first loosen the soil to help its deep roots take hold. Also, mix some compost into the soil to improve drainage and to give the shrub a boost of nutrients. If you are planting multiple shrubs, space them roughly 6 to 15 feet apart. Add a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch around your shrubs, which will help to conserve soil moisture and to keep weeds down. 

This species is one of the easiest roses to care for, and its upkeep is relatively straightforward. Plan to water regularly. Pruning and feeding are generally annual tasks.

Warning

Due to its ability to readily spread, the dog rose is listed as an invasive species in West Virginia and New Jersey.

Dog rose with fuchsia flowers closeup

The Spruce / Autumn Wood

Dog rose flower facing sun with rosehips under leaves

The Spruce / Autumn Wood

Dog rose bush with rosehips in sun

The Spruce / Autumn Wood

Dog rose rosehip with leaves closeup

The Spruce / Autumn Wood

Light

Dog roses grow and flower best in full sun, meaning at least six hours of direct sunlight on most days. However, they also can tolerant some light shade.

Soil

In general, dog rose shrubs can adapt to many different soil types, including humusy, loamy, sandy, and some clay. Sharp soil drainage is key for healthy growth, as waterlogged soil can promote root rot. Dog roses also prefer a soil pH that hovers around neutral, though they can handle slightly acidic and slightly alkaline soils.

Water

These roses thrive in consistently moist but not soggy soil. Water deeply whenever the soil feels dry to the touch about 2 inches down. Try to avoid wetting the foliage, as this can promote diseases.

Temperature and Humidity

Dog roses are quite hardy to the temperature extremes of their growing zones. They can survive hot and dry periods, harsh winds, and frost. However, high humidity can be an issue, especially if there is not enough air circulation around the shrubs, as it can promote rot and fungal diseases.

Fertilizer

A rich soil will help dog rose shrubs to grow and flower at their best. Use a balanced, slow-release fertilizer on your shrubs each spring as new growth picks up, following label instructions.

Types of Dog Roses

There are several varieties of dog roses, including:

  • Rosa canina 'Assisiensis': This cultivar is known for its lack of thorns.
  • Rosa canina var. lutetiana: This variety grows to roughly 12 feet tall and sports pinkish white flowers.
  • Rosa canina var. frondosa: This shrub also reaches around 12 feet high and features pink flowers with light pink centers. 

Pruning

This shrub doesn’t require much pruning, as it naturally forms an attractive shape. If you want to clean up any overgrown stems, the best time to prune is in the late fall or early spring when the shrub is still dormant. But note that the shrub flowers on the previous year's stems, so don't take off too much or you won't have many flowers for that season. Remove any dead or diseased portions as they arise. Wear thick gloves and long sleeves to protect yourself from thorns whenever you prune.

Propagating Dog Roses

Dog roses can be propagated via stem cuttings taken in the fall. Taking cuttings will essentially allow you to clone the parent plant, meaning you can propagate varieties that you especially liked for their coloring, flower production, and more. Here’s how:

  1. Use pruners to cut a 6- to 8-inch portion of healthy stem. Choose new growth from that season.
  2. Remove foliage on the lower half of the stem. And remove any flowers or rose hips. 
  3. Dip the cut end in a rooting hormone, and then plant it in a small container filled with moist soilless potting mix. 
  4. Place the container by your brightest window and away from drafts. Keep the soil moist but never soggy. 
  5. Come spring, plant your cutting in the garden or a larger container.

How to Grow Dog Roses From Seed

Dog rose seeds need to go through a stratification process that simulates winter temperatures to germinate. The best time to start this process is at the start of your winter months. 

Fill a tray with a moist seed-starting mix, and plant the seeds about 1/4 inch deep. Seal the tray in a plastic bag, and put it in the refrigerator for eight to 12 weeks. Then, take the tray out of the fridge in the early spring, and put it by a window in bright, indirect sun. The temperature should be around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the soil moist, and you should see germination in around two to three weeks. 

Potting and Repotting Dog Roses

Container growth is an option for dog roses, though it might stunt growth. Select a pot that's at least 5 gallons with drainage holes. A grow bag can be a good option, as it will remain relatively light to move as needed. Use a well-draining potting mix, or mix soil with equal parts sand and compost. Also, note that container plants will likely need more frequent watering than those grown in the ground.

Depending on the container size you start with, you might have to repot annually. Roots coming out of the drainage holes and popping up out of the soil can be a telltale sign that your plant is cramped. If that's the case, repot your plant in fresh soil in one container size up. The best time to do this is in the spring.

Overwintering

Bring potted rose plants into an unheated garage or shed for the winter. This will help to protect the roots from temperature extremes. Otherwise, a layer of mulch around plants in the ground should do the trick to get your dog roses through the winter. 

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Some common garden pests, including aphids, scale, spider mites, caterpillars, and leafhoppers, might affect dog rose shrubs. Treat your shrub with an insecticidal soap if you spot any pests.

Fungal diseases, such as powdery mildew and downy mildew, also might impact the shrubs. If that's the case, remove the affected foliage and apply a fungicide. Fortunately, the dog rose shrub tends to be resistant to many of the common rose diseases.

How to Get Dog Roses to Bloom

Dog rose flowers are sweetly fragrant and have five petals. They stretch around 2 inches across. The blooms are typically a light pink color, but they also can be a deep pink as well as white.

As blooming begins in the spring and stretches into summer, it's ideal but not essential to remove the spent flowers (deadhead). This will help to promote repeat blooming.

If your plant isn't blooming well, that often can mean it's not getting enough sunlight. Make sure no nearby plants or structures are shading it too much throughout the day.

Common Problems With Dog Roses

Dog rose shrubs generally thrive when grown in conditions they like. However, a poor environment can cause some issues on the plant. 

Yellowing Leaves

Both overwatering and underwatering are often the culprits behind yellowing leaves. Make sure your soil is draining properly and that it never fully dries out. In hot, dry weather, be sure to give your roses some supplemental water. 

Plant Leaves Falling Off

Drought can sometimes cause dog roses to lose their leaves. On the flip side, humid and moist conditions can cause leaf drop due to fungal growth. So regularly monitor soil moisture. And make sure there's enough air circulation around your plants, which can help combat fungal growth.

FAQ
  • What's the difference between dog roses and fieldbriar?

    Dog roses and fieldbriar (Rosa agrestis) are both rose species, and they look quite similar. However, fieldbriar generally has slightly smaller leaves and paler flowers than dog roses.

  • What are alternatives to dog roses?

    If you're interested in growing roses as a hedge, Rosa laevigata can be a good alternative to dog roses. It can both form a hedge and climb on a support structure, and it spreads rapidly.

  • Can dog roses grow indoors?

    Dog roses typically don't make good indoor plants. They need ample direct sun to grow and flower at their best. And they can become too large and thorny to manage indoors.

Article Sources
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  1. Dog Rose. Invasive Plant Atlas.