How to Grow and Care for the Carolina Rose

This easy-to-grow rose variety is a Missouri-native!

A Carolina rose shrub in front of a lakescape.

 amarinchenko / Getty Images

The Carolina rose (Rosa carolina), also known as the pasture rose or prairie rose, is a flowering shrub in the rose family Rosaceae. Native to Missouri, the Carolina rose now natively grows in USDA zones 4 to 9. This delicate deciduous shrub is an easy-to-grow rose variety that makes a great hedge or addition to any garden bed. It is characterized by showy clusters of pink flowers in the mid-spring and is great for attracting bumblebees and other pollinators. Learn how to grow this gorgeous wild rose variety in your backyard!

Botanical Name Rosa carolina
Common Name Carolina rose, pasture rose, prairie rose
Plant Type Shrub
Mature Size 1-3' tall
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Well-draining, sandy loam to some clay
Soil pH 5-7.5
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Pink
Hardiness Zones 4-9
Native Area United States
The Carolina rose (Rosa carolina) close up of a bloom with a bumble bee.
 lucia_lucci / Getty Images

How to Grow the Carolina Rose

The Carolina rose is considered to be a medium maintenance shrub. This Missouri-native is commonly found in glades, along roads and railroads, open woods, and in wet soils along streams and swamps. It is a single-blooming wild rose variety that is characterized by five-petaled, delicate pink flowers with a yellow center. In the late summer, the shrubs are adorned with red hips.

Besides its light, soil, water, and general requirements, the Carolina rose requires little maintenance. However, it benefits from a few seasonal amendments. Throughout the year, clean up any dead leaves from in and around the shrub to keep it tidy. Mulching the shrub in the summer helps to retain moisture and keep the roots cool. In the winter, the crowns of the Carolina rose appreciate protection from harsh winter temperatures.

Light

Plant the Carolina rose in a location that receives full sun for several hours a day. While the Carolina rose can technically tolerate some shade, it should be grown in full sun to ensure best flowering and disease resistance.

Soil

Occurring in average to wet soils, the Carolina rose grows best in well-drained soils that are sandy to loamy. It can also occur in soils with some clay. It is typically found growing on the side of fields, prairies, woodlands, as well as in fencerows and thickets.

Water

The Carolina rose appreciates deep and regular waterings. Watering the Carolina rose in the morning is best, and avoid overhead watering to ensure the foliage and blooms don’t rot. This rose variety is drought-tolerant once established.

Temperature and Humidity

The Carolina rose is native to Missouri and grows well year-round in USDA zones 4 to 9. It can tolerate harsh winters and freezing temperatures. Proper year-round care, including feeding and keeping clear of pests and disease, will help the Carolina rose to tolerate cold winters more readily. However, the Carolina rose requires warm summers to go into full bloom and the foliage and blooms of the Carolina rose cannot tolerate frost.

Fertilizer

Established Carolina rose shrubs benefit from regular fertilization. However, avoid using chemical fertilizers until after the shrub first blooms. Until then, organic amendments can be applied to the soil to help improve nutrient content. Use a slow-release tree and shrub fertilizer or a rose fertilizer and apply according to label instructions after the Carolina rose first blooms. 

Be careful not to burn the Carolina rose with excessive fertilization. To fertilize a Carolina rose shrub properly, ensure that the soil is moist prior to application. After applying the fertilizer, water the shrub thoroughly. Manure or compost can be used as a topdressing to provide additional nutrients. 

Propagating the Carolina Rose

The Carolina rose can be propagated by seed, cuttings, or stolon division. To propagate by cuttings, make softwood cuttings in the early spring after new shoot growth has begun. Semi-hardwood cuttings can also be taken in the late summer or early fall.

Pruning

Like most rose bushes, the Carolina rose thrives with regular pruning, although as a wild rose variety, it does not require it. If desired, prune in late winter to early spring once the buds start to ‘break’ to help encourage new growth and increase flower production. Ensure that any old leaves are removed from the shrub before you start pruning. Start with any deadened, brown wood - cutting it back to the base. Remove any branches that intersect each other and rub together to reduce the chance of disease, as well as any outlying branches. Prune the remaining branches back by about ⅓ of their height. 

Growing from Seeds

Carolina rose seeds can be purchased from a nursery or garden center, or collected directly from a mature plant. To collect the seeds from a grown Carolina rose, wait until the hips have turned red in the late summer or early fall, but do not let the seeds dry out. Remove the seeds from the hips, and cold stratify them for three months at 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Scarification also may help improve germination rates. 

In the early spring, after the last frost has passed, sow the seeds ½ an inch deep in the garden bed and keep the topsoil moist until germination. Germination rates are notoriously irregular so planting multiple seeds at once is recommended. Some seeds may not sprout until the following year.

Common Pests/Diseases

As with most roses, the Carolina rose is susceptible to a number of common pests and diseases. Common pests of the Carolina rose include thrips, aphids, scale, and caterpillars, while common diseases and fungi include rusts, powdery mildew, and black spot.