A Rose Hedge? Why Not!

If you have no major problems with the roses in your area, such as rose chafers and Japanese beetles, roses make just as good a hedge than any other shrub. They even have the advantage, thanks to their spines, of making an excellent defensive hedge that neither thieves nor most animals would dare try to to cross. On the down side, they can only really be used as an informal hedge (a hedge that is not pruned into a geometric shape and is allowed to grow more or less naturally). If you pruned a rose bush into a typical rectangular hedge shape, you’d end up removing most of the flower buds!

Photo: Knock Out® Roses

Obviously you need to use a rose that is dense enough to make a good hedge and one that is highly disease resistant. Personally, I prefer modern roses as a hedge as they rebloom, but many of the old roses do make nice hedge plants if their brief blooming season isn’t a problem for you.

Roses for cold climates

In cold climates, you’ll need to choose extra hardy roses, such as rugosa roses or those from the different Canadian series (Parkland roses, Explorer roses, Canadian Artist roses, etc.). Many German roses, especially the kordesii types, are also very hardy and make good hedges. English roses (David Austin hybrids) are moderately hardy (zones 5 or 6 and above) and many make excellent hedges.

Rosa ‘William Baffin’. Photo: F. D. Richards.

Bad Choices

All the varieties mentioned so far are considered “shrub roses” and indeed, they do tend to make the best hedges. Many of the bush roses (hybrid teas, grandifloras, floribundas, etc.) lack the dense growth habit a hedge rose needs, plus their limited hardiness (they tend to suffer severely in zones colder than zone 7 unless you cover them for the winter) is a problem for many gardeners. Polyantha roses are an exception. They’re considered bush roses and yet many of them, like ‘Cecile Brunner’ and ‘The Fairy’ make excellent hedges and are very hardy.

Among the other roses that do not usually make good hedges are ground cover roses (too low) and climbing roses (too arched and too bare at the base). Some of the taller landscape roses will however make a very acceptable low hedge.

So, think it over: many a rose hedge is just what you were looking for!

This text was first published on this blog on October 21, 2014. It has been revised and the layout updated.

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, laidbackgardener.blog will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

4 comments on “A Rose Hedge? Why Not!

  1. The problem is that maintenance gardeners do not know how to maintain them any better than they know how to maintain carpet roses. They still require major dormant pruning.

    • Mathieu Hodgson

      I have to admit, I have little experience pruning roses. The only ones I care for are those in my father’s garden which, up to now, have required absolutely no maintenance. Unfortunately, I am unable to identify them. Probably one of the varieties developed in Canada. I suppose rose maintenance is different in your neck of the woods also.

      • Maintenance has been substandard here as long as I can remember; but I noticed that it was not so substandard in other regions until the last several years. It may not have caught on there yet. Carpet roses are actually more frustrating that roses that require more specialized pruning because they are so simple to prune. They can be cut back to the ground. It does not get any simpler than that.

      • The trick with roses is the number of leaves. 7 means wild, don’t prune there because if you do you will just get more 7 leaves and zero buds. Trim spent blooms or old wood just above the five leaves and you get buds. Three leaves means a rose is coming soon. Prune out old wood and new wood will come up. Give it air at the base to prevent disease and bugs and clip off the spent blooms for sooner reblooming. Or leave the hips (spent bloom seed pods) for a pretty winter show.

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