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Rosa palustris – Swamp Rose – A Native Rose for Wet Soils

Rosa palustris, swamp rose, is a species rose native to the eastern United States. This means something considering most of the roses grown in American gardens are not from North America.

It is called swamp rose with good reason. Rosa palustris likes boggy, wet areas.

Swamp rose likes wet soil but grows beautifully in gardens with average soil moisture.

Rosa palustris - native rose
Swamp rose

Rosa palustris has clear pink semi-double flowers that bloom in May-June in the Piedmont region. In cooler areas, flowering is for a roughly six week period from June to July. Most guides recommend that swamp rose can grow to 6′ tall. I have seen old plants get to 7′-8′ in the garden. Foliage, like most of the species roses, is relentlessly healthy.

Rosa palustris (swamp rose) is easy to grow in the garden.

Winter hardiness is excellent, zones 4-9. It is found growing in the natural landscape from Maine to Florida. Swamp rose occurs naturally in swamps, bogs, and places with intermittent flooding (including road size ditches). Thus, gardeners wishing to grow roses in wet parts of their landscape could do worse than this rose.

rosa palustris
Rosa palustris in full bloom in May

Over time, swamp rose will spread via suckers, making it a solid choice for naturalizing. The thorns are wicked. Thus, Rosa palustris a great candidate for a barrier hedge.

Collins photograph of Rosa palustris in American Gardener Magazine (American Horticultural Society)

Birds like the hips that form in fall and assist in the spread of swamp rose via the seeds they eat. Many of the older species roses have spectacular crimson hips if flowers are allowed to mature on the plant.

The plant is graceful in the garden, as the branches tend to be long and arching. Habit is bushy and full. Rosa palustris can handle light shade, but please do not overdo this. Full or mostly sun is best. It grows best in rich slightly acidic soil.

swamp rose
Rosa palustris in the garden landscape.


Genus/speciesRosa palustris
Common name(s)swamp rose
Of noteRosa palustris is an excellent choice for areas that are persistently wet…can handle wet soil.
Fall colorinsignificant
Water requirementsaverage, moist soil conditions
Soil qualityrich, average
Suggested use(s)cottage gardens, mixed borders/perennial beds, native collections
Hardiness zone(s)4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
Disease resistantyes, highly
Deer resistantno
Deciduous or evergreendeciduous
Flower colorpink
Bloom periodmid to late spring
Exposurefull sun, afternoon shade

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