Rosa rugosa progress

For such a popular type of rose, it seems to me that since the introduction of the Explorer and Pavement rugosas 20 - 30 years ago progress has been slow to introduce new cultivars. Yes, we have had a few good cultivars introduced; for example, ‘Basye’s Purple’, 'Mrs. Doreen Pike’and ‘Kaitlyn Ainsley’. (I didn’t include the wonderful ‘Rugelda’, since it is a stretch to call it a rugosa hybrid). I should mention that I will probably introduce 3 - 4 rugosa hybrids within the next couple of years. But since we have been breeding rugosas for more than 100 years, we should be doing much better. Especially introducing new colours in rugosa hybrids. Any ideas what the problem is?

Rugosas aren’t really gratifying work for warm climate people, where the majority of hybridizers I’m assuming are working.

And Rugosas are a bit of a downer in the color department… “Gee, I wonder what color I’m going to get… hum… pink, lavender pink, mauve…purplish pink… pinkish lavender… oh wait, a white one!” There’s only 4 yellow cultivars of Rugosa, and all nearly sterile or sterile.

Only people whom are doing the majority of the rugosa work are folks in the colder climates. And those who are working with rugosa in warmer climates are doing it mostly on the sideline for novelty… like Ralph Moore and others.

I’m working with Joan’s rugosa # 3, and I find it REALLY hard to set hips with tetraploid pollen, even with kordesii and 77-361 pollens, which are themselves have some rugosa genes.

And even then, I’m not working with this as intesely as I would be if I were in Joan’s climate…

(Joan, nothing set for me… One hip was forming pretty well, but it eventually aborted. Pollen was from from my own hybrid, Queen Elizabeth x 77-361.)

There are the very recent Kordes Road Runners: Pink RR 01, Romantic RR 03, Smart RR 02 and White RR 01.

Common characteristics are rather low growing with semi double flowers.

Kordes is regularly sending out Rugosa hybrids too such as:

Roselina 98: (The Fairy

When I asked for ideas about the lack of progress breeding rugosa roses, it was a rhetorical question to some degree. I know very well what some of the problems are and I’ll outline a few of them.

  1. The lack of focus on a rugosa rose breeding programs. I am not aware of any major ones currently in existence. It goes without saying, that if one’s energies are concentrated on a particular breeding program, there will eventually be positive results. We saw the results when Dr. Svejda did a comprehesive study on the hardiness on rugosa cultivars and determined that ‘Schneezwerg’ was the best cultivar to work with.

  2. Yes, when working with rugosas there are limitations regarding flower colour. However, let’s not forget about other characteristics of the shrub. Perhaps the most valuable is dwarfness for modern landscapes and for planting large greenscapes. But to accomplish this requires

knowledge to develop a breeding line or the availability of germplasm to do so. One example is Percy Wright’s development of ‘Little Betty’. He crossed ‘Hansa’ with ‘Betty Bland’ and in turn crossed this hybrid with Rosa arkansana. Robert Erskine then crossed ‘Hansa’ with ‘Little Betty’ to develop ‘Waskasoo’ which is a relatively dwarf (60 cm.) rugosa. Since 'Waskasoo is almost unavailable, it hasn’t been used to any extent in breeding programs. But I think it has a lot of potential to develop dwarf rugosas.

  1. There has been very little work developing tetraploid rugosas. And when I say tetraploid rugosas, my definition is that it must have 1/2 rugosa in the parentage. Once this has been accomplished, in theory it then should be easier to develop new types of roses having Rosa rugosa as the genetic base. At this point, perhaps the easiest way is to work with Rosa rugosa/acicularis hybrids that are tetraploids.

  2. There has been relatively little work crossing Rosa rugosa with other species. If more work is done in this respect, then we should see some very interesting rugosa hybrids that can be used for further breeding. For example, Rosa rugosa/nitida hybrids like ‘Aylsham’ and ‘Corylus’ have attractive, shiny green foliage. Very little work has been done “backcrosing” them to rugosa cultivars, which could produce some interersting results. In fact, I think the only person to do it was Percy Wright with his ‘Aylsham’ and, of course, that was many years ago.

So these are a few ideas why I think there has been a lack of progress breeding rugosa roses. I trust that more breeders will take up the challenge to work with this type of rose.

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the problem is that almost all rugosas are either diploid or tetraploid (even numbered). Most of the other exotic colored cultivars are odd numbered genetically and you do not get chromasone match up. the results are generally; no seed produced, seeds that do not geminate, seeds where there is “Too much information” and the resulting plants simply ‘throw back’ to a rudimentary rugosa type, or you get a sterile offspring. In the odd occurance that you do get a fertile hybrid from a rugosaXout-of-species cross, this plant should definatley be saved for future breeding purposes even if it is not an otherwise desireable plant.



I would suspect the main reason for the little enthusiam in rugosa breeding program from the major breeders is a lack of a large enough market or financial incentive to payback such an undertaking.

If you look at the population of the US, clearly zone 5 and 6 hardiness covers most of the major population areas. Even in Canada despite its reputation for cold, most people live in zones 4, 5 and 6, and several of the large canadian nurseries are around the great lake region and probably in zone 5-6.

Also many of the more colorful rugosa hybrids also seem to have lost their disease resistance and cold hardiness or have been relatively sterile. For example Topaz Jewel and Linda Campbell and earlier hybrids such as Sarah Van Fleet, Vanguard and Agnes. I supppose rugosas could be crossed with other species as you stated but that could be a really long haul especially if you end up with several generations of once bloomers.

The tendency of rugosas to sucker all over the place is a draw back for many people along with the extensive prickles or thorns. Yes, this could be bred out but then do you have a rugosa.

After all this being said there is still work being done my many amateurs. Some are working with tetraploid rugosas and I think a couple of years ago some one had posted on this forum he had developed some striped rugosas using Berries n Cream. I’m not sure where it ended up.

Anyways good luck in your pursuit.

There is an unnamed sibling from the cross that produced ‘Linda Campbell’ which is fully fertile, especially as a pollen parent. I am working with this plant a lot. No idea what its chromosome count is, nor do I think it matters much. There are many more fertile triploids out there than we think there are. My favorite Hybrid Bracteata breeder is a triploid, and yet it has some of the most fertile pollen of all.


There is a side of roses that hasn’t been mentioned above and that is the fall color.

I live in zone 6b, and fall color isn’t a consistant thing down here. Half our autumns are rather brown and boring (even if our roses are still blooming).

The fall colors on some of the cold hardy roses that I grow are reasons to grow them even if there were neither blooms nor historic context.

Metis can be a punctuation mark on the landscape and I have a list of people who want suckers.

Betty Bland could be sold for a landscape plant for stem color alone (forget the red and yellow twigged dogwoods).

Rugosa species right now still have all their leaves; they will be a bright yellow mass when most leaves are dropped and brown.

Roses are more than their blooms and I think there is a future for roses in the landscape in more than bloom seasons.


I agree with you Ann. I’m up in zone 4 and not too many roses have enough time to color up well. We had a long fall this year with relatively cool temperatures and not too many frosts early on. Many roses and other plants had enough time to color better than usual. The rugosas seemed to color up well with nice golden hues. There’s a R. virginiana descendant of mine that I admired each day as I walked past it with its golden color with orange and red highlights.


i would like to see a stripped rugosa. Now berries and cream is on my list. My best out-of-species cross was Baron Girod d’la AinXRugosa Magnifica. Not stripped or white tipped, a color different than either parent, and a dense cabbage like flower. Likes shade and has it’s best blooms in early spring and late fall. It is however sterile.


Ask and ye shall receive:

In the November American Rose on the New Rose Introductions pages, there is (p 22) a picture of and description of Ralph Moore’s Striped Rugosa, with parentage

“Seedling x Rosa Magnifica”

“This is the first striped rugosa hybrid! Averaging 30 petals, the blossoms are a medium crimson with striking white stripes and flecks. Hybrid tea shaped blooms pen to slightly cupped, 4-inch blooms, greatly resembling 'Rosa Mundi”. Flowers in cluster of three or more with a sweet clove-like fragrance. Excellent vigor and quick to develop into a a mature shrub that is always full and bushy. With its rugosa parentage, it will be hardy to at least USDA Zone 5."

I’ve been working on a striped rugosa since 2000[/url]

I’ve several nice striped flowers, but since I’ve

been crossing with Ferdinand Pichard, and yes

Berries and Cream they are all very sterile triploids.

I’ve tried everything with my seedlings for two years

now and havn’t got them to set a single seed. Sigh.

So I’ve started a R. glauca x R. rugosa line to

try and get a tetraploid that is mostly rugosa.

I’ve collected the seeds for the second generation just

this year.[/url]


The most popular Canadian rugosa hybrid, the one found in more nurseries around the world than any other, is Therese Bugnet. In that fact, lies the clue to where rugosa hybridizing should go. I believe that by using R. rugosa to improve the qualities of North American species, is our best chances for creating truly care free landscape roses. As rose societies continue to shrink, I realize that people just don’t want the work involved with traditional hybrid Teas. They don’t want to spray. They do want big flower and lots of them.

Maybe the problem isn’t how to create rugosa tetraploids to interbreed with the genetic ‘soup’ of the modern garden roses, but to find the best of the diploids to work with in creating new breeding lines.

Since we are somewhat on the topic on striped roses(as well as rugosas) here are a few more bits of information.

From my limited research I came across the following article that might be of interest

Within the article is the claim that Commandant Beaurepaire has some striped off spring but nothing specific was given. For those who are interested you might look into that claim further. If this is true could Commandant Beaurepaire be one of the parents of Ferdinand Pichard.

Also I found that R Setigera apparently has the capacity to pass on stripes. Two of R Setigera’s offspring are said to have stripes, “Queen of the Prairies”, and “Old Spanish Rose” aka “Russelliana”. I’m not sure but I think that Setigera is a diploid.

This might be a way to get stripes into the Rugosas and get a fertile striped (diploid) hybrid rugosa.



This and the striped rugosa in the latest American Rose Magazine by Ralph Moore sure look gorgeous!!! I’ve been breeding with the stippled Buck roses and also a stippled R. arkansana selection and wonder how closely related striping and stippling are. It seems like striping is just a more dramatic version of stippling. Some have suggested that the color breaks are due to a transposible element within a gene in the anthocyanin pathway. In petal tissue the transposon (sequence of DNA) can be triggered to move out of the chromosome and then as cells divide there is a mosaic of genetically different cells throughout the petal- these regions trace back to an original cell where the transposon moved or stayed put. So, when the transposon is in the gene this added sequence disrupts the expression of color and the cells are white or have just a little anthocyanin, but when the transposon jumps out, full function can return and richly colored cells with whatever normal level of anthocyanin is restored. Since transposons behave like some retroviruses, some have suggested that in roses like R. mundi, the virus never really integrated into the rose genome to be passed along to offspring sexually, but for roses like ‘Ferdinand Pichard’ and its descendants it has. As far as I have found no one has taken up this research area to truly answer these questions in striped roses.

For the stippled Buck roses the stipples are dark pink. I wonder if the difference between striping and stippling is just the time in petal development the transposon is activated to start jumping or moving out of the anthocyanin pathway gene. For striped roses it seems like it may happen earlier while there is a lot of cell division yet occurring resulting in larger areas of differently colored petal sections. In stippled roses, they may be triggered later in development to move resulting in many smaller regions of darker colored streaks.

In the past I had a lightly striped seedling of Pristine x Angel Face- both non-striped parents, but in general it seems that striped cultivars seem to have one direct striped parent. Is that generally the case? I wonder if this striped seedling is just kind of an oddity like lightly striped sports of garden roses that come about now and then. The question I’m really interested in is, can striping skip a generation?



I will continue on the striped path of this thread if no one minds…

David, in my experience, I have used several non-striped seedlings that have at least one striped parent used for their breeding and have not seen any striping in their offspring (F2 generation). Striping seems to behave as a dominant trait that I suspect has a viral origin. I have wondered too whether the hand painted type roses have a viral influence as well since many in those lines seem to pass along an unusual tendancy for the foliage to get small and somewhat stippled during hot weather.

Jim Sproul

Following up on Ann and David’s astute comments, there is no reason why rugosas can’t be developed that have four major characteristics that would make them a superior type of rose - beautiful, fragrant flowers, attractive fall foliage, red canes for winter effect and attractive hips for fall and winter. I think this should be the goal for future rugosa breeding. We tend to concentrate too much on flower quality when breeding roses and this limits the optimum effect that roses can have in the landscape. For developing the “ultimate” rugosa, it requires that Rosa blanda (cane colour) and R. nitida (fall foliage) be combined with Rosa rugosa. Fortunately, the preliminary work has been done with the development of ‘Betty Bland’ and ‘Therese Bugnet’(Rosa blanda), and ‘Aylsham’, ‘Defender’ and ‘Corylus’ (Rosa nitida). ‘Metis’, which combines Rosa blanda and Rosa nitida and a small amount of Rosa rugosa could also be used. My priority would be to backcross ‘Aylsham’ with 'Hansa and then cross this hybrid with ‘Betty Bland’ or ‘Therese Bugnet’.

I thought I want to make at least Paul happy and inform you that a new rugosa cultivar has been released in Finland. It is named Sointu (Sointu is a Finnish female name and also the Finnish word for the music term “chord”)


Any new Rugosa cultivar, if it is cold hardy to a Zone 3 climate, makes me happy. However, I’m unhappy that relatively cold cultivars developed many years ago by Peter Joy of the University of Helsinki are still not available in North America for trialing. Maybe you can help.

I’ve not had any luck with rugosa x polyantha yet… will try again next season. ‘The Fairy’ and ‘Baby Faraux’ failed on me this year when put onto ‘Scabrosa’. ‘Scabrosa’ set hips mainly with tetraploid roses. I’ve got a large number of seeds of ‘Scabrosa’ x; Peace, ‘Black Jade’, ‘Magic Carrousel’, and the miniature ‘Gold Coin’. Diploid Rosa Wich., R. multiflora, and ‘Golden Chersonese’ failed as did other miniature pollen. I would like to see if some of the hardiness and disease resistance can be put into warmer climate roses by adding in bracteata, gigantea, laevigata, Chinas, Noisettes, or Teas. The sheer number of seeds/hip should mean you can get an enormous number of variations from each pollination. One hip I harvested this year had 92 seeds in it. Miniature rugosa also appeal to me (hence the ‘Black Jade’, ‘Magic Carrousel’, and ‘Gold Coin’ crosses… I’ll try a larger number of Rosa Wich. crosses next season too for use in this line). I’d also like to do a moss x rugosa to see if that really spiney rugosa stem can be combined or converted into a really mossy stem. I’m thinking Henri Martin x Ann Endt.