Nootka Rose – A Great PNW Native Rose
Traditional roses can be hard to grow—but wild roses, like Nootka rose, are great alternatives. Nootka rose is a great Pacific Northwest (PNW) native rose that provides fantastic habitat for wildlife while also providing beauty and even edible uses for you. And it’s very easy to grow! Let’s dive into this fantastic PNW native rose.
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I really love Nootka roses (Rosa nootkana)—these are one of several native roses found here in western Washington, and they’re actually native to much of the western United States.
I’ve planted a couple hundred of these roses up and down my hedgerows, and the result has been a great thicket that gets fuller and more beautiful every year.
Birds love them. And I often see bumblebees visiting them when they’re in bloom.
These really are great native roses here in the PNW. And since they tend to spread and create a thicket, they’re a great addition to any hedgerow.
Here’s a quick summary of what Nootka roses bring to the landscape:
- Parts are edible
- Forms a thicket
- Nice fragrance
- Supports wildlife
The rest of this post will cover these in more detail. But before we dive into Nootka roses, make sure to grab your guide to native plants and how to use them to support wildlife.
Getting Started with Nootka Roses
While I do love Nootka roses, you will need to be careful where you plant them. They spread very easily, which is what makes them so good in a hedgerow.
I’ve planted mine all along the outside edge of my hedgerows where deer and other critters would come from. Over time, the Nootka roses have spread and filled in many of the gaps, making a thick thorny barrier.
While the roses are a good barrier against larger wildlife, like deer, they won’t block rabbits or other small wildlife. In fact, a thicket of roses makes great habitat for smaller critters to take shelter in.
Songbirds love Nootka rose thickets—I often seen them flitting about through the dense thorny branches. Planting these roses is a great way to support songbirds and other wildlife.
Deer will eat Nootka rose, but they tend to focus on the new growth, and the roses recover quite easily from browse.
Nootka roses can reach a height of 6-feet (1.8 meters) but often they stay a bit shorter. And these roses are hardy down to around minus 10° F (-12.2° C). This makes them quite adaptable to a variety of landscapes.
And while Nootka roses can handle a range of wet and dry conditions, they don’t do well in dry, well-drained soils. And they prefer full sun with their growth slowing a fair bit in partial sun.
Once your roses become established, they’re quite hardy and should take care of themselves. Though you may need to cut back shoots as they attempt to spread.
And Nootka roses can also be live-staked, so those shoots can be stuck into the ground where they may take root and grow come spring. This can be a great and easy way to get plants for new areas.
Wait to do this till your Nootka roses have gone dormant and lost their leaves. Late November and into December is a good time. Then take a cutting from a first-year branch—a branch that just grew during the previous growing season but is now woody. It should be at least the thickness of a pencil, and thicker is better. Once you’ve got your cutting, just stick the bottom of the cutting into the ground down as far as it will go without bending or breaking it. You want at least 2-3 buds on the part of the cutting that is still above ground.
If you get a few Nootka roses established on your property, you can easily add more just by using live staking. Since not all the live-staked plants will survive, a good general rule is to put 3-5 live stakes in for every 1 plant you ultimately want.
Here is some more information to help you get started with Nootka roses.
Info on Nootka Roses – Rosa nootkana:
Benefits of Growing Nootka Roses
Nootka roses are among my favorite native plants. I love their beautiful flowers, and they provide great habitat for wildlife.
These roses are one of the best native plants for hedgerows here in western Washington—especially when planted along side other larger native shrubs like red flowering currants and Osoberries.
I like to plant the roses along the sunny edge of the hedgerows with the larger shrubs in the middle, with shade tolerant plants like Osoberries on the shady side of the hedgerow.
The result is a magnet for songbirds, and it also creates a great privacy screen.
And since they bloom later in spring than red flowering currants and Osoberries, you get a nice long transition of spring blooms. And even in winter, the roses become covered in red rose hips that add a lot of beauty to the winter scene.
But you can use Nootka roses for teas and even as a vegetable if you harvest the young shoots (peel them first and harvest when they’re tender).
And of course, as a native plant, they co-evolved with the wildlife that call this area home. By planting Nootka roses, you can support not only songbirds, but also native bees, and all sorts of other native insects.
Planting Nootka roses and other native plants is a great way to make your world come alive with abundance for people, plants, and wildlife.
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