Rose Cuttings – May, 2008

Two photos taken at the Antique Rose Emporium reveal the swamp rose’s affinity for water’s edge. Photos courtesy of Mike Shoup.

A Rose for Shade and Water

The swamp rose, R. palustras scandens, breaks all the traditional rules for gardeners incorporating roses into their landscapes. It is truly one of the most versatile roses I know.

This rose evolved in America, with many specimens happily residing in the sandy, swamp-covered soils of Louisiana and ranging North and eastward to the Carolinas. As an understory plant in forested areas, it has acquired a tolerance for shade as well as heavy, mucky, even water-saturated soils. 

Architecturally interesting at all times of the year, the swamp rose has graceful, arching and nearly thornless branches with narrow, willow-like leaves. Pink flowers occur in late spring. No plant could be more beautiful — weeping into a stream or reflecting in the water by a pond.  Our gardens not only feature it by water’s edge, but under the canopy of a large cypress tree.  Both situations are anomalies in the traditional use of roses.

Think of all the possibilities that rose breeders, intent on getting tolerance for shade and poor drainage, could develop in a new line of roses by using the swamp rose as a parent. ‘Knock Out’, move over!

This rose is also steeped in history, dating back to the 1800s. Redoute painted this rose in the garden of Empress Josephine.

As a specimen by water’s edge, in front of a shady north wall or in a perennial border, the swamp rose is a great rose that fills any gardening niche.

About the author: Mike Shoup is the owner of the Antique Rose Emporium. Visit their Brenham and San Antonio display gardens for endless ideas on landscaping with roses. To order roses online, visit

Posted by Neil Sperry
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