Ground cover roses

Pretty and easy to grow

Use ground cover roses to turn a bare bank or a large expanse of infertile ground into an eye-catching feature with a long season of interest.

These roses add beauty while helping to keep down weeds.




Remove dead wood. Prune to keep within bounds.



Flowering begins. July-.August:

Deadhead (remove faded flowers) and cut back to a healthy bud to encourage new growth.



Repeat- and continuous-flowering roses bloom until the first frost. Cover ground with organic matter (compost or well-rotted stable manure) in late autumn.



Most ground cover varieties are hardy in winter. Plant bare-root or container-grown roses on a dry, frost-free day.


Variety Flowers, Growth habit, Height x Spread (cm) ‘Flower Carpet’, deep pink; continuous flowering, low, sprawling, 45×120 ‘Grouse’, pale pink; repeat flowering, vigorous, sprawling, 30 x 300 ‘White Max Graf, single, white; continuous flowering, vigorous, sprawling, 90 x 120 ‘Nozomi’, pearly-pink; midsummer flowering, low, sprawling, 90×180 ‘Partridge’, white, single; repeat flowering, vigorous, sprawling, 30 x 300 ‘Pheasant’, light pink, double; repeat flowering, vigorous, low, 45 x 300 ‘Red Bells’, red, double; midsummer flowering, medium, arching, 60×120 ‘Rosy Cushion’, rosy-pink, single; repeat flowering, vigorous, arching, 90×120 ‘Sussex’, apricot, double; repeat flowering, low, sprawling, 60 x 90 ‘Norfolk’, bright yellow, double; repeat flowering, medium, bushy, 45 x 60 ‘Kent’, white, semi-double; repeat flowering, low, bushy, 45×100 ‘The Fairy’, soft pink, double; continuous flowering, medium, bushy, 60×120 ‘Warwickshire’, deep pink; continuous flowering, low, sprawling, 45×100 ‘Svvany’, white, double; continuous flowering, sprawling, 90×150 ‘Bonica ‘82’, pink, semi-double; continuous flowering, medium, arching, 90×180

Over the past 10 years, rose breeders have developed a range of ground cover roses. These versatile plants are now proving popular in gardens.

The term ‘ground cover roses’ embraces a variety of growth habits from sprawling to arching. Heights range from 20cm to 1.5m. Flowers may be single (resembling the wild rose), semi-double or double. Many of the newer varieties, including the ‘County’ series, named after English counties such as Kent and Sussex, are repeat or continuous flowering.

As well as modern roses developed specifically as ground cover, some of the older varieties also lend themselves to this purpose. The Wichuraiana ramblers produce long shoots which can be pegged clown to cover the ground. Rosa rugosa hybrids such as Rosa ‘Paulii’ are also suitable as ground cover.


Before planting, dig the site thoroughly and remove weeds such as couch grass. To do this, either fork out the roots or apply a biodegradable weed-killer containing glyphosate. To avoid rose replant disease, do not choose a place where roses have been grown before.

Plant bare-root roses between November and March, as long as the soil is not frozen or waterlogged. You can plant container-grown roses at any time of year as long as the weather is dry and mild. Improve the soil by adding some compost or well-rotted manure along with bone meal at planting time.

Dig a hole about one spade’s depth or large enough to take the roots without cramping them. Set the bud union (knobbly grafting point) 3cm below soil level. Take care not to disturb the soil around the roots when planting container-grown roses. Refill the planting hole with the improved soil.


Ground cover roses prefer full sun, but grow in partial shade. According to growth habit, use them to clothe banks, cover large, bare spaces, conceal a low fence or decorate walls.


These roses tolerate poor soil, but grow better if organic matter is added to improve soil condition. Nearly neutral soil (pH 6.5) is best. They will not tolerate waterlogged conditions.


Remove dead or unsightly growth in spring. Prune only if plants grow too quickly. Plant 1-2 vigorous roses per square metre. Plant less vigorous varieties 3-4 per square metre.



Full sun-partial shade 20-150cm, depending , on variety.


June-October, depending, Sandy-clay, neutral pH, on variety well-drained.


Like other types of rose, ground cover roses may be affected by various pests and diseases (black spot, mildew, aphids) although once established they have good resistance to disease. Choose a sunny position with good air circulation and give a preventive spray of a commercial combined insecticide and fungicide for the first season.


Buy your ground cover roses either as bare-root stock by mail order from a specialist nursery or as container-grown plants from garden centres.

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