Sweetbriar – Rosa rubiginosa (R. eglanleria)

A native rose suited to the garden

Several English poets have extolled the beauty of the sweetbriar, and when growing wild in hedges it adds fragrance to a warm summer evening.

It is also one of the easiest plants to grow in the garden.




New growth emerges from stems and root-stock. May: Spray with pesticide if aphids are a problem.



Flowering time. Let flowers go to seed as they will become rose hips.



Take cuttings.

Move runners from

October to March.

Harvest rose hips for use in the kitchen, if you wish.



Sweetbriar is perfectly winter hardy.


Sweetbriar will grow from cuttings taken in late September or October. Choose a shoot from this year’s growth. It should be ripe (when the thorns will break off cleanly) and about as thick as a pencil. Cut it off just below a bud, and remove all thorns and foliage apart from two leaf shoots at the top.

Once plants have become established they will begin to grow suckers (running shoots) which can be dug up and also used to make new plants.

Move runners any time from October through to early spring. 1, PRUNING, 1

There is no need to prune, the sweetbriar. It is a wild, plant that is quite capable, of looking after itself. If it grows too big, cut out some of the older stems in the winter to within 30cm of the ground.


At the turn of the century, the head gardener to Lord Penzance crossed the sweet-, briar with various other, wild roses and produced a, strain called the Penzance,

Hybrid Sweetbriars. A few, are still in existence and, have better flowers than the, original in the early summer, but do not share its fragrance. ‘Amy Robsarf: Deep pink. ‘Flora Mclvor’: Deep pink with a white centre. ‘Lady Penzance’: Copper- salmon and pink. ‘Lord Penzance’: Buff yellow. ‘Meg Merrilees’: Crimson. ,

A native of wild heaths and hedges, sweetbriar is tolerant of all kinds of conditions and gives pleasure to many gardeners because of its legendary scent.

The sweetbriar is an ideal bush to choose if you want a low-maintenance plant that will grow in poor soil.

Ideal situation

Sweetbriar grows in any part of the garden, but is best placed near patios and sitting-out areas where its scent permeates the air.

Planted about 75cm apart, it will produce a beautiful, aromatic hedge, and an effective barrier as it is very thorny.

Sweetbriar is not a climber but a shrub, so do not grow it against walls or fences as it will not be shown off to its full advantage. Let it stand freely.

The sweetbriar in summer

Although a separate species, sweetbriar is similar to the dog rose and grows to about the same height. It is distinguished for the scent of its foliage and, unfairly, .scant regard is paid to its flowers. Small pink single clusters appear in early summer.

They give a bonus of masses of small red hips in the autumn that last well into the winter. These can be harvested for use in the kitchen, but watch out for the dense, prickly branches when picking them.

Which sweetbriar?

The sweetbriar clings firmly to its wild origins and has few hybrids. It has contributed little to the development of the modern rose. Several breeders have produced seedlings in a variety of colours but none have matched the scented foliage of their parents. Much of its charm lies in its unchanging, wild form.



Sweetbriar will tolerate semi-shade, but it must have some sun to encourage the scent.


Plant sweetbriar in a part of the garden where other plants fail as it will grow anywhere.


Very little is needed, as sweetbriar fends for itself in the wild. Take cuttings or dig up suckers (running shoots) if you wish to create new plants.


Sweetbriar is not prone to the usual garden rose diseases but it does attract greenfly and leaf-cutting insects.

Spray with an insecticide when necessary.


Sweetbriar plants are available from good garden centres and rose nurseries in the autumn (which is the best time to plant them), or in the spring as container-grown specimens.

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