10 Best North American Native Roses

With hundreds of different species and thousands of varieties, it can be difficult to decide what rose to grow at home. If you’re looking to plant roses that benefit wildlife and are well-suited to your environment, check out native roses. We’ve rounded up ten of the top native North American roses that you can look for in the wild and grow at home.

Best Types of Native North American Roses

Where Native Roses Grow in North America

You can find at least one rose species native to practically every area of North America! However, no single species is native to all of the environments found throughout this continent.

Some rose species thrive in the moist soil and dappled sun of rich woods, and others prefer the rocky, dry soils of the desert. The trick to growing native roses successfully is finding a species well-suited for your environment.

It’s also important to remember that roses growing in the ‘wild’ aren’t necessarily native! Non-native roses can appear in seemingly uncultivated areas due to past gardens or the movement of plant material by birds, humans, and other life forms.

10 Best Types of Native North American Roses:

There are many more than ten species of roses native to North America, but we think the following ten are a great place to start.

1. Arkansas Rose

Arkansas Rose in bloom

Also known as the sunshine rose or dwarf prairie rose, the Arkansas rose is a medium to large shrub rose. The pink flowers range in size from one-half-inch to one-inch wide. They typically appear in clusters of five or more, but they can also emerge as solitary blooms.

The roots can grow over ten feet deep, making these roses quite sturdy and drought-resistant. However, these plants cannot tolerate standing water or wet soil. I think they’re a good option for eco-friendly rose gardening.

Arkansas roses grow in much of the United States, from Massachusetts to Texas to New Mexico to Montana.

Scientific name:Rosa arkansana
Growing zones:4–8
Flowering season:May to August
Colors:pink with yellow stamens

2. Carolina Rose

Carolina Rose flowers showcasing pink and purple petals

The Carolina rose is one of the most widespread native roses in Eastern North America. It is found throughout the Eastern United States and Canada, from the scrubby coast to the prairies of the Midwest.

The short shrubs are happy in various environments, including prairies, disturbed roadsides, and forest clearings. They only demand that the soil is well-drained and the area receives at least partial sun.

The thorny plants produce pink flowers in the summer, and bright red rose hips in the fall. The flowers typically appear on new growth, differentiating this species from the similar-looking Virginia rose.

Scientific name:Rosa carolina
Growing zones:4–9
Flowering season:June to August
Colors:pink with yellow stamens

3. Climbing Prairie Rose

Climbing Prairie Rose in bloom against green leaves

Despite its name, the climbing prairie rose can grow as a shrub or as a climbing rose. However, a climbing form is more common, and canes can reach up to 12 feet long.

The form of the plant depends on the area it’s growing in. The plants find support in wooded areas and often climb up trees or taller shrubs. However, the canes bend down in open areas, reroot in the ground, and maintain a shorter form.

This native North American rose prefers moderately moist soil and can struggle in both wet and dry soil.

Scientific name:Rosa setigera
Growing zones:5–8
Flowering season:June to August
Colors:pink with yellow stamens

4. Desert Rose

Desert Rose flowers blooming

The desert rose lives up to its name and only grows in dry, rocky areas in the Southwest United States and Mexico. As you might expect, it’s pretty drought-tolerant but cannot tolerate wet soil.

The plants grow as shrubs that can reach up to five feet tall. Large flowers can reach up to two-and-a-half inches across and appear as single blooms.

Scientific name:Rosa stellata
Growing zones:7–10
Flowering season:April to September
Colors:deep pink or light purple

5. Nootka Rose

Nootka Rose in bloom

The Nootka rose is native to much of the Western United States and Canada. The shrub ranges in height from one to nine feet tall and displays dark brown canes and stems.

These native North American roses can spread throughout an area via rhizomes and suckers, so it’s common to see large patches of Nootka roses. This also means that you should avoid planting this rose if you hope to keep it contained in a small area.

While this native rose can tolerate full sun or partial shade, it requires moderate moisture and is not drought-tolerant.

Scientific name:Rosa nutkana
Growing zones:5–9
Flowering season:May to July

6. Prairie Rose

Light pink Prairie Rose flowers

Also known as the meadow rose or smooth rose, the prairie rose is native to the Northeast and Midwest United States. It has fewer thorns than many other native roses, which makes it a preferable addition to many native gardens.

These native North American roses grow as a low-shrub or arching plant and easily form small thickets via suckers. While the plants typically remain under five feet tall, the pink flowers can reach up to three inches in diameter.

It prefers soil that is on the drier side and doesn’t mind rocky conditions.

Scientific name:Rosa blanda
Growing zones:3–7
Flowering season:May to August
Colors:pink or white

7. Swamp Rose

Swamp Rose

The rose is native to the Eastern United States and parts of the Midwest. As you might expect, this species prefers moist soil and often grows in swamps or beside lakes, rivers, and streams. It also prefers rich soil that is high in organic matter.

It’s a shrubby rose that often displays arching canes and grows to a height of eight feet. The flowers typically appear as single blooms and are known for their strong floral fragrance.

Scientific name:Rosa palustris
Growing zones:4–9
Flowering season:May to August

8. White Prairie Rose

White Prairie Rose

The white prairie rose is native to a small area in the South Central United States. You can find it growing in prairies and forest edges in Northern Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Kansas.

It’s a low-growing scrubby rose that typically remains under two feet tall, and it can even appear as a groundcover.

These native North American roses bloom much earlier than other native roses. It begins producing flowers in the early spring and is typically done blooming by the early summer.

Scientific name:White, red, or pink
Growing zones:7
Flowering season:March to June
Colors:white, red, or pink

9. Woods’ Rose

Woods’ Rose

This rose is a medium-tall shrub that can grow up to ten feet tall. The stems are often covered with prickles, and they have a notable pair of prickles right beneath their leaf nodes.

The plants produce rhizomes that can help stabilize stream banks and slopes, preventing erosion. They also form flowers at the tips of their stems. These flowers often appear in small clusters, but they can also appear as single blooms.

Scientific name:Pink or white
Growing zones:3–8
Flowering season:May to July
Colors:pink or white

10. Virginia Rose

Virginia Rose

The Virginia rose is the most common native rose in the Eastern United States, growing from Maine to Georgia. You can find it in dappled forests, disturbed areas, and open prairies.

These native North American roses range from four to ten feet tall and can form dense thickets. Flowers are about two inches across and grow from old wood. They’re most often pink but can also appear in shades of yellow and purple.

The Virginia rose also produces bright red rose hips in the fall that serve as food sources for both wildlife and humans.

Scientific name:Rosa virginiana
Growing zones:3–8
Flowering season:June to August
Colors:pink, yellow, or purple

Frequently Asked Questions:

Do Native Roses Benefit Wildlife?

Yes! Native roses are a food source for animals including deer, beavers, bees, butterflies, and songbirds. The plants also serve as host plants for butterfly and moth caterpillars, such as the blinded sphinx moth, polyphemus moth, and skiff moth.

What Roses Are Native to the Eastern United States?

Multiple rose species are native to the Eastern US. The Virginia rose is the most common native rose in this area, but you can also find the Carolina rose, Swamp rose, and Arkansas rose in this region.

What Roses Are Invasive in North America?

Some roses that have escaped cultivation and become invasive include the beach rose (Rosa rugosa), and the multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora). These species are native to Asia but have spread throughout North America. They are known to choke out native vegetation and take over areas.

Where Can I Buy Native Roses?

You can find native roses at garden centers and nurseries that specialize in native plants. You may also be able to order native rose plants online.

Native North American Roses – Wrapping Up

Whether you live in a Southwest desert, Southeast forest, or Midwest prairie, you can find a native rose that thrives in your area. Native roses are well-suited to thrive in their environments with little care. Not only are these roses easy to care for, but they can also provide benefits to native wildlife.

For more, see our in-depth guide on how to grow roses from seed, the best types of edible roses, and rose deer resistance.

Contributing Editor | briana@petalrepublic.com | Full Bio

Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.

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