How to Grow an Eglantine (Sweet Briar) Rose, an Heirloom Rose

Updated on January 22, 2020
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Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been associated with Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.


It’s no secret that I love heirloom roses. I love their many flowers, their sweet scents and most of all, the history behind each one. A must-have in my rose collection is my eglantine rose, a favorite of both Shakespeare and Chaucer.

What is the Eglantine Rose?

The eglantine rose (Rosa rubiginosa), also known as the Sweet Briar rose, is native to Europe. It was so beloved in England that both Chaucer and Shakespeare wrote of it in their poetry and plays. The English brought it with them wherever they colonized. It is so hardy that it escaped their gardens and became naturalized in the landscapes of North America, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. It is considered an invasive plant and is banned from sale in all of those countries except the US.

How to Grow an Eglantine Rose

Hardy from zones 4 through 9, the eglantine rosebush thrives in full sun attaining a mature height of 10’ to 15’. Its width can be up to 10’. The branches are heavily thorned which added to its size, makes it an ideal hedge along a property line. It likes regular watering, especially a good soaking in the morning. The eglantine rose spreads by suckering.

Suckering is the ability of a plant to send up shoots from its roots creating new plants. This suckering is another reason why the eglantine rose makes an ideal hedge plant. The new plants are created every year, making the hedge thicker and more impenetrable each year.

This rosebush is also grown for its scent and its hips. Both the flowers and the leaves are apple scented, especially when wet. The flowers are a light pink. Each blossom has five overlapping petals and a bright yellow center. The bushes bloom for about two weeks in late spring to early summer. When the flowers have faded, the leaves provide the scent. The blooms result in large hips which turn orange in the fall. Each hip contains enough vitamin C to satisfy an adult’s minimum daily requirement. The hips are often used in teas.

Eglantine rose hips are a good source of vitamin C.
Eglantine rose hips are a good source of vitamin C. | Source

How to Prune an Eglantine Rose

The eglantine rose does not require any pruning beyond the usual pruning done in very early spring to remove dead or dying canes. It is recommended that you prune before the leaves appear but I have difficulty telling dead from live branches without the leaves so I wait until the leaves are just coming out to tell me which branches are still alive and which have died over the winter and must be removed.

Any dead leaves, branches or other brush should be removed from under your bush to prevent the spread of insects and disease.

How to Propagate an Eglantine Rose From Cuttings

Most woody plants are difficult to propagate from cuttings, but not surprisingly given its propensity to sucker, the eglantine rose is easy to propagate from cuttings. You can use either soft wood cuttings, which are cuttings made in the spring when the plant is actively growing or hardwood cuttings, which are made in the late fall or early winter when the plants are dormant.

If you are using soft wood cuttings, i.e. new growth, make sure that your cutting is at least as big around as a pencil or larger. No matter which kind of cutting you use, you don’t need very much, 4 to 6 inches in length is sufficient.

Dip the cut end into some rooting hormone. Rooting hormone speeds up the rate of root growth. If you don’t have any, don’t worry, you don’t absolutely need to use it. Then you simply push your cutting into a container of soil or even directly into the ground where you want your new rosebush to grow. Keep the soil in the container or your garden moist. Roots should start to form in 1 to 2 months. You will know that new roots are growing when your cutting starts growing new leaves. Plants without roots are unable to produce new growth.

Eglantine rose flowers grow in clusters.
Eglantine rose flowers grow in clusters. | Source

How to Propagate an Eglantine Rose Using Layering

Layering is another popular technique for propagating roses. After your rosebush has finished blooming, take a newish flexible branch and gently bend it to the ground. Once you have it horizontally on the soil, anchor it there. You use the same staples that you use to anchor your tunnels in your vegetable garden. Cover the middle of the branch that is touching the ground with soil, leaving the end sticking out. That end with its leaves will provide food for the branch as it develops roots along the portion that is covered with soil. Keep that soil moist. Roots should develop in 1 to 2 months. You will know that roots are growing because the branch will be growing new leaves.

When you see the new leaves, you can sever the branch from the main bush. Careful dig up the new rootball and transplant it to where you want your new rosebush to grow.

© 2014 Caren White


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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      This rose can be purchased through Antique Rose Emporium out of Texas. It is so lovely in the spring. I just now saw it's first serious attempt at lurching across the yard! We are going to move it. It is such a cool rose, for historical reasons, and the smell is heavenly. I just need to put it somewhere away from any foot traffic. Along a fence line in full sun would be perfect. Does anyone have recommendations for pruning it hard to move it, now in October, the wrong time of year to move a rose, probably?

    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      5 years ago

      Calculus, nowadays it is illegal in most places to remove wild plants from their native habitats so almost all of the "garden" plants you see growing in the wild are escapees from our gardens. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      These roses do look like the "wild" roses I've seen on hiking trails and forests. I didn't realize they were cultivated roses that had escaped into the wild. When I've seen them in people's gardens, I just assumed they had transplanted naturally growing rose bushes from the woods or wherever. Learn something new every day!

    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      6 years ago

      Thanks, Peggy. Some types of heirloom roses become HUGE! One climber took over the entire corner of my house, invading the gutter. I had to climb inside of it to prune it. Thanks for the votes, pins and Google+.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Wow...a rose bush that can get to be up to 15 feet high and 10 feet wide is amazing! I have not personally seen any of them but from what you say they would certainly make good hedges with all those thorns. Up votes and pinning to my plants board.

      Will also G+ this!


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