Dorothy is a Master Gardener, former newspaper reporter, and the author of several books. Michael is a landscape/nature photographer in NM.
The Beloved Wild Prairie Rose
The wild prairie rose may be the state flower for Iowa and North Dakota, but we love ours here in New Mexico. It is also loved by others all over the United States, where it occurs naturally and is often used for landscaping.
This small-species rose is not only lovely, but it also provides food and shelter for birds and other wildlife. It also attracts and provides nesting material/structure for a large number of native bees.
The wild prairie rose flower is about 2-3" across with broad, rounded petals that have wavy edges. Sometimes, there is a notch at the tip of the petal. The petals are all edible. Petals can be solid or bi-colored, ranging in colors from white to a deep pink. The petals surround yellow stamens and styles.
Up to four flowers bloom on the tips of the new growth, then occasionally on the lateral branches of older stems. Leaves of the plant are alternate and compound and have serrated edges.
Photos of Our Wild Prairie Rose Bush
Native Americans and Wild Prairie Roses
Native Americans have always had many uses for different parts of a wild prairie rose. They learned to take advantage of a plentiful source of various medicines and food.
Rose hips, containing the seeds, form at the base of the flower and turn a bright red later in the summer. The hips of the flower contain many times more vitamin C than a lemon, so the Native Americans would store them and use them during times that food was scarce, eating them raw or turning them into jelly. The younger stems and leaves were often picked and boiled into a tea.
For burns, they would crush the leaf galls and use them as an ointment, and the roots and hips, when steeped, made an effective treatment for irritations of the eyes.
Start by Buying a Live Plant...
Prepare to have a big headache if you try to start this plant from seed. The germination rate is very low and that's a problem that is best left to professionals at nurseries.
If you do choose to try to grow them from seed, remember that they grow naturally in the wild just fine, so don't cover the seed with very much dirt at all. They are usually just strewn by the wind and left to either grow or not grow. So, simply spread a few of the seeds and the top of some potting soil and press down very lightly. Make sure the soil is at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit (or you will have absolutely no chance of germination) and water the soil well. Then keep your fingers crossed and hope for the best.
Once you have a live plant established in your garden, creating additional plants can be done by dividing the roots or taking stem cuttings. Many people refer to this plant as being "invasive," so you shouldn't have any trouble finding offshoots to dig up for transplanting in other locations. I, personally, haven't witnessed our own plant becoming invasive, but that may be because it is planted in the middle of rocks. We own 40 acres of vacant land in Nevada, and I look forward to planting many of these along the border of the land, although I'll be using stem cuttings since the roots are well below rocks.
Wild Prairie Roses Don't Mind the Drought
We love our wild prairie rose shrub because it pretty much takes care of itself. So, if you've got a sunny location, they are extremely hardy and can hold up in the most severe periods of drought. They don't require hand-holding care and will produce fragrant flowers whether you want them or not. Six to eight hours of direct sunshine a day are all that's necessary for these little wonders.
Some of the roots of wild prairie roses will grow 10-12 feet in length and they grow very deep into the soil, which keeps them extremely hardy. Deeper roots allow them to withstand longer periods when there is no moisture. When watering your wild prairie rose bush, don't overdo it; remember those deep roots. If you want, you can water them about once a week.
If, after planting them, you discover that the area stands in water, you may want to relocate your plant to a drier area.
You can mulch your plants if you want, but they do just fine in the wild without mulch, so the choice is yours. Mulch certainly won't hurt them.
If you like to invite wild animals into your area, the wild prairie roses are very appealing to some of them, such as deer. If you don't want to invite them in, you might want to consider some type of fencing if you are in an area where they are likely to be crossing your property.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: Are prairie roses everblooming?
Answer: No, but during the Spring and Summer blooming period, they bloom prolifically if you keep deadheading them regularly.
© 2018 Mike and Dorothy McKenney