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Heirloom Roses: Rosa Mundi

Updated on January 19, 2017
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Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been a volunteer at Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.


Rosa mundi is an ancient rose. It is a "sport" or genetic mutation of the famous Apothecary's Rose long grown for its medicinal and culinary uses.


According to legend, Rosa Mundi is named for the mistress of the English King Henry II who ruled England from 1154 to his death in 1189. She was born Jane Clifford but later was known as Fair Rosamund. As was common in those days, Henry's marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine was an arranged marriage. Eleanor was jealous of Rosamund and killed her using an oil made from the Apothecary's Rose, dark pink and Rosa alba, a white rose.

After Rosamund's death, it was said that a new rose, with red and white stripes appeared outside of the castle where she lived. Every year, Henry decorated her tomb with flowers from the new rose, Rosa Mundi.


Rosa mundi is hardy through zone 4. It is a compact rose growing to 3- to 4 feet tall and makes an excellent hedge. It will tolerate shade and poor soil. The branches have very few thorns. The flowers are semi-double and striped white and dark pink or crimson. They have a typical old rose fragrance. Rosa mundi flowers once a year in the late spring. Rose hips, beloved of birds, develop in the fall.

Like most heirloom roses, rosa mundi is disease resistant.


An initial pruning can be done in very early spring. Remove dead or dying canes only at this time. Any dead leaves, branches or other brush should be removed from under your bush to prevent the spread of insects and disease.

Annual pruning should be done after your rose has finished blooming but no later than late summer. To shape it, cut the top canes down by one third and side canes by two thirds.

© 2014 Caren White


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    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Heirloom roses are my favorite. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • Pawpawwrites profile image

      Jim 3 years ago from Kansas

      What interesting history. We just don't have many heirloom roses to choose from around here. This one would make a beautiful hedge.

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      I have read that it can "sport" back to Rosa gallica officinalis. How wonderful that you witnessed it in your garden! Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • blueheron profile image

      Sharon Vile 3 years ago from Odessa, MO

      This is one of my favorite old roses! I started out with one Rosa Mundi, but it suckered to turn into two roses--one of which sported back to Rosa gallica officinalis. So now I have one of each--until they both spread some more and can be divided again.

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      I love the legends associated with heirloom flowers. Thanks for reading!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      What a colorful history for such a beautiful flower!