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Heirloom Roses: The Eglantine (Sweet Briar) Rose

Updated on July 22, 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.


Think long and hard before planting an Eglantine rose in your garden. It becomes enormous and is so thorny that you need protective clothing to prune it. But if you love Shakespeare and Chaucer, then you must have at least one.


The Eglantine rose, 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.


Hardy from zones 4 through 9, the Eglantine rose thrives in full sun attaining a mature height of 10 to 15 feet. Its spread can be up to 10 feet. 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.

It is grown for its scent and its hips. The flowers are a light pink. Each blossom has five overlapping petals and a bright yellow center. Both the flowers and the leaves are apple scented, especially when wet. It blooms for about two weeks in late spring to early summer. Thereafter, 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.


The Eglantine rose does not require any pruning beyond the usual pruning done in very early spring to remove dead or dying canes. Any dead leaves, branches or other brush should be removed from under your bush to prevent the spread of insects and disease.

© 2014 Caren White


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      Leni 17 months 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 image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      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.

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      calculus-geometry 3 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!

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      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      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 3 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!