Hardworking and undemanding, ground-cover roses package the beauty of the cherished flower in a plant that spreads and spills across the ground. These roses typically offer easy-care natures with disease-resistant leaves and continuous flowering throughout the growing season.
These short, sprawling plants usually grow from 1 to 3 feet tall and spread wider than their height (from 3 to 6 feet or more). Some ground-cover roses lack fragrance, but flower number more than makes up for lack of scent.
- Choose a sunny site – the more sun, the more flowers.
- Make sure soil drains well.
- Amend soil with organic matter.
- Space roses according to label recommendations.
Many traditional ground covers, such as vinca vine, pachysandra and ivy, form a thick mat that defeats weeds. Ground-cover roses don’t blanket soil with weed-smothering foliage, even at the height of the growing season. (And in the dormant season, stems may be completely leafless.) Weeds frequently poke through spreading stems and often emerge near the base of the rose. To deter weeds:
- Consider planting through landscape fabric.
- Maintain a mulch layer on soil beneath sprawling stems.
- Apply a pre-emergent herbicide to planting beds in early spring and fall to interrupt weed seed germination.
Hardworking ground-cover roses fill many roles in the landscape. Add these rugged beauties where you want low-growing, continuous color. Choices might include:
- edging a path or planting bed
- massed in a bed to create a swath of color
- forming a low barrier to foot traffic
- along a driveway, where low growth won’t block sight
For more information, read our article Landscaping With Roses. For pruning tips, also check out 12 Great Landscape Roses.
Types of Ground-Cover Roses
- 2 feet high by 2–6 feet wide. Disease-resistant foliage, continuous blooming, restrained growth. Hardiness varies by cultivar, but all are hardy to USDA zone 4.
- Tip: Depending on cultivar, form can be more arching than spreading. Research before planting.
- 1.5 feet high by 2–3 feet wide. Disease-resistant foliage, continuous blooming, naturally dwarf. Hardy to USDA zone 4.
- Tip: Prune to 4 inches in early spring.
Flower Carpet Roses
- 3–3.5 feet high by 2–3 feet wide. More mounding than spreading. To cover ground, use in a mass planting. Disease-resistant foliage, continuous blooming, thorny canes, drought-tolerant once established. Hardy to USDA zone 5, but reported to survive to USDA zone 3.
- Several cultivars work as ground covers: White Meidiland, Fire Meidiland (red), Ruby Meidiland, Red Meidiland and Magic Meidiland (magenta pink). Most are hardy to USDA zone 4.
- Tip: Meidilands are more aggressive, vigorous roses – an excellent choice for covering a hillside.
- Shorter roses (under 30 inches) with a more mounded, bushy form (rather than spreading). To cover ground, use in a mass planting. Hardy to USDA zone 5.
- Examples: Gourmet Popcorn (white/yellow center), Rabble Rouser (yellow), Teeny Bopper (red and white) and What a Peach (apricot).
- Shrub roses with sprawling growth can be used as ground covers, as can climbing roses grown without supports.
- Examples: Sea Foam (white), Red Cascade (red) and Yellow Ribbons (yellow).