Plant of the Week: Virginia rose

This time of year, the serrated leaves of Rosa virginiana are an eye-catching bright yellow set off by prickled red stems. Virginia rose, as it is commonly called, is hard to miss among the taupes and khakis of the winter garden. This is only the latest stage in a dramatic transition from deep green in summer, to nearly purple, followed by a fiery orange shade, before turning golden.

This native rose ranges from Newfoundland, south to Alabama, and west to Missouri. Unlike hybridized roses, Rosa virginiana is a species rose. It is not plagued by pests or diseases, and has no need for constant fertilization and spraying. As such, it suits the naturalistic garden of the High Line thanks to its relatively wild form compared to the varieties and cultivars found in more traditional gardens. With a possible height of 4-6 feet, it is sometimes used as a showy hedge. Its ability to grow quickly and shapely when cut back makes it well suited for this use.

The crinkled red fruits, also called hips, of Rosa virginiana persist into the winter. In home gardens, they can be harvested to make a delicious jelly or jam, but you will have to get to them before wildlife do. The branches and leaves are also a popular source of construction material for bird and leafcutter bee nests, respectively.


Rosa virginiana is tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions. Preferring well drained soils, it performs particularly well in sandy, coastal soils. It also tolerates salt well.


Rosa virginiana is cultivated on the High Line at 10th Avenue Square at West 17th Street and at the 34th Street entrance plaza.

The High Line's planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 500 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line's rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today. Every week we share one of our gardeners' current favorites with you.

Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential role in the High Line's most important gardening projects.

TD Bank is the Presenting Green Sponsor of the High Line.

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