How to Grow Polyantha Roses in your Garden

Polyantha Roses (Polyanthas) make a great plant to grow for a novice gardener.

Not only do these dwarf roses have a wonderful scent but they also carry pretty double or semi-double flowers, are tough, resistant to diseases, survive poorer soils, and require relatively little maintenance.

See also my Rosa Plant genus growing guide.

Polyantha Rose
Polyantha-Rose "Muttertag" photograph by Patrick Nouhailler.

The name of these hardy roses derives from the terms 'Poly' and 'Anthos'; so quite literally means Many-Flowered. They were first created in France in the early 19th centenary and are derived from a cross between Rosa multiflora and Rosa chinensis.

They are the predecessors of the modern floribundas (which are a cross between Polyantha roses and hybrid teas. Over the years numerous cultivars have been developed, more of which later.

Polyanthas typically bloom from May through to mid-autumn. The flowers are about 2.5 cm (one inch) across and create large sprays. The petals are typically, white, pink, red, peach or cream in colour. Indeed one of the main reasons for the popularity of this plant is that blooms continue. This can help to add a pleasant fragrance and lots of colour to the garden.

These roses are hardy to about -20°C (-4°F). This means that they can happily grow in Northern Europe and do well in the USA Growing zones 5 to 9. They can grow well in containers, and can easily be brought indoors in areas where temperatures are likely to drop below these temperatures.

These dwarf shrubs usually have a compact nature, but some cultivars have a spreading nature.

Although they are tough plants they do still require some maintenance so are not ideal for the more lazy or time limited gardener.

Some of the tasks include regular watering and pruning towards the end of winter or early in spring. To prune Polyantha Roses, cut back to about 30 to 45 cm (12 to 18 inches). The prune should be made above an outward facing bud. To help keep compact reduce the number of side-shoots to two or three at this stage, and cut back about a third of older mature to the ground.

When grown together these plants can make a great hedging plant, may be planted in mass, and also look good as a container plant.

Common Polyantha Rose Cultivars

Rosa 'Bloomfield Abundance'

Rosa Bloomfield Abundance

Bloomfield Abundance photograph by Malcolm Manners.

Grown for its repetitive flowering. Tends to be larger than other cultivars, typically reaching about 1.8 m (6 feet) in height. It carries pink flowers on sprays in summer and autumn - these are small and have a light scent.

Rosa Marjorie Fair: 'Harhero'

Rosa Marjorie Fair

Rosa Marjorie Fair photograph by T.Kiya.

Compact nature. Flowers about 4 cm (1.5 inches) in diameter. Purplish red flowers with a white center. Leaves are glossy. Blooms in summer and autumn.

Rosa 'Yvonne Rabier'

Nearly thornless. Flowers are cream with lemon centres - about 5 cm (2 inches) in diameter. Foliage is glossy and bright green. Compact.

Rosa 'The Fairy'

Polyantha The Fairy

Polyantha 'The Fairy' photograph by F. D. Richards.

Dwarf shrub. Single or double flowers occur in sprays. Flowers are pink and reach about 2.5 cm (1 inch) across. Blooms a little later than other varieties - from late summer through autumn.

General Quick Growing and Care Guide

  • Scientific Name: Rosa multiflora polyantha.
  • Common Name (s): Polyantha Rose, Japanese rose.
  • Growing Zone (USA / UK Hardiness): 5 to 9 / H6.

Plant Details

  • Life Cycle / Plant Type: Deciduous shrub. Bushy habit.
  • Plant Height: 60 cm to 2 m (2 to 6.5 feet).
  • Plant Spread: 60 cm to 1.5 m (2 to 5 feet).
  • Blooms: From late spring to the first frosts of autumn.
  • Flower Details: Fragrant. Continuous Double or semi-double blooms. Plants carry multiple flowers in clusters. Flowers may be white, cream, pink, red, or peach. Rosa Polyantha blooms are typically small to medium at about 2.5 to 5 cm (1 to 2 inches) in diameter.
  • Leaf Foliage: Toothed leaflets. Glossy. Thorny stems.
  • Fruit Details: Hip (haw, hep)/ Haw

Growing Conditions

  • Best Light Conditions: Light shade and Full sunlight
  • Suitable Soil Types: will grow in most soils but will perform best in a moist fertile soil that is rich in humus.
  • Suitable Soil pH: Ideally slightly acidic pH 6.5. Tolerates alkaline and acidic soil pH, but performance can be hindered.
  • Soil Soil Moisture: Well drained, medium moisture.
  • Planting and Propagation: Use Semi-ripe cuttings towards the end of summer, or take hardwood cuttings in the autumn. These plants can also be cloned by using the T-budding process (summer). If planting a garden centre/nursery rose plant, then do so late on the growing season, about a month before or until the last expected frost. First dig a hole a little wider and deeper than the root. At the bottom of the hole add a little compost and mix into the soil. Mix compost with the remaining soil and fill the hole and form a small mound around the base of the rose plant. Next provide a deep watering. Space at about 60 cm to 1 m (2 to 3 feet).
  • Care: Low to medium maintenance plant. Deep watering. Do not water from overhead as this can damage the plants. Water every day in dry periods - ideally in the morning. Remove any diseased leaves and tidy up decayed leaves as soon as noticed. Requires pruning once a year (end of winter / start of spring). Supply a balanced fertilizer twice a year: once in late winter and once at the start of summer. May also require a mulch in cooler climates to help protect the crowns. Also consider a summer mulch to help maintain soil moisture in warmer areas.

Further Information

  • Best used for: Hedges. En-mass in borders and beds. Container gardening, especially in cooler areas.
  • Family: Rosaceae
  • Closely Related Species: Rosa rugosa, Prunus, Alchemilla, Aronia, Aruncus, Pyrus, Sanguisorba, Sorbus, Acaena, Crataegus, Rubus, and Waldstenia.
  • Miscellaneous: Attracts butterflies to the garden. Tolerant of air pollution and poor soils.
  • Further Reading and References used for this Polyantha Rose growing guide: Missouri Botanical Garden Guide to Rosa 'The Fairy'; Rosa 'Yvonne Rabier'

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Rosa multiflora plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides: How to grow Rock Rose and Hibiscus plants.