OE wyrtig, adj: Garden-like, full of plants;
On anum wyrtige hamme, Homl. Skt. ii. 30:312



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Apothecary Rose
Rosa gallica officinalis

Roses in early sources


Description      Propagation      Cultivation      Harvest

Rosa gallica officinalis

Women making rose wreaths, from the Tacuinum Sanitatum


More than 150 varieties of wild rose are known, growing in the temperate zones of every continent. Roses were first cultivated in China about 5000 years ago; rose wreaths are found in Egyptian tombs, and roses appear in the murals of Minoan Crete. The oldest cultivated rose, known before 1250 CE in western Europe, is Rosa gallica officinalis, whose scientific name can be translated as "Gallic [from Gaul, now France] rose of the [herbalist's] workshop." It is often called Apothecary rose, reflecting its use in early medicine.

Common names,

Apothecary rose, French rose, Gallica rose, Red rose of Lancaster, Rose of Provins


Semi-double Rosa gallica flowers



Cold hardiness

Hardy to Zone 5 or -25 degrees F




Small, spreading, suckering shrub when grown on its own roots, rather than grafted onto another rootstock.

Single Rosa gallica flower



Dark pink, 3" wide flower typically has five petals though may be double or triple, surrounding a center of golden stamens. Has a lovely fragrance which actually becomes stronger when the petals are dried.

Rose leafFoliage

Alternate, pinnate leaves with serrated edges

Branches have prickles (not thorns)

Rose hip, from Wikimedia CommonsFruit Rosehips have long been recognized as both a food and a medicinal, and while British place names rarely have rosa as a component, hēopa, "rose hip" is found in many.


Rose hipsFrom seed

As soon as the hips have begun to turn red, collect and clean seeds, removing the surrounding pulp and rinsing seed well. Cold stratify seed for 16 weeks. Then nick the seed before planting it, as it has a very hard seed coat. Seed can be very slow to germinate, so many prefer to propagate cuttings.

Germination temperature

70 degrees F

Germination time

14-21 days


Keep seed starting mix slightly moist

From cuttings

In late July take semi-mature, heeled, 6-7" cuttings; those that have just finished flowering are best. Remove all but top 4-5 leaves; slit or scrape lower 1" of stem. Dip in rooting hormone, then plant 2" deep in a mix that is half potting soil and half perlite. Grow at 60-80 degrees F. Generally takes 3-4 weeks for cuttings to root; when this has happened, transplant into semi-shady starter bed. Mulch to protect through the winter, then transplant after last frost in the spring to where they will grow.

From suckers

Be sure your Rosa gallica is growing on its own roots, as suckers from grafted roses will grow up from the graft. If your rose is own-rooted, wait until the plant is dormant, then dig down to where the sucker arises from the root. Free the sucker by cutting the root between the sucker and the parent plant, leaving about 2" of root attached to the sucker. Dig up the sucker, rinse it off, and dip its base in rooting powder. Plant where you want it to grow, and water well to settle the soil around it.





Moderate moisture


Full sun to light shade


R. gallica tolerates heat better than many roses, but needs preventive care (using sulfur) in humid locations.

Companion plants

Roses do well when planted with parsley, alliums, and garlic; all of which have strong scents that may confuse or repel insect pests.


Rose rust, black spot (fungal), powdery mildew


Aphids, Japanese beetles, thrips, spider mites


Remove damaged or diseased leaves (put these into the trash can, not the compost pile). Then spray the plant with a mixture of 1 qt water, 1 tsp baking soda, and 1/4 tsp insecticidal soap. Reapply after rain. This will help to prevent disease, and will also control thrips, aphids, and spider mites. Handpick Japanese beetles and drop into bucket of soapy water. Flush water down toilet; don't throw away in yard, as scent may attract more beetles. 


Season to bloom/

Flowers once in early summer; hips which appear in fall are rich in vitamin C as well as attractive on the plant.



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