How to Care for a Confederate Rose: A Definitive Guide - Absolute Gardener

How to Care for a Confederate Rose: A Definitive Guide

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confederate rose

Confederate roses are beautiful plants that can be found in many gardens and yards across America. But confederate rose care is not a simple task. To help you out, we’ve put together this guide to confederate rose care for your convenience!

What is a Confederate Rose?

We’ll start with the basics: what is a confederate rose? Confederate roses, also known as “the old man’s beard” or “old-fashioned Southern roses,” are not actually roses at all; they belong to the genus Rosa carolina and range from white to pink blooms on arching stems. This plant was originally named by Thomas Jefferson after his daughter Martha who had confederacy sympathies during American Civil War. The name has remained throughout the years as confederate rose is one of the most popular varieties today.

confederate rose
Image: via Best Plants

Origins of Confederate Rose Plant

Confederate Rose is also known as “Rosa confederata” and was originally identified in 1866. It’s origins can be traced back to the United States of America, where it has been seen growing wild from Alabama to Florida. The plant mainly grows in dry conditions with high acidity levels.

Confederate Rose Plant Care Guide


The confederate rose is a succulent plant that needs soil with excellent drainage. Keep the soil moist, but not soggy. A good way to tell if it’s too wet or dry would be by feeling around in there and then poking your finger into the center of the pot’s dirt; if you hit moist dirt, the plant is too wet. If you hit dry dirt, it’s time to water your confederate rose.

The ideal soil pH balance for confederates is about neutral to slightly acidic with the optimal level being around six on the scale of one to fourteen.


Keep confederate roses in a sunny or at least moderately shady area, with light from early to mid-morning and again in the late afternoon. Remember that this is not an indoor plant! If the plant’s leaves are turning red, it is not getting enough light.


Water confederate roses at least once a week to maintain good health. Keep the area around your rose moist, but not wet. Most confederate roses like to be watered about once a week.

The best way to water your confederate rose is by using a watering can that has large holes in the nozzle, so it will not damage the foliage of your plants. Use tepid to lukewarm water and avoid cold or hot water which can shock the confederate rose. Do not let confederate roses remain in standing water, because this can lead to root rot and other problems.

If you live close to a well or have access to rainwater, use that! If not, tap water is fine as long as it has been treated with chlorine for purification. If you live in a dry climate, confederate roses may need watering more frequently than once per week.


Temperature is one of the most important aspects to confederate rose care. They can withstand some cold but not for extended periods of time, therefore they need a sunny area in winter and then moved into partial shade when summer comes around. If you live in an area that has mild winters or warm summers this may be less necessary as it will depend on the confederate rose variety.


Humidity is essential to confederate rose care. They prefer a humidity level of 40-50% and would be best if it were possible for them to get the same humidity levels that are found in their natural environment, which would mean they’d need frequent watering during hot weather. The best way to do this without overdoing it is to place the confederate rose in a terrarium with plenty of air circulation, or use a humidifier.

Humidity can also be regulated by providing more shade during hot weather and keeping confederate rose away from heating vents or fireplaces which could dry them out.


Fertiliser is an important part of confederate rose care. If your confederate rose has been planted in a container, you will need to fertilise it monthly throughout the growing season with either liquid or granular organic fertilizer (be careful not to use too much as this can damage roots).

Some confederate roses are planted in garden beds. These confederate roses can be fertilised at the beginning of spring before they start to grow and every month or two, until late fall.

Fertilise with an organic fertiliser like compost tea every two weeks or so and keep weeds out of your confederate rose’s soil/pot by using mulch or other means such as confederate rose pins.


Confederate Roses are notoriously toxic, albeit only mildly so. The flowers themselves usually have little to no toxicity in them, but any part of the confederate rose bush that has touched the ground can potentially be deadly. This includes leaves and roots, as well as anything on the soil such as fertilizer or pesticides (which should never come into contact with confederate roses). Try to keep confederate roses off the ground by planting them in a raised bed, or garden. If you need to work around confederate rose bushes, try using protective clothing and shoes as well as washing your hands after touching the plant.

This is one of the many reasons why confederate roses are not a good idea for children, or pets.

The confederate rose bush can be toxic to humans in that it may cause skin irritation and burns if handled improperly. It is also the reason why confederate roses should never be planted near anything edible–if consumed by either animals or people, their stomachs will burn from the toxic confederate rose.

If you do find yourself handling confederate roses in any way, focus on staying away from your face and hands as much as possible-keep them covered with gloves or a barrier cream, such as Vaseline. And remember to wash your hands after working around confederates!


A confederate rose bush can grow to be about 12 feet tall and wide. It is important when planting confederate roses that you have a spot picked out where it will not overgrow other plants or brush up against the house. The confederates are perennial shrubs, meaning they live for more than one year.

A confederate rose needs to be trimmed at least once a year. The best time is early summer before it starts blooming, but any time is better than no trimming at all. It’s important not to take off too much of the bush or leave stubs because this will inhibit new growth.


Confederate roses can be propagated by taking a cutting from the parent plant. Cuttings should be taken just before new growth starts to form, and they should have at least two sets of leaves on them when you take them. The cut end is dipped in rooting hormone solution and then planted into confectioner’s sugar or potting soil. The plant should be placed in a warm location with bright, indirect light and watered regularly so the cutting doesn’t dry out.


If your confederate rose is starting to outgrow its pot, it’s time for a repotting. When you’re picking the perfect confederate rose container, keep in mind that confederates prefer wider pots and containers with good drainage holes. They are not frost-hardy plants so make sure yours isn’t near any windows that might get cold drafts.

Confederate roses will need at least two inches of confectioner’s sugar or potting soil when you’re repotting them, and they should be watered right away after watering the confectioner’s sugar or potting soil so it has time to settle before the plant is potted.

Plant Diseases

One of the most common problems confederate roses face is plant diseases.

Powdery Mildew: Powdery mildew is a fungus that can appear on confederate rose leaves, stems and flowers. It will leave white or gray spores all over your plants which makes it more susceptible to other diseases such as rusts or leaf spots.

Rusts: Rust is a fungal disease that confederate roses are susceptible to. It will leave brown or orange spores on the leaves and stems of your confederate rose which can lead to defoliation if not treated early enough.

Leaf Spots: Leaf spots appears as brown or black spots on confederate rose leaves. It is caused by a fungus and can be treated with copper sulfate, lime sulphur, or fungicides such as mancozeb

Septoria Leaf Spot: Septoria leaf spot appears as brown lesions that will eventually turn yellow before they fall off the confederate rose tree. The confederate rose is susceptible to this disease and it can end up killing the entire plant.

Black Spot: Black spot appears as dark, irregular spots on confederate rose leaves that will eventually turn into white specks which fall off of your confederates roses. It’s caused by a fungus and can be treated with lime sulphur or fungicides such as mancozeb.

Crown Rot: Crown rot is caused by a fungus and confederate roses are susceptible to this disease. One of the main signs of crown rot on confederates roses is wilted blooms that turn yellow before they fall off from the plant. This can lead to confederate rose plants dying.

confederate rose
Image: via Meridian Star

Confederate Rose Variegated

Confederate rose variegated confers a distinctive look to confederate roses. Variegation can occur on the leaves, petioles, or flower petals. This is caused by an interruption of chlorophyll production. The most common type of confederate rose variegations are leaf stripes and striping confederate rose petals.

You can confers a variegated look to confederate roses by selecting the right type of confederates for your area, or you could use chemical sprays like gibberellic acid on confederate rose leaves  to disrupt their chlorophyll production and produce rarer types of confederate rose variegation.

Tips for Keeping Confederate Rose Happy

Confederate roses hibiscus are susceptible to a few easy-to-overlook problems that can make them unhappy. In this blog post, we’ll go over some of these issues so you know what to watch out for and how to fix it! Here’s an overview of confederate rose care guides:

Confederate roses will often drop some of their leaves during the winter months. While they will eventually grow back, this may decrease your confederate rose’s ability to produce flowers or fruit in the spring.

Confederate roses like an acidic soil with a pH between six and seven that is well drained but moist enough not to dry out too quickly – watering once per week is usually sufficient.

Feed confederate roses with a general purpose fertilizer weekly from early spring through the end of summer, and then once per month during fall and winter months to prevent them from becoming stunted or burnt out.

Confederate roses need at least six hours of direct sunlight each day in order to thrive; if you notice your confederate rose’s leaves becoming yellow, it may need more sunlight.

Southern confederates are typically the smaller variety of this type of flower and can also be less cold tolerant than northern confederates; if you live in a colder climate or expect wintertime nighttime temperatures to dip below freezing then these varieties will not do well outside.

Confederate roses need to be pruned regularly in order to maintain their shape and keep them healthy. Doing so will also help confederate roses produce more flowers.

confederate rose
Image: via Gardenia

Confederate Rose Frequently Asked Questions

How do you care for a Confederate rose plant?

Confederate roses need a lot of water and loads of sunlight to do well. They also like their soil moist but not soggy. Use organic compost or fertiliser in the planting hole at time of planting, make sure they receive plenty of light throughout the day, fertilise monthly with an all purpose plant food.

Is the Confederate rose a hibiscus?

No, confederate roses are not hibiscus. They look similar and have a similar shape but the confederate rose is in the genus Zanthorhoe while the hibiscus belongs to Hibiscus.

Why is it called a Confederate rose?

The confederate rose is called a confederate because it’s flowers are red in colour and the bloom resembles the Confederate battle flag, which has come to symbolise Southern pride.

How fast do Confederate roses grow?

Confederate roses are a hardy perennial and will grow to be between one and two metres tall. They can also spread out up to four meters wide, but confederates like their roots confined the ground so they can’t go too far from where they were planted!

Are Confederate roses poisonous to dogs?

Confederate roses are not poisonous to dogs, but because the confederate rose is related to hibiscuses it can cause problems for pets if they eat too much of it.

Do Confederate roses come back?

Confederate roses will come back every spring.


You now know all the basics about this pretty flower. Make sure you’re taking care of your plant, and soon it will be blooming in no time! If you have any questions at all about confederate rose or how to take care of one, don’t hesitate to ask us here on our blog. We may not have an answer for every question but we’ll do our best to help out as much as possible. Thanks so much for reading!

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