All roses produce hips, but we don’t see them as often as flowers because gardeners tend to trim off spent blossoms to encourage a flush of new ones. But if you leave some – or all – of the dying flowers, they’ll turn into eye-catching hips in early autumn, often lasting well into winter.
The best hips are produced by species roses, which can be planted either as standalone specimens or as hedges in wilder areas of the garden, where you can let them grow naturally without much pruning. Rambler and climbing roses are also good choices, as their trusses of flowers turn into hundreds of hips.
Roses are in the same family as apples, so it’s no surprise that their hips are also edible, tasting slightly tart, like crab apples. They’re a rich source of vitamin C, with levels up to 10 times greater than oranges. The right time to harvest hips is just after the first frosts have softened them, but they’re still firm and colourful. Just be sure to leave some for the birds.
Here are eight of the best roses for hips.
Birds adore the red, egg-shaped hips of the wild dog rose, Rosa canina, which are also good for cooking. A common hedgerow shrub, it bears white to pale pink flowers in early summer. Height 3m, spread 1.5m.
Bright red, egg-shaped hips of the wild dog rose, Rosa canina
Rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’
Masses of orange-red hips adorn this much-loved, rampant rambler, Rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’. It needs a large tree or building to grow over and produces trusses of fragrant creamy-white single flowers. Height 10m, spread 6m.
A mass of orange-red hips on a rambling Rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’
Rosa ‘Fru Dagmar Hastrup’
The small, orange-red hips of Rosa ‘Fru Dagmnar Hastrup’ look like cherry tomatoes. In summer, pale pink, clove-scented flowers cover this sturdy, spreading shrub rose. Height 1m, spread 1.2m.
Round orange hips of Rosa ‘Fru Dagmnar Hastrup’
Rosa ‘Madame Grégoire Staechelin’
Rosa ‘Madame Grégoire Staechelin’ is a glorious climber with huge hips that turn from yellow to pinkish-red, emerging from double, pale pink flowers in May. Although prone to fungal disease, its beauty makes it worth the effort. Height 6m, spread 4m.
A yellow hip of Rosa ‘Madame Grégoire Staechelin’
Elegant urn-shaped orange-red hips and arching stems make Rosa moyesii an excellent species shrub rose for borders. It produces single, pink or striking dark red flowers in summer. Height 4m, spread 3m.
Urn-shaped orange-red hips of Rosa moyesii
Rosa rugosa ‘Alba’
Shiny cherry-tomato hips and healthy foliage make Rosa rugosa ‘Alba’ a robust dog rose, ideal for hedging. It’s adored by gardeners, cooks and birds alike. Its scented white blooms open from pink buds. Height and spread 2m.
Shiny cherry-tomato hips of Rosa rugosa ‘Alba’
Bristly, urn-shaped, dark red hips hang on the arching stems of Rosa setipoda, making a striking autumn feature. In summer, large clusters of pale pink flowers appear. Height and spread 2m.
Clusters of bright-red, bristly, urn-shaped hips of Rosa setipoda
Known as the Scotch rose, Rosa spinosissima is a charming but very prickly species rose. Purplish-black hips follow the white, early summer flowers. Height 1m, spread 1.2m.
A purple-black hip of prickly Rosa spinosissima