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Soft Downy Rose

Rosa mollis

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Rosaceae (Rose)
Also in this family:
Acute Leaf-lobed Lady's-mantle, Alpine Cinquefoil, Alpine Lady's-mantle, Ampfield Cotoneaster, Arran Service Tree, Arran Whitebeam, Barren Strawberry, Bastard Agrimony, Bastard Service Tree, Bearberry Cotoneaster, Bird Cherry, Blackthorn, Bloody Whitebeam, Bramble, Bristol Whitebeam, Broad-leaved Whitebeam, Broadtooth Lady's-mantle, Bronze Pirri-pirri-bur, Bullace Plum, Bullate Cotoneaster, Burnet Rose, Catacol Whitebeam, Caucasian Lady's-mantle, Cheddar Whitebeam, Cherry Laurel, Cherry Plum, Chinese Photinia, Cloudberry, Clustered Lady's-mantle, Common Agrimony, Common Hawthorn, Common Lady's-mantle, Common Medlar, Common Ninebark, Common Whitebeam, Crab Apple, Creeping Chinese Bramble, Creeping Cinquefoil, Crimean Lady's-mantle, Cultivated Apple, Cultivated Pear, Cut-leaved Blackberry, Damson, Devon Whitebeam, Dewberry, Diel's Cotoneaster, Dog Rose, Doward Whitebeam, Dropwort, Elm-leaved Bramble, English Whitebeam, Entire-leaved Cotoneaster, False Salmonberry, Field Rose, Firethorn, Fodder Burnet, Fragrant Agrimony, Franchet's Cotoneaster, Garden Lady's-mantle, Garden Strawberry, Giant Meadowsweet, Glaucous Dog Rose, Goatsbeard Spiraea, Gough's Rock Whitebeam, Great Burnet, Greengage Plum, Grey-leaved Whitebeam, Hairless Lady's-mantle, Hairy Lady's-mantle, Hautbois Strawberry, Himalayan Blackberry, Himalayan Cotoneaster, Himalayan Whitebeam, Hoary Cinquefoil, Hollyberry Cotoneaster, Hupeh Rowan, Hybrid Cinquefoil, Hybrid Geum, Irish Whitebeam, Japanese Cherry, Japanese Quince, Japanese Rose, Jew's Mallow, Juneberry, Lancaster Whitebeam, Late Cotoneaster, Least Lady's-mantle, Least Whitebeam, Leigh Woods Whitebeam, Ley's Whitebeam, Liljefor's Whitebeam, Littleleaf Cotoneaster, Llangollen Whitebeam, Llanthony Whitebeam, Lleyn Cotoneaster, Loganberry, Many-flowered Rose, Margaret's Whitebeam, Marsh Cinquefoil, Meadowsweet, Midland Hawthorn, Mougeot's Whitebeam, Mountain Ash, Mountain Avens, Mountain Sibbaldia, Moupin's Cotoneaster, No Parking Whitebeam, Ocean Spray, Orange Whitebeam, Pale Bridewort, Pale Lady's-mantle, Parsley Piert, Pirri-pirri-bur, Plymouth Pear, Portuguese Laurel, Purple-flowered Raspberry, Quince, Raspberry, Rock Cinquefoil, Rock Lady's-mantle, Rock Whitebeam, Round-leaved Dog Rose, Round-leaved Whitebeam, Rum Cherry, Russian Cinquefoil, Salad Burnet, Sargent's Rowan, Scannell's Whitebeam, Service Tree, Sharp-toothed Whitebeam, Sherard's Downy Rose, Shining Lady's-mantle, Ship Rock Whitebeam, Short-styled Rose, Shrubby Cinquefoil, Silver Lady's-mantle, Silverweed, Slender Parsley Piert, Slender-spined Bramble, Small-flowered Sweetbriar, Small-leaved Sweetbriar, Somerset Whitebeam, Sorbaria, Sour Cherry, Southern Downy Rose, Southern Lady's-mantle, Spineless Acaena, Spring Cinquefoil, St. Lucie's Cherry, Steeplebush, Stern's Cotoneaster, Stirton's Whitebeam, Stone Bramble, Sulphur Cinquefoil, Swedish Service Tree, Swedish Whitebeam, Sweet Briar, Symond's Yat Whitebeam, Tengyueh Cotoneaster, Thimbleberry, Thin-leaved Whitebeam, Tibetan Cotoneaster, Tormentil, Trailing Tormentil, Tree Cotoneaster, Trefoil Cinquefoil, Twin-cliffs Whitebeam, Two-spined Acaena, Wall Cotoneaster, Water Avens, Waterer's Cotoneaster, Waxy Lady's-mantle, Welsh Cotoneaster, Welsh Whitebeam, White Burnet, White's Whitebeam, White-stemmed Bramble, Wild Cherry, Wild Pear, Wild Plum, Wild Service Tree, Wild Strawberry, Willmott's Whitebeam, Willow-leaved Bridewort, Willow-leaved Cotoneaster, Wineberry, Wood Avens, Wye Whitebeam, Yellow-flowered Strawberry
Deciduous shrub
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
2.25 metres tall
Cliffs, gardens, grassland, hedgerows, moorland, parks, riversides, roadsides, rocky places, sand dunes, scrub, wasteland, woodland.

Pink, 5 petals
Solitary, notched, pink or pale purple flowers, up to 5cm in diameter. Numerous yellow stamens. Soft Downy Rose has short-stalked flowers. The similar-looking Southern Downy Rose (Rosa tomentosa) is long-stalked.
The fruit of the Rose is called a 'rose hip' or simply just a 'hip'. The hips of this Rose are red. They are short-stalked and its sepals persist. The sepals of the Southern Downy Rose fall early, unlike those of this species. The fruit is many-seeded as is typical of Roses.
Pinnate, double-toothed, alternate, grey-green leaves. 5 to 7 leaflets. Soft Downy Rose is an erect shrub with straight, slender prickles on its branches. It is seldom seen in Ireland and the south of England.
The leaves smell resinous when crushed.
Other Names:
Northern Downy Rose, Soft Rose, Velvet Rose.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Rosa mollis, also known as the "soft rose" or the "velvet rose," is a species of rose native to China and the Himalayas. It is a deciduous shrub that typically grows to around 6-8 feet tall and wide. The leaves are dark green and glossy, and the flowers are large, double and typically pink or red in color. They are known for their velvety texture and strong fragrance. The flowers are followed by small red fruit, known as hips. It is hardy in USDA zones 6-9. It is tolerant of a wide range of soils and can tolerate full sun or partial shade. It is a popular ornamental shrub in cultivation for its attractive foliage and flowers, and it is often used for hedging or in mixed shrub borders. They require regular watering and fertilizing, and they should be pruned annually to promote healthy growth. It is also prone to pests and diseases, such as blackspot and powdery mildew, so it is important to regularly check for and treat these issues. It is also used as a rootstock for other roses.


Soft Downy Rose, also known as Rosa mollis, is a stunning rose variety that is highly sought after for its beauty and unique characteristics. This rose is known for its soft, downy leaves and beautiful, fragrant flowers that bloom in a range of shades from pale pink to deep red.

The Soft Downy Rose is native to Turkey and the Caucasus region, and it has been cultivated for centuries due to its striking appearance and delightful fragrance. It is a deciduous shrub that can grow up to six feet tall and is a popular choice for gardeners looking to add a touch of elegance and sophistication to their outdoor spaces.

One of the most distinctive features of the Soft Downy Rose is its leaves, which are covered in a soft downy layer. This layer is actually made up of tiny hairs that give the leaves a fuzzy texture and a velvety appearance. The leaves are also deeply lobed, with five or seven pointed leaflets that give them a delicate, lacy look.

The Soft Downy Rose blooms in late spring or early summer, producing large, fragrant flowers that can measure up to three inches in diameter. The flowers have a simple, elegant shape with five petals and a central boss of stamens. They come in a range of shades, from soft, blush pink to deep, velvety red, and they are often accented with yellow stamens that provide a striking contrast.

In addition to its stunning appearance, the Soft Downy Rose is also prized for its delightful fragrance. The flowers have a sweet, spicy scent that is reminiscent of cloves or allspice, and they are often used in perfumes and other fragrances.

Growing Soft Downy Roses is relatively easy, as they are hardy and adaptable to a range of growing conditions. They prefer well-drained soil and full sun or partial shade, and they should be watered regularly during the growing season. Pruning should be done in late winter or early spring to promote healthy growth and abundant blooming.

One of the interesting aspects of the Soft Downy Rose is its use in traditional medicine. The rose hips, which are the fruit that forms after the flowers have faded, are high in vitamin C and have been used for centuries to treat a range of ailments, including colds, flu, and digestive disorders. The rose petals are also used to make tea, which has a pleasant flavor and is believed to have a calming effect on the mind and body.

In addition to its medicinal properties, the Soft Downy Rose has been a source of inspiration for artists and writers for centuries. Its delicate beauty and sweet fragrance have been captured in countless paintings, poems, and songs, and it remains a beloved symbol of love and beauty to this day.

If you're considering adding Soft Downy Roses to your garden, you can choose from a range of cultivars that vary in color, size, and growth habit. Some popular varieties include 'Cooperi', which has deep pink flowers and a compact, bushy growth habit, and 'Golden Wings', which has pale yellow flowers and a climbing habit that can reach up to 10 feet.

One of the benefits of growing Soft Downy Roses is that they are relatively low-maintenance and resistant to many common rose diseases. They are also highly attractive to bees and other pollinators, which can be beneficial for your garden as a whole.

Soft Downy Roses can be used in a variety of garden settings, from traditional rose gardens to mixed borders or even in containers. They pair well with other perennials and shrubs, and their soft, romantic appearance makes them a popular choice for wedding bouquets and other floral arrangements.

If you're interested in growing Soft Downy Roses, it's important to choose a location that gets at least six hours of sun per day and has well-drained soil. They prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5, and they should be watered regularly during the growing season to keep the soil evenly moist.

Pruning Soft Downy Roses is important to promote healthy growth and abundant blooming. The best time to prune is in late winter or early spring, before new growth begins. Remove any dead or diseased wood, and trim back any branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other. You can also cut back the entire plant by about one-third to encourage bushy growth and more abundant blooming.

Soft Downy Roses can also be propagated from cuttings, which is a cost-effective way to grow new plants. Take cuttings in early summer, using healthy, new growth that is free from disease and pests. Cut a 6-inch stem just below a leaf node, remove the lower leaves, and dip the cut end in rooting hormone. Plant the cutting in a pot filled with a mixture of potting soil and sand, and keep it moist and out of direct sunlight until it has rooted. Once rooted, the new plant can be transplanted to its permanent location in the garden.

Soft Downy Roses are also great for attracting wildlife to the garden. In addition to their appeal to pollinators, the rose hips are a valuable food source for birds and small mammals in the winter. The downy leaves and thorny branches can also provide shelter and protection for wildlife in the garden.

Finally, the Soft Downy Rose is a great addition to any sustainable garden. They are relatively low-maintenance and resistant to many common rose diseases, which means they require fewer inputs and interventions than other rose varieties. They are also highly attractive to pollinators, which can be beneficial for the health of the entire garden ecosystem. Plus, the rose hips can be harvested and used for a range of culinary and medicinal purposes, which reduces waste and promotes self-sufficiency.

In summary, the Soft Downy Rose is a stunning and highly desirable rose variety that has been cultivated for centuries for its unique beauty and fragrance. It is easy to grow, versatile, and beneficial for both the gardener and the environment. Whether you're a seasoned gardener or a novice, the Soft Downy Rose is definitely worth considering for your garden.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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