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The Moss Rose

Historically speaking, the moss rose is a relative newcomer to gardens. This was reportedly native to either Chile or Brazil, depending on one’s sources. Other experts report it could also have originated in Uruguay. They agree it was apparently introduced to Europe in the 1820’s.

The renowned garden author, Peter Henderson, wrote about this species in his classic gardening encyclopedia, “Henderson’s Handbook of Plants and General Horticulture,” which was originally published in 1890. According to him, the double moss rose originated in Germany.

From there it took Europe by storm and was widely acclaimed in Hovey’s Magazine at that time. The blooms were said to be the size of a silver dollar.

In Germany, the moss rose is known as the ranunculus rose. The blooms of double flowering varieties do resemble those of the ever popular ranunculus.

In different areas of the world, moss rose is known by various names. For some strange reason, it goes by the name Vietnamese rose in the Philippines.

For the most part, the moss rose is often grown as an annual. However, in warmer regions like the tropics, it can be grown as an evergreen perennial that blooms year-round. Zone nine is about its southernmost limit in the U.S.

Moss rose occasionally escapes from cultivation and is able to self-sow year after year. This is more likely to happen in warmer areas with suitable well drained soils. In addition to preferring sandy soils, it also inhabits granite outcroppings in some areas.

While going through some old garden catalogs from the early 1900’s, I could find no named varieties. The 1943 edition of the Robert Buist Co. catalog listed both a single and a double flowered mix as did the H.W. Buckbee catalog issued in 1928.

If you want double flowers, buy fresh seeds each year. Or purchase double flowering plants in the spring. Don’t try to save seeds from your own double flowers. All of the offspring will not be double.

Start moss rose seeds early indoors. Sometimes, the plants will self sow in hanging baskets and container gardens.

Transplant the seedlings outdoors into the garden after the weather has warmed and the danger of frost is past. Be sure and harden the plants off if you start your own from seeds. The ones you buy from a garden center/nursery are ready to plant.

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