Fake Roses

Despite The Names, These Are NOT Roses

Pretenders are everywhere, plants that call themselves “roses” but are not even distantly related to the rose family. Often, they don’t even bear a passing resemblance to a rose. I call them pseudo roses.

You will be familiar with some of the most common examples. Rose of Sharon perhaps, or the Confederate Rose. Others might be unknown to you. While none of the plants on ths page are true roses, many might find a place in your garden anyway, or perhaps you have moved into a new place and are trying to identify some of the shrubs in the garden. Whatever your reasons for checking, we hope we can help with putting a name to those plants.

List of Some Common (and NOT so Common) Plants Maquerading as Roses

As this is a somewhat longer than average page, we have provided links for you to skip down to the various plants. Ckeck the group of links below to find the plant you want to view, and click that link.

At the end of each plant section there is a link to jump back to the index. As we come across more pseudo roses, we will add them to this page.

Christmas Rose

Christmas Rose

The Christmas rose is actually a hellebore species flower. Its well known for its ability to bloom throughout the winter months. It is also known as Helleborus Niger, Black Hellebore, Snow Rose or Winter Rose. The flower hails from Southern Asia and Europe and is the flower of the mountains. It has been associated with Christmas and New Year since biblical times.

The legend of the Christmas rose takes us back two thousand years. There was a small girl named Madelon. Madelon wanted to gift Baby Jesus something. She was very poor and could not get a gift for Jesus. So she went in search of flowers but due to extreme cold weather there were no flowers either. She sat at one place and started crying. An angel appeared there, he touched the ground and a beautiful white color flower appeared. Madelon gifted that rose to Jesus.


The flower with five petals and opening in a nodding disk shape looks very enchanting. The petals have a leathery feel and stay long after being cut. There are a large number of stamens appearing from the center of the flower. The Christmas rose is mostly bred as a white flower, although some other colors are available. Some tones of green can be seen on the flower center. The flower appears pink on the back and in bud form. The white bloomed flower turns dark pink or even red as it ages. The bloom of the flower opens up flat with the petals arranged to form a star shape. Diameter of the flower ranges 4 to 7.5 inches. Each petal of the flower is 2 to 4 cm long and 12mm to 4cm wide. However sometimes there can be more than one. The stems of the plant are succulent and cylindrical. The flower looks are unique and can be easily recognized among other flowers. The foliage is dark green in color and looks attractive. The leathery green leaves last long. The blooms of the flower is prolific and appears form December to April or from late fall to early spring.


Hellebore species is an evergreen shrubby plant. They bloom very well with even limited care. They do very well in warmer areas.To encourage new blooms and foliage this perennial should be cut down a little in early spring. The plant reaches the height of 9 to 12 inches. The essential requirements for the Hellebores species to grow well are well drained soil, deep watering and partial shade. The soil should contain a lot of humus. It does very well as a groundcover rose. The plants can be grown in containers, gardens or greenhouses. The roots of the plant are woody and poisonous, so be careful with pets or small children. Normal pruning should include the removal of dead leaves and dried leaves. The plant is disease and insects resistant. However aphids and slugs might pose a threat so look out for that. The Christmas rose is hardy for USDA zones 4 to 8.

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Confederate Rose

The Confederate rose has blooms that will change color throughout the season, giving a variety of looks to your garden. Although the name suggests a Southern bred flower, the Confederate rose is actually a Chinese breed called hibiscus mutabilis. It is very easily grown in the Southern climates so that has helped its popularity there and contributed to the name. There are several stories as to how this rose got its name. One anecdote states that during a bloody Civil war battle that raged on all day, a Southern soldier was shot and bled near a flowering rose bush. The flowers, which were white that morning, turned a deep red by the evening after taking on the Confederate blood. The point of the story is to show the amazing color changing features of this rose. The blooms are large and often doubled, although some may be single. Like the story, many flowers that are white in the morning turn to a deep red by the evening. The name mutabilis means changing so it is quite appropriate! They have a short life however, often dying by the next day. Other color combinations include an opening pink blossom that later turns into a white or perhaps a darker shade of pink later in its life. This bush can have multiple flowers at any one time. You can see this somewhat in the picture below.

The confederate rose is a shrub rose bush that can grow large. It has a unique seed that looks like a cotton ball. In fact, this plant often goes by the name cotton rose. It can get up to fifteen feet in height and ten feet in width so keep that in mind when planting.

This plant does best in USDA zones 7-9. If you are in a warmer area without freezing, blooms may blossom through the winter. Further north, if you have ground freezing, these should be grown in containers. A hard freeze will kill the stems so make cuttings if you want to preserve it over the winter. Although they look rough, the stems take readiliy to re-rooting and can be shared. However, for year long plantings, its really a rose best suited for the southern climates.

As with most roses, these do great in full sunlight and with well fortified soil. You can get some blooms with partial shade, however. It has some drought resistances, but obviously, its best to keep it watered. Early pruning is not encouraged, but some can be done to help It looks great as a solo speciman out on the lawn or garden as it can grow to its fullest.

With its changing blooms, the confederate rose is a great talking piece for your garden. Just keep in mind the climate requirements and its should be a great addition!

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Desert Rose

Also known as adenium obesum, the Desert Rose has grown in popularity over the years. It is native to Arabia and to the more arid African areas. It gets its name from the fact that it thrives in hot dry areas without much water. With decent care, it can bloom all year long. In the US, it tends to bloom in the spring and fall months. A more mature plant will produce more flowers. Bloom colors can vary from red, white and pink.

What’s nice about this plant is that it is extremely forgiving. It’s no big deal if you forget to water it or you get a cold spell. While it may lose some or all of its leaves, that is just a protective reaction. However, try not to let the temperatures dip below 60F regularly or you may have issues. For that reason, it’s common to see it potted in the winter. Some easy watering and a return of hot weather will get it back quickly. Even so, the hybrids such as the Moonlight Fairy, the Arrogant, and the Noble Concubine are strong growers and do especially well in the US. The best plants specimens for this are produced by seeds. This plant has a wide base when healthy (obesum) and propagation just doesn’t seem to do the trick.

While easy to grow, the desert rose will often attract many aphids, and occasionally fungus as well. With a fungus, be sure to cut the affected area away quickly and completely.

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The Rose of Sharon

The Rose of Sharon isn’t actually a true rose. Rather, it is a flowering shrub plant (Hibiscus Syriacus). It can be a great addition to your garden but read below for some key facts of how to manage it.

As far as we know, the name Rose of Sharon actually comes from the Bible, from the Book of Solomon where it was used to refer to Jesus. It’s not clear if the current variety of this plant was the same flower type referenced in Biblical times, but it seems unlikely.


Flowers on the Rose of Sharon
Flowers on the Rose of Sharon

This is a great plant for a garden border. It’s also great for attracting birds, especially hummingbirds. Bees also seem to like it. As you can see in the image, it can get quite tall, up to 10 feet with a width between 5 to 6 feet. The blooms can be different colors depending on the variety. White, purple, pink, blue and other colors are common. Most varieties are single flowers, although there are some doubles, as well as dwarf sized ones.

This plant is popular as a late bloomer. It isn’t uncommon to see it relatively dormant until even the late summer.

Rose of Sharon bushes do best in full-sunlight, although they will tolerate light dappled shade. Less than that could make your plant susceptible to fungus. It is recommended that they have well-drained soil, but they are reasonably drought resistant. This makes them a popular plant in the Southwestern United States. In fact, this bush actually does better in the heat, with fuller blooms. It’s rated for zones 5 to 9.

Some gardeners have reported that this plant can be somewhat invasive. This could be due to the seeding nature of this bush. Many gardeners, used to basic roses, may just not be familiar with how to handle this. The seeds are stored in the capsules, and these need to be removed before they spread. Many gardeners seem to have better results with the White Chiffon and Diana breeds, at least  in the Midwest USA. Or better yet, ask for an infertile breed when you buy so you don’t have this issue.

What’s also nice about this bush is the fact that is is relatively low-maintenance, at least where pruning is concerned.


Pruning Rose of Sharon

Pruning Rose of Sharon questions are quite common. The good news is that it is such a low maintenance plant that in most cases, it really doesn’t need to be trimmed to stay healthy and vibrant in your garden. Most people see the “Rose” in the name and assume it needs the same level of care. It normally doesn’t. However, there are some things you can do if it looks like it needs it.

One thing that people sometimes don’t realize is that this plant can grow to be quite large. Twelve feet is not uncommon. Sometimes you’ll need to prune just to keep the size in check so it doesn’t overcrowd the rest of your garden. You’ll want 6 to eight feet of clearance to other plants.

If you are trying to train it to be a tree, then you’ll need to trim the side shoots from the “trunk” as well.

You can cut it back quite a bit, even more than the traditional 1/3 rule you’ll find with most roses. You’ll want to leave a good two to three feet of canes there though, or at least a couple of buds. Use variety of lengths on the cuts so your plant doesn’t look like it got a “buzz cut”! You can use a lopper or hedge trimmer but its best to use some shears to give it a more bushlike appearance.

The best time to do this is in the late spring while it is still dormant. Cutting before the buds open will help new growth and add additional blooms in late summer, when it starts to flower.

Moss Rose Plant, Portulaca grandiflora

Also called the Portulaca grandiflora, this plant originates from South America. They are also known as sun plants, Eleven O’Clock, and Purslanes. These plants thrive in the heat. If you are someone who may forget to water your flowers, this is a great pick! They have a brilliant array of flowers. You’ll get reds, oranges, yellows, pinks, and many other colors when it blooms. It normally blooms in the early summer timeframe, around June to early July. Its a smaller plant, only getting up to about 8 inches in height, so is better as a ground cover. They also do well in rock gardens and next to hot asphalt driveways and sidewalks.

Plant your moss rose in a fully sunny area. It needs hot, dry, sunny conditions. Even poor soils are OK with the portulaca. It’s more important to keep the proper amount of moisture in the soil. In fact, that is the key. Too much water can cause issues like stem and root rot. Use sandy soil and/or an elevated bed to help those problems. They also do well in containers as well.

You’ll need seeds to grow the Portulaca. Newer seeds tend to produce flowers that bloom longer. Planting early indoors can help with an early bloom. Seed germination normally takes one to two weeks. Like most hot weather plants, frost can be deadly so be sure to plant after your frost date. You can also use cuttings to propagate. You can use a nitrogen fertilizer initially and then a phosphorus mix to help improve the blooms.

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