Gardening Advice: Rose Problems and Solutions

From deathly diseases to pruning disasters, learn how to solve your worst rose problems with this gardening advice from Teri Dunn Chace.

| May 2012

  • Anxious-Gardener-Woman-Spraying-Roses
    Even if you choose a spray that is clearly labeled for the culprit or disease, if you don’t follow the label directions regarding timing and amount (not to mention safe application), it won’t be as effective as you want it to be.
    Courtesy Timber Press, Inc.
  • Anxious-Gardener-Cover
    “The Anxious Gardener’s Book of Answers” by Teri Dunn Chace identifies the 100 most common gardening mistakes and gives you the information you need so that you’ll never make them. Or, if you’ve already goofed, it tells you how to fix the mistake.
    Courtesy Timber Press, Inc.

  • Anxious-Gardener-Woman-Spraying-Roses
  • Anxious-Gardener-Cover

Your garden is supposed to be fun — a place to relax in and recharge your batteries, a source of beauty and pleasure. But all too often, things go wrong. Those expensive tulip bulbs you planted last fall never came up. Your lilac doesn’t bloom. The lawn looks terrible. And worst of all, you don’t know what to do about it. The Anxious Gardener’s Book of Answers (Timber Press, 2012) contains great gardening advice to help you solve virtually any gardening challenge. In this excerpt from the chapter “Roses,” author Terri Dunn Chace provides solutions to your most pressing rose problems. 

Desperately spraying roses

Roses, particularly the older yet still popular hybrid teas, do get pests and diseases. When you find your bush infested with aphids or Japanese beetles, or mildewed, or marred by blackspot, it’s only natural to be upset. You may storm down to the garden center, scoop up a can of a product whose label mentions treating rose problems, and blanket the bush with spray. But unless you have the right product, it won’t help—and could even be harmful. Even if you choose a spray that is clearly labeled for the culprit or disease, if you don’t follow the label directions regarding timing and amount (not to mention safe application), it won’t be as effective as you want it to be.

The right way to do it: Take a more methodical approach. First, examine the plant carefully, including under the leaves, to accurately diagnose the problem and assess its scope. Next, pick off all afflicted plant parts, as well as any on the ground at its base, and throw them in the trash.

Then research remedies. Japanese beetles can be handpicked and drowned in a bucket of soapy water (do this in the evening, when they congregate). You can blast off aphids with a spray from the hose. Common rose diseases respond to correctly applied sprays, but also to careful sanitation and proper care (including watering on the ground so the leaves don’t get splashed). If you decide to spray, try less-toxic treatments first and always read and heed the label. If the material is at all dangerous—this sort of caution will be noted on the label—protect yourself with eyewear, gloves, long pants, and long sleeves.

If I goofed, can I fix it? With renewed attention and prudent care, a rose will often recover from a common pest or malady; if it doesn’t, it’s time to replace it, possibly with a tougher, more resistant variety. Let this be a reminder to take good care of your rose plants so they are less vulnerable to problems. Desperate spraying is not only foolish and wasteful, it doesn’t remedy the actual problem.

Choosing a disease-prone rose variety

Let’s be honest: we love, and grow, roses primarily for their gorgeous flowers. It’s all too easy to choose one based on the beauty of its blossoms. Once in the ground and growing for a while, the plant indeed produces the blooms you were dreaming of. But soon you begin to see its flaws, mostly in the growth or the leaves, but possibly in buds and blooms, too. Your plant has blackspot (worst in hot, humid weather) or suffers from mildew (which thrives in dry conditions). Or it may even have an incurable rose virus, such as Rose Mosaic Virus (RMV; deformed new growth, yellow mottling on leaves) or Rose Rosette Disease (RRD; distorted, crinkled leaves, dark reddish-purple color all year, rapid aberrant growth and elongation). If caught early, you may be able to fight the common diseases. There is no remedy for the viruses except ripping out and disposing of the afflicted plants.

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