Aphids on rose buds

Rose problems solved

Find out how to tackle some of the most common problems affecting roses.

Roses fill so many niches in the garden, from shrubs, to climbers, to ground cover – so they’re well worth growing.

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Like many other plants, they’re not without their share of pests and diseases – but the key to tackling them is to stay vigilant; the sooner you spot a problem the sooner you can solve it and minimise the damage to the plant.

If you’d like to know more about growing various types of roses check out our grow guides to shrub roses, ground cover roses, rambling roses and climbing roses.

Discover how to solve some of the most common rose problems in this short guide.

Roses fill so many niches in the garden, from shrubs, to climbers, to ground cover.

Rust

Rose rust causes leads to a distinctive mottling of the leaves on the upper surface of the leaves, with orange coloured spots that turn black as they mature, on the undersides. Prune out infected stems and destroy them, along with any infected leaves. Grow roses with lots of room around them so the air can circulate, and prune out any congested growth.

Black spots of rose rust on the underside of an upturned leaf
Black spots of rose rust on the underside of an upturned leaf

Mildew

Rose powdery mildew is a fungal disease, with the leaves and buds covered in a white powder, often disfiguring the leaves. Tackle by pruning out and binning infected leaves, keeping the soil around the roots moist at all times or by growing a mildew-resistant variety.

Disfigured rose leaves with a white powdery coating: rose powdery mildew
Disfigured rose leaves with a white powdery coating: rose powdery mildew

Nutrient deficiency

Nutrient deficiencies can present a number of symptoms, including chlorosis and yellow, brown or purple discolouring of the leaves. Avoid this in the long-term by mulching each year with good quality compost. In the short-term, check out our advice on choosing nutrients for your plants.

Rose leaves discoloured yellow due to magnesium deficiency
Rose leaves discoloured yellow due to magnesium deficiency

Replant disease

Roses planted in the same place another rose was planted can be affected by replant disease, establishing and growing poorly, even dying. It’s thought to be caused by a build up of soil-borne pests and diseases. If you want to plant in the same place, line the planting hole with cardboard, or swap the soil in the planting hole with fresh soil from another part of the garden. Once planted, mulch well and feed with a high nitrogen fertiliser.

Planting a shrub rose in the ground
Planting a shrub rose in the ground

Black spot

Rose black spot is a fungal disease affecting the foliage. Dark purple-black spots appear on the leaves and stems. Spores overwinter to reinfect the leaves the following year. Tackle it by destroying fallen leaves, mulching in late winter and growing disease-resistant varieties.

Black spots on the upper surfaces of rose leaves: rose black spot disease
Black spots on the upper surfaces of rose leaves: rose black spot disease

Die-back

Die-back on roses is usually a result of incorrect pruning or mulching. When mulching, make sure you don’t bury any stems, as this encourages die-back. When pruning, always cut back to a healthy bud to prevent unsightly dead stems appearing. If any die-back is spotted, prune it out by cutting back to healthy growth.

A dead section of rose stem caused by pruning too far from a growth bud
A dead section of rose stem caused by pruning too far from a growth bud

Aphids

Aphids love roses, in particular the younger, softer growth of new leaves and flower buds. The sticky honeydew they excrete can also attract ants and lead to sooty mould. Blast them off with a hose, or squash them as you see them. You can also buy and release ladybirds onto infested roses to eat the aphids. Grow plants for natural aphid enemies like hoverflies – they’re particularly fond of umbellifers like fennel, cow parsley and sweet alyssum.

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Aphids on rose buds
Aphids on rose buds

Rose sawflies

There are several species of sawfly that commonly affect roses, including rose leaf rolling sawfly and rose slug sawfly. If you spot a few rolled leaves, which will contain eggs, it’s easy to pick them off, but if there are lots, they’re best left on as you’ll do more damage to the plant. Rose slug sawfly larvae eat the upper layer of rose leaves – keep an eye out for any damage and pick them off if spotted.

Rose leaves rolled tight around eggs by rose leaf rolling sawfly
Rose leaves rolled tight around eggs by rose leaf rolling sawfly

Tough roses to grow

If you’re looking for an unfussy rose to grow in any soils, whether clay or sandy, consider the varieties ‘Versicolor’, ‘Rambling Rector’, ‘Bonica’, ‘Kew Gardens’ and ‘Roseraie de l’Hay’.