How to Revive Roses: Common Problems and Solutions

Burgundy Iceberg rose flower in the field. Scientific name: Rosa ' Burgundy Iceberg'. Flower bloom Color: Deep purple, with lighter reverse
© JHVEPhoto/Shutterstock.com

Written by Nikita Ross

Updated: August 23, 2023

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Roses are prized for their beauty and fragrance, but they can sometimes face challenges that cause them to wilt or decline. Learning how to revive roses starts with successfully diagnosing the issue. In this article, we’ll explore common pests and issues that roses may encounter, signs indicating their poor health, and effective strategies to revive and restore these beloved flowers to their former glory.

Let’s dig in!

White Powder on Rose Leaves

Roses are particularly susceptible to powdery mildew—a fungus that happens when large temperature and humidity fluctuations occur. The fungus will drain nutrients from the leaves and could cause your roses to struggle or wilt.

If you notice white powdery mildew, revive your roses by spraying off the leaves and treating them with a fungicide. Consider trimming back your roses or spacing the plants to prevent cross-contamination. Sprinkling garden sulfur can also help prevent mildew growth.

White coating (mold) on the leaves of a sick rose

Powdery mildew on rose leaves.

©aRTI01/Shutterstock.com

Browning Rose Leaf Edges

If your roses are struggling and you notice brown edges around the leaves, there are a few potential causes.

First, consider the weather. Has it been hotter and sunnier than usual? While roses love the sun, extreme exposure can scorch the leaves. In this scenario, the leaves will likely be crispy to the touch. Thoroughly water your roses and consider putting up a barrier if the weather continues.

Another common cause is an excess of salt in the soil. If you’ve been watering your roses with treated water, consider switching to rainwater harvesting. Revive the roses with a thorough watering to wash excess salt away.

Brown leaves can also indicate a fungal or pest infection. Take some time to examine the stems and blooms for other signs to diagnose the cause.

Autumn green brown rose leaf

Browning on rose leaves.

©Szymek Milewski/Shutterstock.com

Yellowing Rose Leaves

Yellowing rose leaves can also indicate a few different issues.

The most common cause is a nutrient deficiency:

  • Nitrogen – if the yellowing starts with older leaves and progresses to new growth, it’s likely a nitrogen deficiency. 
  • Magnesium – if the leaves are yellowing around the edges and progressing toward the center, it’s likely magnesium. 
  • Iron – if the leaf’s veins are green and everything else is yellowing, it’s likely iron.

Adding a nutrient-rich fertilizer will help revive your roses. However, if you regularly treat or fertilize your roses and notice this problem, the opposite could be true. Roses exhibit signs of stress when they’re overfertilized or exposed to too many pest-resistant chemicals. Reassess your treatment schedule.

yellowish rose leaf from trace element deficiency

Yellow leaves with green veins indicate an iron deficiency.

©Lertwit Sasipreyajun/Shutterstock.com

Rose Plant Pest Invasions

There are a few common pests that love to attack roses. The most common is the aphid.

These tiny green insects munch on the leaves and detract nutrients, which could lead to malnourishment over time. If you notice them on your roses, wash them away with a hose. Introducing natural predators (ladybugs, for example) to your garden will help keep them away.

Spider mites are another common invader in the garden. If you notice tiny bugs or gray speckles on your leaves, it’s likely spider mites. Wash them off with a hose or warm, soapy water.

Thrips are another common rose plant pest, but these invaders attack the blooms. Treat the plant with insecticide if you notice brown edges on your rose petals.

aphids eating leaf

Aphids are one of the most common pests to attack roses.

©Vera Larina/Shutterstock.com

Black Spots on Roses

Black spots on rose leaves often indicate a fungal infection. These spots often have yellow edges. Trim away the infected leaves and move them far from your garden. Act quickly, and introduce garden sulfur to help prevent the spread. 

If you notice black spots on the stem, it indicates rot in the wood. Prune back these areas and move the infected portion away from the plant.

Black spots can also indicate other issues, such as stress. You may notice these spots appear after a storm or late-season frost. Ensure your rose is in the right location with plenty of sun and water regularly to minimize stress. 

Blackspot; a rose leaf affected by black spot disease. This is the most serious disease of roses caused by a fungus, Diplocarpon rosae, which infects the leaves and greatly reduces plant vigour

These roses are impacted by a fungal infection called

Diplocarpon rosae

.

©foto_molka/Shutterstock.com

Cane Issues

When diagnosing your roses, looking at the cane and stem system is important. If the cane is dying or failing to thrive, evaluate your watering schedule and soil quality. If the soil is draining too quickly, your roses may be underwatered. Irrigate the area or mulch the roots to help.

Overfertilization can also impact the cane and root health, though you’ll see signs on the leaves as well. Cut back the damaged wood and reassess your fertilization efforts.

Cut the cane in the dead or dying section and check to see if there are holes inside. Cane borers are an insect that burrows through the cane during the dormant season. Cut back the affected area to revive your roses.

Finally, if you notice a large growth at the base of the plant with a wart-like or tumor-like appearance, it’s too late to save your roses. This issue is called Crown Gall. It’s an invasive bacteria that will live in the soil and infect future plants. Dig up the entire rose plant and burn it, then leave the soil unplanted for 5-7 years.

close-up: irregular tumor on stems of wild rose known as crow gall or rose cancer

There is no cure for crown gall.

©HooverStudio/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Nikita Ross is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering plants, gardening, and yard care. Nikita has been writing for over seven years and holds a Marketing diploma from NSCC, which she earned in 2010. A resident of Canada, Nikita enjoys reading in her library, epic beach naps, and waiting for her Coffea arabica plant to produce coffee beans (no luck yet).

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