While you can't bring your rose bushes back to life if they're truly dead, you can revitalize them if they're starting to die or aren't thriving. Many varieties of roses (Rosa spp.) are easy to care for, but still need the proper growing conditions and care to thrive. Diseases and pests can also cause your rose bushes to look like they're dying. Correcting the cause of the rose decline before it completely kills the plant helps you revitalize it and continue growing roses beautifully.
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Analyze the Growing Environment
Determine if your rose bushes are dying due to environmental issues by checking for things like fertile soil and sunlight. Most roses need a minimum of six hours of daily sunlight to thrive. If your rose bush is growing in a shady area, consider transplanting it to a more suitable sunny spot with shelter from strong wind. Roses prefer fertile loam soil that drains well.
To develop deep, strong roots, water your roses deeply without overwatering, allowing the top layer of soil to dry out between watering. In loam soils, roses often need irrigation only every eight to 15 days, but sandy soils might require more frequent watering every four to 10 days. Hot and windy conditions can cause the soil to dry out faster, increasing the need for irrigation. Roses that need more water often have pale, limp leaves in the morning. Overwatered roses might have yellow leaves.
Check for Rose Bush Diseases
Common rose bush diseases show distinct signs that help identify the problem. Several diseases cause cankers on the stems, which may appear as ovals that are sunken or shriveled, although specific diseases can affect how the cankers look. Signs also include dying canes, defoliation and changes in leaf appearance. Fungicides can be used to treat fungal issues, and pruning out the damaged parts and keeping leaves dry can also be successful approaches to disease treatment.
The fungal disease black spot causes major defoliation in the fall and is identified by cankers, cane die-back and circular black spots on leaves. Powdery mildew results in curled, twisted young leaves with purple coloring and eventually causes white, powdery fuzz to grow on the leaves. Fungal botrytis blight, sometimes called gray mold, often affects dying tissue in moist, wet conditions, producing gray, fuzzy mold on the plant. Rose mosaic is a viral disease that creates yellow, wavy lines on leaves of many varieties and often stunts growth.
Check for Rose Bush Pests
Many rose bush pests are visible to the naked eye, especially if the plant is heavily infested. Look for bugs crawling on the plants, making sure to look everywhere, including under leaves.
Aphids are small, soft-bodied pests — red, green, yellow or black — that often eat young shoots and distort them. The hard-shelled Japanese beetle is metallic green, black and gold and tends to eat the flowers and flower buds. Tiny spider mites suck the sap from the underside of leaves, which changes leaves to gray or bronze colors — and they often form fine webs over the roses if the infestation is large. If you see small, brown bugs on your roses, you're likely dealing with thrips, which feed on the flowers, often causing deformation, flecks or scratches on the petals.
Treating pest infestations can help your rose bush recover from the damage. Many pests can be removed with a strong stream of water. Others need to be treated with pesticides. Insecticidal soap works well on aphids, spider mites and thrips. Pruning out the damaged or infested parts of the rose bushes can also help eliminate the pests and support the plant's recovery.
Prune the Dead Branches
Pruning rose bushes to remove the dead wood can improve the health of the plant. Use sanitized pruning shears to remove the dead or damaged branches. Cut the canes back to healthy tissue to help the rose thrive. While you're pruning your roses, clean up plant debris on the ground that can harbor disease pathogens and damage your roses.
Shelley Frost combines her love of DIY and writing in her freelance career. She has first-hand experience with tiling, painting, refinishing hardwood floors, installing lighting, roofing and many other home improvement projects. She keeps her DIY skills fresh with regular projects around the house and extensive writing work on the topic.