Five Ways to Head off Rose Diseases

As the old saying goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". Happy, healthy roses are roses that never have to deal with ailments such as Japanese mildew, powdery mildew, black spot, and other icky pest and disease problems. In order to prevent these problems, there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood of your roses falling victim to these common problems that affect roses.

There are many ways to solve disease problems once they start, but these solutions can often be too little, too late, resulting in the need to get rid of the plant altogether and start all over again. This can be tiresome and expensive. It is much better to simply take care to prevent the diseases in the first place. Here are five ways to head off rose diseases:

Healthy Plants

Choose your roses carefully. Be a smart shopper. Choose roses that look healthy. Two for one deal at the end of the growing season may not be the best choices, as they are already on their way out. It is better to pay a little bit more for a rose that you know will be successful than to have lose money on failed "bargain" roses. Also, find varieties that are considered low maintenance.

Healthy Varieties

These roses are types that are usually resilient to disease and climate hardship. These roses will naturally fend for themselves, making it easier for you to care for them and prevent diseases. Shrub roses tend to be the most resistant to diseases, as are some of the varieties of landscape roses. Hybrid tea roses, however, tend to need the most care of any rose variety, and can more easily become the prey of debilitating backyard diseases.

Healthy Care

Plant and care for your roses properly. Properly planted and cared for roses that receive what they need are less likely to suffer from disease. Roses need five to six hours of sunlight per day (there are shade tolerant varieties that can get by in partial shade, with three to four hours), and about an inch of water per week. Make sure that watering is done deeply so that it reaches the roots. Roses are thirsty plants, in part because they need so much sunlight.

Healthy Watering

Even though they need lots of water, however, roses do not like standing water. Improper drainage around your rose plant can lead to rot and black spot. Also, water in the morning so that leaves have time to dry throughout the day. This will prevent fungal diseases from developing.

Make sure that you have a good compost or well rotted manure that you use in planting (a little bone meal is also a good additive) and that you carefully follow the planting direction that come with the plant.


Mulch around your roses. Mulch will keep the soil down, preventing soil born disease from getting on your plant. As an added bonus, mulch will slow weed growth. The best mulches are organic mulches, which protects in two ways: it keeps down diseases from the soil, and it also provides more nutrients to the roses, helping them remain healthy enough to ward off other diseases. Good mulches to use are pine needles, wood chips, and grass clippings. These mulches should be applied in a one to two inch thick layer.


Trim the rose plants regularly. Pruning is a good way to improve the health and the appearance of the plants. Additionally, regularly check for yellowing or diseased parts of the rose plants. Trimming off areas that are affected immediately can help you prevent the disease from spreading. This will allow you to head off disease and still save the plant.

Mildew Concoction

One of the best ways to prevent powdery mildew is to create a special concoction to spray on roses. This can be a very common problem that you can head off if you start in very early spring. The mixture is one gallon of water, 2 tablespoons of baking soda, and one tablespoon of Murphey's oil soap.

Start in early spring and spray every two weeks. A watering wand is good for this job (do not just dump the water over your rose plants). Once the temperature reaches 80 degrees Fahrenheit, stop spraying. You should be able to avoid powdery mildew the entire growing season.

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