Questions Answered Series: Roses (Rosa)

What Would You like to Learn About Today?

Your Questions on Roses, Answered!

With blooms this beautiful, it’s no wonder roses are a garden classic! Flowers are bursting with vibrant petals, adding long-lasting color – and even fragrance – to the garden for up to five months. Dress them up in elegant rose gardens or keep them casual in cottage gardens. Either way, roses steal the show wherever you plant them. Whether you’ve already planted roses or are planning to buy some soon, you can find the answers to all your questions here. See what others are asking and learn how to achieve the rose garden of your dreams.

Why is My Rose the Wrong Color? Can Roses Change Color?

It’s not unusual for some flowers on your rose to bloom an unexpected color, especially if it was just delivered to your door! The color of roses can vary depending on the temperature when buds are set. When buds are set in warm temperatures, peach roses take on yellow hues and pink/red roses lighten in color. In cooler temperatures, roses usually have darker, more saturated colors.

Did your At Last® or Oso Easy Italian Ice® rose show up with yellow flowers? Don’t worry, it’s due to hot temperatures in our greenhouse or in shipping as the buds set. Once you plant it in your garden and give it time to adjust, the future blooms will return to their lovely apricot or pink hues.

However, there a few varieties of roses you can expect to change color with age! Ringo All-Star® emerges with melon-orange blooms that fade to a soft lavender and pink as they mature. Ringo® also changes color, starting with bright yellow petals and fading to white.

Why are My Rose Leaves Turning Brown?

There are a few reasons why the leaves on your roses may be turning brown, but the main culprits are usually high temperatures and lack of water. In extreme heat, moisture won’t reach the edges of the petals and leaves, causing them to look “burned”. The key to avoiding this is to keep them well-watered all summer long. Make sure you water around the base of the plant to prevent water from sitting on the leaves. Water droplets can act as magnifying glasses and cause more burn!

Fungal disease and insect attacks can also cause brown leaf margins. However, you’ll probably see other symptoms as well in these cases. Check for evidence of disease or insects and treat using insecticide or fungicide spray. We offer many roses that show impressive disease resistance, like the Oso Easy series, that don’t require sprays!

Why are My Leaves Turning Yellow?

Yellow leaves are the telltale sign of overwatering in most plants. When the roots are sitting in water for long periods of time, one of the first signs of stress you’ll see is chlorosis, or yellowing leaves. This applies to roses as well, who prefer to grow in well-draining soil to avoid standing water. If you’ve been irrigating frequently, experiencing high rainfall, or have clay soils, this is likely the culprit.

Some other causes are extreme heatfertilizer, and shade. High temperatures can cause roses to defoliate, with leaves turning yellow and falling off. Nitrogen, iron, or magnesium deficiency can cause yellowing leaves, which is easily fixed with fertilizer. Overfertilizing (and nutrient toxicity) can cause the same problem, so be careful when applying fertilizer! Follow the directions on the label or contact your local extension office when solving nutrient deficiencies.

If leaves are yellowing and falling off at the base of the plant, don’t worry. It’s probably shedding leaves that are shaded by the leaves above them. It’s a natural process for roses to shed leaves that aren’t contributing to photosynthesis. Leaves are energy-costly to maintain and prevent airflow. Shedding them at the base or center of the plant is usually beneficial!

How Do I Prune Roses?

The best time to prune roses is in early spring, just as the new leaves start to emerge. Remove any dead or damaged branches. If a branch looks diseased, remove the branch and disinfect your pruners after each cut to reduce the spread. Look at the center of the plant. Does it look overcrowded? Will there be good airflow after leaves emerge? Remove a few branches to open it up if necessary. For the rest of the plant, cut it back by 1/3 in height. Make your cuts just above large, healthy buds for the best growth.

Should I Deadhead Roses? If so, How?

Deadheading is the process of removing spent flowers (or dead flowers) on your plant. It’s quite easy to do! Follow the stem of the spent flower to the highest set of five leaves and cut diagonally just above the leaf node. This will encourage new growth and future blooms.

Not every rose needs to be deadheaded. Most Proven Winners roses, including At Last® and the Oso Easy® series, are self-cleaning and do not require deadheading for rebloom. That’s what makes them so easy to care for! You can still tidy them up if you’d like by removing the flowers as noted above.

close up of hands pruning pink roses

What is Rose Rosette Disease? Are Any Roses Resistant to Rose Rosette?

Just saying “rose rosette disease” is enough to make any experience rose gardener shudder. Rose rosette disease is a virus that is spread by eriophyid mites. It was first reported in 1941 and has been a problem for gardeners ever since. Plants with rose rosette disease will have bright red deformed stems and leaves with excessive thorns. Once your plant shows symptoms of rose rosette disease, there isn’t much you can do to save it.

There isn’t much you can do once your plant has rose rosette disease, but you can help prevent it by:

  1. Report your case. If you ever have rose rosette disease, report your case by sending pictures and information to researchers studying the spread.
  2. Do not replant. Allow a few seasons before planting a new rose in the same area as an infected plant, even after it is removed. The virus can’t live in the soil, but it can live in any living root tissue still present in the soil.
  3. Prune your roses. Mites overwinter in flower buds, so pruning your roses and disposing of any material will eliminate some mites.
  4. Space your plants. Planting roses close together only helps the spread of mites from plant to plant.
  5. Protect your roses from wind. Mites are easily spread in the wind. Plant your roses in an area protected from prevailing winds and avoid using leaf blowers near your roses.

Unfortunately, there are no varieties of roses on the market that are resistant to rose rosette disease. Breeders and researchers are working on it, which is why reporting your cases is so important!

What is Rose Black Spot? How Does it Spread?

Black spot is a common fungal infection in roses that develops circular or irregularly shaped black spots on the leaves. It festers in moist areas with little airflow. If your rose has black spot, it’s not the end of the world! There are a few easy ways to manage it:

  1. Cut off any infected leaves. Disinfect your pruner between cuts to prevent the spread to other areas of the plant
  2. Discard any cut or fallen leaves around the plant, especially in fall.
  3. Avoid wetting the leaves. Wet leaves are most susceptible to black spot disease. Avoid overhead watering, especially on dark and cloudy days.
  4. Ensure adequate air circulation. Prune the plant in spring to ensure proper airflow. Space the plants apart to allow them to breathe.
  5. Spray fungicides. There are several fungicides on the market for controlling black spot disease. Visit your local gardening store for options.

Are Roses Good for Pollinators?

Yes! Roses are loaded with pollen and rich nectar, which is great for pollinators. Bees and butterflies especially love fragrant and brightly colored blooms. Roses with fewer petals tend to attract more pollinators, as the nectar is more easily accessible. Oso Easy Lemon ZestOso Easy Urban LegendOso Easy PaprikaRingoRingo All-StarWhite Knock Out, and Pink Knock Out roses all have easily accessible nectar reserves.

When Do Roses Bloom?

Roses start to bloom in early summer and continue to bloom up to first frost with proper care! Most of our roses bloom for 4-5 months.

How Do You Grow Roses?

Here are our general care instructions for our landscape roses:

Soil: Prefers moist, slightly acidic, well-draining soil. Roses benefit from the addition of compost, aged manure, or leafmold to the planting soil.
Light: Sun (> 6 hours direct sunlight a day)
Water: Try to keep the soil evenly moist, especially in their first growing season. Never allow the foliage to remain wet into the evening; water early in the day.
Spacing: 3 – 4 ft.
Fertilizing: To keep the flowers coming, feed your roses with a fertilizer blended especially for roses. This can be done after each bloom cycle.
Winterizing: Spread a layer of composted manure, compost, or shredded leaves over the base of the plant in late fall after the ground freezes. Covering these mounds and the lower parts of the bushes with evergreen boughs will add protection. Pull the mounding material away from the stem as new growth emerges in spring. Prune injured branches over when new buds emerge in spring.
Maintenance & pruning: Prune to remove deadwood, to control or direct growth, and to promote flowering. Wait until growth breaks in early spring before pruning. Every 2 or 3 years, remove about one-third of the old branches to stimulate new, fresh growth.

Which Roses Smell the Best?

Without a doubt, the most fragrant rose we offer is At Last® rose from Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs. Many landscape roses were bred for disease resistance over fragrance, but fortunately, At Last® is both! Flowers hold a strong fragrance all summer long that will certainly welcome your neighbors to stop and smell the roses. Many other roses have a light fragrance, like Oso Easy Lemon Zest, but they don’t compare to At Last.

My Rose is Supposed to be Fragrant, But I Don't Smell Anything

Fragrance is a luxury for roses. If they can afford it (energy-wise), they will produce it. However, it is quite energy-costly for them to produce! If your plant is stressed, it will likely divert its energy from producing fragrance to recovering from stress. The stressor could be anything, from inadequate irrigation to nutrient deficiency, pests, disease, or heat. Once you solve the stress, the fragrance will return! See some of our other questions for help with common rose stressors.

Which Roses are Easiest to Care For?

Roses are notorious for being fussy plants that require a lot of attention in the garden. Thankfully, advances in plant breeding have made roses easier than ever to grow! In fact, some of them are oh-so-easy, even for beginners. The Oso Easy® series from Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs was bred for superior disease resistance and easy-growing nature. There’s no need to spray, prune, or deadhead Oso Easy® roses, which makes them easy to love all summer long. Plant them in an area with full sun (6+ hours direct sunlight each day) and watch them thrive!

Are Roses Poisonous to Cats and Dogs?

No, roses are not toxic to cats, dogs, or horses! While it is not poisonous, it is still not safe for pets to eat. Ingesting the thorns on roses can damage the digestive tract of your animals.

How Should I Fertilize My Roses?

For the best growth and blooms, feed your roses with Espoma Rose-tone fertilizer (or other rose fertilizers) in early spring and after each flush of blooms. Stop fertilizing in late summer. Fertilizing too late in the season will promote tender new growth that will be damaged in frost.

Why isn't My Rose Flowering?

There’s nothing worse than a rose that won’t bloom! Here are a few reasons why your rose may not be flowering:

  1. Not enough sun. Roses require full sun to set buds and bloom to their full potential. If your shrub is not receiving enough sun, you can always transplant it to a sunnier spot.
  2. Excessive heat. Many flowering plants, including roses, will take a break from blooming in high temperatures due to heat stress. This is usually temporary, with blooms returning as temperatures cool down.
  3. Pests. Stress from insect damage can prevent your rose from blooming. Some insects attack the flower buds, which means they die before ever opening. Check your plant for pests to determine which insect is causing damage.
  4. Fertilizer. Overfertilizing your roses, especially with a high-nitrogen fertilizer, will cause your plant to push out leafy green growth, but no blooms. Make sure you select a well-balanced rose fertilizer for serious flower power!

Will Roses Grow in Pots?

Yes! Roses are lovely additions to container plantings. There are three important things to keep in mind when planting rose in pots:

  1. Proper drainage. Roses require well-draining soils, so select your potting media accordingly. It’s vital that the pot or container has large drainage holes to prevent standing water.
  2. Pot size. It’s important you select the right size pot when growing shrubs in containers. A pot that is too large will hold on to water for too long, while a pot that is too small will dry out quickly.
  3. Lighting. Place your pot in an area that receives full sun (6+ hours direct sunlight each day).

Do Deer and Rabbits Eat Roses?

You’d think a plant covered in thorns would be deer resistant, but alas, this is not the case. Deer and rabbits both love to eat roses. It is theorized that they’re naturally high in vitamin C content, making deer eat them compulsively. For alternatives, check out our blog on plants to avoid if you have deer.

Will Roses Grow in the Shade?

No, we do not recommend growing roses in the shade. Full sun (6+ hours direct sunlight) is required for the best growth. Roses grown in the shade are likely to have yellow leaves, smaller stature, disease, and reduced blooms.

Do All Roses Have Thorns?

If you asked Brett Michaels from Poison, he would say “every rose has its thorns”, but botanically speaking, roses don’t have thorns at all. Thorns are modified branches with sharp edges, while prickles are sharp projections that arise from the epidermis and cortex of the stem. The “thorns” on roses are actually prickles!

Botanical jargon aside, most varieties of roses do produce sharp “thorns”. Breeders have been working on varieties that are completely thornless, but they don’t typically have the vigor and resistance as other roses. That’s why thornless roses haven’t taken over the market quite yet. All of the roses we offer do produce thorns/prickles, but are generally selected to not be too thorn-heavy.

Written by: Miranda Niemiec, click here to read bio.

Questions, comments, or concerns? Let us know! We have an experienced, knowledgeable staff ready to make sure your garden turns out perfect. Or check out our other blogs, here.