Caring for Your Rose Bushes
Almost everyone I know is intimidated by rose bushes. Someone started spreading the message that roses were hard to grow, and now nearly everyone is afraid to even try planting rose bushes because they’re just sure they’re going to kill the darlings before they ever have a chance to bloom.
The main keys to thriving rose bushes are choosing varieties that do well in your area, planting them where they get a lot of sun and not planting them too deeply. Doing all those things will go a long way to helping your rose bushes thrive, but there are always certain things that are beyond your control that can happen to even the best of gardeners.
Diseases and pests attack all plants, and there are a couple of nasties that are particularly hard on rose bushes. My boss has annual problems with Japanese beetles, which seem to be particularly attracted to his white and yellow roses.
Japanese beetles, also known as June bugs (though they appear throughout the summer in different parts of the country) are nasty pests that make one wonder about the benevolence of a creative force that would come up with such creatures, who seem to be solely bent on the destruction of beautiful things. You’ll know you’ve got these critters by the holes that appear in the leaves of your roses and other plants. You’ll also see the adult bugs running around.
Organic or Chemical Pest Control
If you want to use organic methods to keep the beetles away from your rose bushes, consider buying some beneficial nematodes. These tiny, worm-like creatures can be watered into the soil around your rose bushes, and they’ll eat up all the larvae and eggs in the soil. This will prevent the pests in coming years, but won’t help you if you’re already in the clutches of an attack. Garlic and citronella sprays may be effective at repelling the adult beetles.
If you want to go the poison route, both diazinon and sevin are good at killing adult Japanese beetles. Pyrethrum, which is plant-derived, can also be useful. These poisons must actually come in contact with the pest to be effective. Some people use traps, which are basically bags with poison in them, but these seem to just attract more beetles to your yard (and even if they are effective, then you’re left with a big sack of beetles, and who wants that?).
Other problems you may encounter with your rose bushes include black spot and powdery mildew. Black spot is a very common rose disease, especially in the hybrid tea rose bushes. Black spot is a fungus that shows up as black spots on the edges of the leaves, which often also turn yellow. Eventually the leaves fall off and the rose won’t produce as many blooms.
Keeping Foliage Dry
Keeping the foliage dry can help prevent black spot, and removing spotted leaves can keep the fungus from spreading. Fungicides can be used on plants that have black spot; a treatment of neem oil may be helpful for those going the organic route.
Powdery mildew starts as fuzzy white patches on the leaves that can cover whole leaves, eventually turning them yellow and ultimately causing the plant to bloom less. This, too, is a fungus and can be treated in much the same way. To prevent powdery mildew, mix a tablespoon of baking soda and two and a half teaspoons of vegetable oil and spray this on the rose bushes’ leaves, front and back, every couple of weeks.
Getting to know your rose bushes is the key to keeping them healthy. Look at your plants regularly as you are watering them. If you notice something that doesn’t look right, remove the offending leaves and investigate the possible causes. It’s easiest and best to nip problems in the bud (pun intended) before they take over the whole plant and keep you from getting to enjoy all the beautiful flowers your rose bushes could be making.
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