My poor roses - no idea what I'm doing

RyanVAJuly 25, 2014

Hello, all.

I recently bought a house with a large rose bush out front. I have never cared for roses before, and my horticultural experience in general is extremely limited. This poor rose bush is clearly distressed and I am at a loss for what to do. I'll upload a picture when I get home, but I'm thinking about it now, so posting.
I believe I may have multiple problems and that the plant's care has been neglected for some time. Signs include yellowing leaves with browning at the edges, some gnarled shoots, holes bored straight through the bases of flower buds, (what I perceive to be) limited growth, undersized, anemic, and short-lived blooms.
My earliest unguided fumblings on the intraweebs indicated the plant should be pruned annually, so I had my mother-in-law go after it early in the spring - March, I think it was. I applied some Vigoro granulated rose food about a month ago. I have been cutting the stems back to just above the next five-leaf node when the blooms die. Otherwise, I have done nothing for (to?) the poor thing.
It's clear to me that I need outside help. Advise, educate me, please? I'd really like to save the plant and have it be healthy and beautiful.


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dublinbay z6 (KS)

Water regularly. Roses like water. Just don't leave them standing in water.

Clean up around the roses--pull all the weeds--put down some mulch.

Keep watering regularly.

In about a month, let us know how it is doing. Hopefully by then you will see some new growth (which might be reddish--don't panic--normal for many roses).

Good luck.


    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 5:50PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

Can you post a photo? Is it getting at least 6 hours of direct sun per day?

What color were the flowers? We want to make sure you are not going to the trouble of nurturing root stock.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 5:57PM
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I swear that I have not been willfully torturing this plant.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 6:59PM
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The blooms are pink. Paler lately.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 7:01PM
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    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 7:06PM
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    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 7:08PM
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jerijen(Zone 10)

Ryan -- Hybrid Tea Roses. And, honestly, I've seen worse. :-)

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 10:47PM
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catsrose(VA 6)

Given the height and growth pattern, I'm guessing Queen Elizabeth, tho it could be any number of others, but QE is popular and looks like that after several years.

I don't know what sort of soil she's in, but since much of VA is clay, be careful on the water. I'd just give her 1 gallon once a week; let it sink in slowly. Another 1/2 gal if it's hot and dry for over a week; less if it rains. Best, build a moat around her, about 2' in diameter with walls 3" high. Fill it, let the water sink in, refill--once a week.

The leaves have a bit of blackspot (used here as a generic term for fungal infections endemic to humid climates). You can buy a spray at any garden center or just live through it. It defoliates the rose if it gets very bad, but the leaves grow back.

Next spring, when the forsythia blooms, cut it back to about two feet high.

Hybrid Teas always get leggy like that. The best solution is plant something in front of it to hide the bare legs, either another, smaller rose or something like lavender, which has the same sun and water requirements as a rose.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 11:05PM
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cecily(7 VA)

Hi Ryan, welcome to the Rose forum. In Williamsburg, VA you're a solid zone 8. After your rose blooms, you can do a mid-summer trim since your growing season is so long. I'd take it down to about four feet tall in early August each season then go down to two feet in Jan/Feb as catsrose suggests.

That looks like a very healthy, vigorous rose. Using a fungicide spray bi-weekly in spring and fall will keep the leaves from falling off. Right now its too hot to spray so don't go crazy using whatever products you find at the garden center. Decide what blackspot treatment you want to use and purchase an appropriate product (or not).

Water is the big thing. I'm deep watering my roses twice a week since our weather's in the nineties. Roses go dormant (stop growing) in summer if they don't get adequate water.

Honestly your rose doesn't look too bad. Most roses look like hell in Virginia in August and you start to wonder why you grow roses at all. With cooler autumn weather and rain, you will get a spectacular flush of bloom (with larger blossoms and richer colors) in fall. Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 8:40AM
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I have no idea what your rose is but it does have the form and foliage look of a hybrid tea, grandiflora or floribunda. I have had worse in this heat, no rain, water sprinkler inviting blackspot among other things. Wait until the beetles of august arrive and remove all the foliage. You can then start over. Prune by one-third, keep watered, try not to water the foliage area, just the ground (perimeter of the plant and by a good amount, dripping is best if you can do that), give it some balanced fertilizer like a handful of 8-8-8 at the perimeter around Labor Day and watch for a good little flush in October. Do not give it any heavy-handed fertilizer anytime soon, just some balanced chemical like 8-8-8 or some organic material that is well composted. Then mulch it good when the weather starts getting cold, mid October. Don't mulch too close to the plant in warm weather in the south as that creates more fungus and incubates bugs, etc.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 9:29AM
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Many thanks to all for the information and encouragement!
I'm glad to hear I'm not quite as bad off as I'd feared.
I have a question about the two- and four-foot pruning heights. This thing is every inch of eight feet tall - cutting it down to two feet would leave only one cane(?) about 1.5 inches in diameter.. Is that the right thing to do?
Thanks again!

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 10:44AM
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Either I am blind or you are not aware of what a cane is. Take all the growth off above the rail in the picture. That looks like about right to me. I am not sure what you are referring to as a cane, because your rose has plenty of "canes."

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 1:39PM
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I very likely don't know what a cane is. If I cut it back to only two feet tall in February, all that will be left is two thick 'trunks' (I thought it was only one) sticking up out of the ground. Is that what I'm going for?

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 1:53PM
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No, I am telling you to take 2 feet off the top now. Others are saying cut it back to 2 feet in spring. I don't do that. I never cut my roses back that far. I cut dead growth off in late winter and shape the bush and usually need to take off 2-3 feet. I think you need to take some off now because it is growing leggy and scrawny, barren of foliage and bloom. Now, take 2 feet off the top, fertilize it, water it, mulch a bit (but not too close to the trunk). Then you can continue to care for it and then around Labor Day, give it some organic fertilizer or 8-8-8 and see your fall flush.

You may/may not want to cut it back to 2 feet in late winter/early spring as suggested. I don't but some of my fellow rosarian friends do and their roses are prettier than mine. I just cannot stand to butcher that much at once. My husband has done that to some of our roses, and they looked great and got new basal breaks; the roses were gorgeous. Me, not so much of a cutter and wish perhaps I was. ;-)

Ryan, just water now and take some top growth off, wait for some new reddish growth, give it some organic fertilizer or 8-8-8, keep watering and give it some fertilizer again around Labor Day and watch for your blooms to be more than you expect and larger in mid to late October.

Then come back next February/March with a picture of the rose at that point and let someone direct you about pruning. You might get addicted to this stuff. I hope so. I think you will love it.

P.S. I love your corner of the world. My family is originally from Richmond.

This post was edited by patricia43 on Sat, Jul 26, 14 at 17:41

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 5:37PM
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cecily(7 VA)

Brace yourself and think about what would likely happen to your rose if a hurricane blew through this summer. Its much better to take the top off in a controlled, thoughtful manner than to clean up storm damage. The nice lady from Alabama is very experienced with wind, water and roses. Listen to Pat.

Pruning back your rose (along with fertilizer and plenty of water) will cause new canes to grow from the base. Its an act of faith.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 9:22AM
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jasminerose4u, California(9b)

Ryan, when Pat says take off two feet from the top, I think she means from the tallest canes. If there are newer canes that are already short, you would leave those alone.

I'm just taking a guess that's where the confusion was? (from one newbie to another)

    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 12:00PM
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I've cut it back some and watered every day it hasn't rained. The rose is still very stringy, but MUCH happier.
It never occurred to me to water it. How stupid is that? I've only ever had boxwood and trees outside and I've never watered them.. If I had tried to grow a plant indoors in a pot I probably would've drowned it.
Will update.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 6:20PM
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cecily(7 VA)

That's a nice improvement. When the weather cools in September, you can cut back on the watering and let nature take over that chore. Nobody wants to pour a lot of water next to the foundation of their house but we all like roses by the entrance; go figure.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 12:15PM
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