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Roses are plants, too!

Lime and Sulfur Spray – Great Way to Knock Down Fungus On Your Roses

With over 7000 roses the Fineschi Garden in Tuscany uses sulfur as a way of keeping disease in check should it occur.
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses
With over 7000 roses the Fineschi Garden in Tuscany uses sulfur as a way of keeping disease in check should it occur.
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses

In a previous blog post we talked about overheard watering as a possible way to prevent disease.  In this post I’d like to talk about what to do if it shows up.

Roses, like most plants, do get fungus sometimes.  The theory in the past has been to spray them regularly with all kinds of chemicals designed to help prevent them from getting blackspot, mildew etc.  Personally I don’t believe in that.  Garden Roses are by nature more disease resistant than most roses and frankly, I don’t like putting that many chemicals in the environment when they might not even be needed.

Instead I’ve come up with a simple way to knock down a disease outbreak if it should appear amongst your roses.  It involves Lime & Sulfur Spray.  You should be able to get it at any good garden center.

Sulfur is a natural eradicant.  What do I mean by that?  Simply that it kills any fungus after it has taken hold in the garden and does so almost instantly.  It’s one of the ingredients used in the old “Bordeaux Mixture” used to spray vineyards in France.

Here is how you use it. 

Wait for a cloudy day or do it early in the morning before the sun hits the roses.  The reason is the combination of sun and lime/sulfur will burn leaves.

Spray the lime/sulfur on the roses at a mixture of 1 tbs per gallon of water.  Don’t use a spreader/sticker or anything else with it.  Just the lime/sulfur and water.  I like using a hose end sprayer so I can really soak the plants well.

Wait 15 minutes then wash it all off with clean water from the hose.

That’s it!  The lime/sulfur will quickly kill of any fungal spores in the garden and knock down an impending infection.  I’ve been doing this for years and years with great results.  The only downside is sulfur does smell a bit but it soon goes away.

So instead of constantly spraying roses with chemicals spare yourself some work, and money, by simply treating any outbreak as it occurs.  It’s better for your roses, the environment and yourself.

View Comments


  1. Tarheels 08/16/2010

    how much lime and sulfer do you use in this mix for roses.

  2. handyquilt 08/16/2010

    is this powdered lime and sulfer mixed with the water?

  3. marybuckmaster 08/16/2010

    Paul - this is a fabulous post - thank you so much. I agree with the first two posts -- can you give us even more details? What brand of Lime & Sulfur Spray do you recommend? I am heading to my "good garden center" as soon as I hear back from you. If I also buy a hose end sprayer - as you recommend -- do I just pour the store bought product in the container and set the dial to 1 Tablespoon per gallon? Thanks so much. Mary

  4. PFZimmerman 08/16/2010

    Hi All,

    Glad you like the post! I've used this for years and it works great.

    To answer your questions.

    Dan. the mix rate is 1 tablespoon per gallon of water. Don't mix anything else in there.

    Handyquilt. You can use powdered but I would advise the liquid form. Easier to mix and work with.

    Mary. There are many different brands and they are all good. Some of them are sold in only some parts of the country which is why I don't want to recommend a specific one. Regarding the hose end sprayer yes, you hit it right on the head. Just pour it in and set the dial to 1 tablespoon per gallon.

    Another note. Rinse the sprayer very well right after you use it. This stuff can linger!

    Thanks again

  5. Tomoko 08/16/2010

    Can I use this method for tomatos? My tomato plants typically get blight in mid summer in North Alabama.

  6. PFZimmerman 08/16/2010

    I would be reluctant to use it for tomatoes because I think any residual sulfur could leave an odd after taste. Plus I've never tried it on vegetable plants and have no idea what would happen so I'm reluctant to offer advice one way or the other.

  7. KarenMinturn 08/16/2010

    Why must it be rinsed off? Damage to the plant or just smell?

  8. PFZimmerman 08/16/2010

    If the sun hits the leaves with some sulfur still on it will burn them. And smell is another reason!

  9. caymanmama 08/16/2010

    How often should it be applied on the rose bushes or is once a season enough?

  10. PFZimmerman 08/17/2010

    Claudette. Thanks for the comment. This is something you apply only when you see disease and you feel it is going to get out of control. This won't help prevent disease if none is present in the garden.

    Some years I never do it and some I may do it a few times. Just watch your roses and If you see blackspot, mildew, rust of other forms of disease starting to take hold then apply it.


  11. SaltyDog64 08/17/2010

    My roses have been fairly fungus free, but I notice that one of my rose bushes has tiny spiders, almost invisible to the naked eye, that weave a very fine web between leaves, and before I knew it, almost all of the leaves were turning gray as these almost invisible webs covered them.

    I tried a commercial rose spray for insects, but I have not noticed any improvement. In fact, I see that these spiders have floated fine webs to adjacent rose bushes which are now becoming infested. I trim off leaves and some branches to try to limit the infestation, but I can't get them all without trimming the rose bare. I am also picking up as many fallen leaves as possible and disposing them.

    Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

    Redmond, WA

  12. user-7006894 08/18/2010

    Very interesting article.........would this work equally as well on lilies? What is the name of the product and who makes it?

  13. MDNofziger 08/18/2010

    Spider mites (1/64") are your problem! Hot and dry conditions cause them to multiply like crazy. Mottling of the leaves are another sign of Spider mites, besides the fine webs. They suck the chlorophyll out of the leaves chloroplasts. They do not like wet conditions, so a strong blast of water will dislodge most of them. The eggs they lay will hatch after three day, so you will need to keep after them whether you choose a natural approach or , a miticide (FOLLOW THE LABEL, "THE LABEL IS THE LAW").

  14. PFZimmerman 08/19/2010

    Tony. Regarding the spiders MDNofziger answered your question spot on and I have nothing to add.

    MDNofziger. Thanks!!

    WOW1. I've only used it on roses. I would suggest testing it on one lily and see what happens. It's made by several different companies in different parts of the country which is why I don't recommend a specific company. Just look for lime and sulfur spray in liquid form.

    Thanks All

  15. spiderwort 08/20/2010

    Paul - I pruned my long overdue hybrid teas early this month after watching and rewatching every video by you. I went to home depot for the sulfur/lime. All they had also contained pyrethrum. Will that do? No one there ever heard of just sulfur/lime liquid. We are rural and Home Depot is the only nursery within 50 miles. BTW, I have had climbing roses covering a storage shed for years and your information is the first I have seen anywhere on allowing lateral canes for more thorough coverage. Excellent info and thank you.

  16. PFZimmerman 08/21/2010

    spiderwort. What brand is it? I'd like to look it up and see if that will be okay. If not, I can recommend a mail order source.

    Glad you like the videos and particularly the climbing rose ones. It's SOOO much easier to show someone laterals vs main canes than explain it in writing.

  17. spiderwort 08/21/2010

    Paul. Thanks but I will need to get back to Home Depot to note the brand name. I would prefer getting your mail order source so I get exactly the correct liquid. BTW, my hybrid teas are already budding and I gave them quite a haircut. Can I still use the sulfer spray? I am eyeing the climbers now. Phew, what a job awaits me.

  18. PFZimmerman 08/22/2010


    This is a link to a wonderful mail order company called Gardens Alive that sells all kinds of natural products.

    You can spray any of the rose anytime as they need it.

  19. spiderwort 08/22/2010

    Thank you very much Paul. They do not ship this particular product to my state so I'll need to get creative. I cannot imagine why a Sulfer/lime product is a no no. No matter. Your expert advice is very much appreciated.

  20. PFZimmerman 08/23/2010

    I can't imagine they won't ship it but there you are.

    You mentioned you are rural. If you have a local farm supply or Hay & Feed Store they can likely get it. Our local one carries it. It's actually a pretty common product.

  21. SaltyDog64 08/30/2010

    Speaking of rose care, have you used "Hot Pepper Wax Insect Repellent" as a way to repel aphids, spider mites, white flies, etc.? Not many retail garden stores carry it, so it looks as though I will have to order it via the Web, but before I do I want to see if you or any contributing gardeners have any experience with it.

    I understand that the same company makes a similar product which is an Animal Repellent.


  22. PFZimmerman 08/30/2010

    Hi Tony,

    I've not used it but I do see hot pepper being recommended in many home remedies for insect repellent. The "waxy" part is something I would want to research further. If it puts down a waxy coating could it affect the leaves ability to breath and/or would it burn in hot sun.

    If you find a source for it post a link and let's check it out!


  23. SaltyDog64 08/30/2010

    IN reference to Hot Pepper Was Insect Repellent, there is a short promotional article in the September 2010 issue of Southern Living (page 83) as a tip for repelling pests. At the end of the article is a lead to a product dealer, Biocontrol Network at biconet.com. Biocontrol post the following comment regarding Hot Pepper Wax products:

    "This natural, non-chemical formula effectively repels insects and animals away from your garden, shrubs and trees without harmful chemicals. Spray on the heat with this capsaicin-based repellent. Hot Pepper Wax is made from a concentrate of Cayenne peppers, assorted repelling herbs and food grade paraffin wax. Simply mix with water and spray. The patented formula stays on the plant up to three weeks, saving you the bother and expense of applying after every rainfall or watering. This natural wax also offers protection to plants from hot, dry and windy conditions. Food plants do not absorb the heat of the pepper and the wax washes off easily with warm water."


  24. PFZimmerman 08/31/2010


    This sounds almost like an anti-transparent with hot pepper thrown in as an insect repellent. I think it would be certainly be worth a try. I'd advise you try it on part of one rose first to make sure it's safe and if you see no leaf burn etc after a week your probably good to go.


  25. HybridAddict 01/01/2013

    Thanks for this article, to date i have only 27 Hybrid Teas, a few Flouribunda and a couple climbers. This past fall i was constantly using commercial fungicides with little or no improvement. It seemed the harder i fought it the worse it got. This seems to be a better safer method with a lot less expense. Do you perhaps have a suggestion for thrips? With the last load of mulch it seems i was invaded by those as well. I used a combination of cypermethrin and bimethrin on those with moderate to good results.

  26. PFZimmerman 01/04/2013

    You will like using the Lime & Sulphur. I did a post on thrips a while back that might help. Here is the link.


    Thanks for following the blog!

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  28. christinadykins 07/30/2014

    Can you tell me if Lime Sulpher Spray will kill the sclerotia in the soil of the diseased hosta and daylily in my border please? I will burn the plants.

  29. claytonrichard 01/22/2015

    What do Southern rosarians do when the early morning temps are above 70 degrees? Lime Sulfur labels say not to use when temps exceed 70.

  30. user-7007945 02/14/2016

    Can I spray the lime/sulphur mixture before the rose plants starts putting out leaves? Thanks for the info, this is about the best info I have read so far. It sounds simple and not too complicated:)

  31. co_okie_3 09/27/2017

    how come spraying sulphur powder with water and it is not even soluble?!!

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