Roses Are Plants Too!

Summer Leaf Drop On Your Roses

rose garden in Spring in full bloom
My Rose Garden just this past spring in full bloom and foliage.
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses
rose garden in July with less foliage
The same angle of the garden shot today (July 21).  As you can see I’ve lost some foliage and this is normal.
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses

I got an email the other day from someone who was concerned because her roses were losing leaves in the midst of summer.  They were new to roses and understandably concerned by this.  It was hot where they were and they’ve had little rains.  She’d read my post about watering less to force roots deep and was trying to follow that.

I would imagine with this heat wave sweeping its way across the country others are seeing leaf drop on their roses.  And likely are also concerned and wondering if they should water more.

First let me say this to hopefully ease your minds.  Summer leaf drop on roses is perfectly normal.  Happens all the time.  It’s just that with the temperatures we are getting it’s more pronounced this year.

In my experience roses are not happy campers when the mercury soars.  Most plants aren’t.  When it gets this hot roses enter a semi-dormant state not unlike when winter comes around.  They do so even more so when the night time temperatures are also hot.  We’ve been experiencing that around here.  We are in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and normally our evenings are comfortable despite what happens during the day.  But this past month has been hot even at night and I see my own roses dropping leaves and going to sleep.

How can I tell?

They aren’t blooming or growing much.  I have few blooms, scant new foliage and shoots – all of which tells me the roses are having a good nap.

They also shed leaves because plants can actually lose water through them when it is hot.  So what’s the best way for them to preserve the water they have?  Lose some leaves!  Just nature doing what nature does best.

As to increasing watering unless you are seeing your roses actually droop I wouldn’t increase it.  I realize the temptation is there but since the roses are semi-dormant they actually don’t need it.  In fact you can easily overwater which really stresses the roses.  So keep in mind my little rule of watering.  Water heavily, mark that date you did so and then wait.  When the roses droop you’ve gone one day too long between watering.  And that will give you your watering schedule.

So don’t worry about the leaf drop, don’t overwater and wait for those cooler nights when we get closer to the end of summer.  Your roses will wake up and start dressing themselves for the big fall show.

Happy Roseing

View Comments


  1. MarciM 07/21/2011

    I totally agree with you, Paul! Some roses are more susceptible than others, and in my gardens, the same roses drop their shorts every year, just like we strip down when we get hot! I do, however, offer a cool shower to the foliage in the morning when it gets super hot like this. The good thing about living in CT is that it doesn't usually stay this wicked-hot for toooooooooo long! Hugs your way...

  2. PFZimmerman 07/21/2011

    I'm all for a cool outdoor shower - and for the roses, too!!

    I have the same thing here. Some roses drop leaves and some don't.

  3. DLGardener 07/22/2011

    Hi,my roses are not only dropping leaves but also are now black spotted!Should I do the usual,picking them off and using the spray?Its VERY hot here now{NJ}and I am not really watering them a lot.I thought black spot came from to much water???Thanks!

  4. PFZimmerman 07/22/2011

    Blackspot can also come from stress like heat etc. Kind of like us. If we are run down we stand a chance to getting sicker easier. Same for plants.

    Picking off leaves is a very good idea and then you might try a light sulfur spray. I talked about it in a post from last year and here is the link.

    I think that will take care of it for you.

  5. maryannbecksted 07/26/2017

    Your explanation is not fact based. All my roses are fine in 100 degree heat wave but the Zephryn Drohn. So heat has nothing to do with it for all varieties. This species of Rose does it every year regardless of temperature. ZD is suppose to be a repeat bloomer and it is a very poor repeat bloomer. The first flush is it and that is it. A few new stems may produce blooms, but not on the first stems. So heat is a not a fact based answer, it is nothing more than your personal experience. So if you don't know the answer, just say that.

  6. SuzieQued 09/22/2017

    My Shrub Roses, such as Old Blush, IceBurg seem stunted, small bloom, dropping leaves most of the year. They are not showing any vigor. They appear to be miniature roses. Iceburg needs to be moved to an sunnier spot, but the Old Blush is in a nice sunny place. What can I give them to make them grow and flourish? leaf drop is extreme. I also see the leaf drop on the climbing roses on my fence. They are blooming the second time but no leaves. HELP P.S My climbers are also old roses, Blaze and Climbing Don Juan. My location is Northern Ohio. No high heat or very hot sun. The weather has been quite cool. However, I have never seen those roses flourish with growth and healthy leaves. I suspect something has moved in to the area that these roses do not like.

Log in or create an account to post a comment.

Related Articles

The Latest

Shop the Store

View All Products