Roses Are Plants Too!

Unusual Behavior From Roses In The Fall

Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses

I’ve suddenly been getting questions on our forum regarding some unusual things people are seeing on their roses. Luckily all of these things have one thing in common.

The fall season.

Roses are deciduous and go dormant during the winter. Because of this they, like other deciduous shrubs and trees, are transitioning to winter. So this is normal. That being said let’s look at what you might be seeing.

Leaf drop. Many roses this time of year drop their leaves more than normal. It’s nothing to panic about as it happens every year. Mine are doing it now. As fall wears on you won’t see new leaves taking their place. The old leaves will just fall off and that will be that.

This brings us to the question of should you rake the old leaves out. This was always thought to be a good idea because disease spores might linger on the old leaves and infect the plants. I’m mixed on this. I’ve read some recent studies suggesting when the leaves drop off and die disease spores die with them. I also dormant spray my roses with lime and sulfur in winter and make sure to get the ground as well. That will take care of any lingering disease. However, if you prefer the rake the beds clean then go ahead. It won’t hurt.

Unusual amounts of disease like blackspot or powdery mildew. This is also normal this time of year. Part of it is the weather pattern of warm days and cool nights. While I’m not a botanist I speculate that the plants are putting their energy into going dormant and therefore aren’t as focused on fighting diseases. If any of you are qualified to answer mu speculations I’d love to hear from you.

Strange bloom shapes. This can be everything from flowers that don’t open to ones with green “vegetative centers”, to ones that look like they came out of a Salvador Dali painting. This also seems to be the weather. Those cool nights, warm days, a sudden frost; all can contribute to this. If they bother you, cut them off and if not leave them so they can fall off and the rose can set hips.

Very little new growth. Again normal. The roses know it’s time to shut down and stop producing new growth. Plus, tender new growth can be severely damaged by a frost or freeze and we don’t want it anyway. It’s one of the reasons we stop fertilizing this time of year.

These are just a few of the things you may be seeing out of your roses that seem odd or different this time of year.  Don’t panic if you do see them, but if you see something you feel you should be worried about post a picture on the rose forum. We’ll take a look and then I’ll post the answer back here as well.

Happy Roseing


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