You love the beautiful roses that you’ve planted in your garden. It’s just upsetting when you see that they die so quickly. Sometimes an entire rosebush can die suddenly, but why?
Roses seem to die so fast for various reasons, such as winter damage, diseases, and pests. A lack of daily sunlight can also cause roses to die quickly. Generally, though, roses should live for between six to 10 years with proper care.
In this article, I’ll explore why roses die off quickly, how to prevent this from happening so that your roses bloom beautifully in your garden for longer, and what to know about rose dormancy, so it’s not confused with plant death.
Why Roses “Die” (Go Dormant)
Your roses might not be dead; they could just be going through a natural dormant stage. This happens during the winter and makes it seem like the roses have died because their leaves and flowers fall off their woody stems.
If you live in an area with a warm climate and your roses don’t become dormant by themselves, you should put them in a dormant, restful state. This is important because it allows the roses to collect resources so they’re ready for the next blooming season.
You can do this by not removing the roses’ spent flowers as the enzymes and hormones in their ripening hips will encourage dormancy.
Then, follow these tips:
- Early in November, remove the old rose petals and allow the hips to grow.
- When January comes, remove any old or dying leaves on the rose bush.
Once your roses go dormant, you should care for them by doing the following:
- Prune back the rose canes with pruning shears. You should do this with angled cuts that are about a quarter-inch (0.6cm) above the bud.
- Wrap the canes in twine.
- Cover the rose plant with leaves.
These tips will ensure the rose bush remains dormant until spring, when it’s preparing to bloom. You should also read my guide on whether roses die in the summer where you’ll learn a few tips to keep your roses healthy.
What Causes Your Roses To Die?
If your roses aren’t going dormant but instead dying, you should keep an eye out for specific issues that could be causing them to die before the end of their natural lifespan. Here are some common things that cause premature death in roses.
Your Roses Aren’t Getting Enough Sunlight
Roses need a lot of UV exposure every day. You should aim to ensure your roses get between six and eight hours of direct sunlight every day. The most important time of day when your roses should get a lot of sun is during the morning.
This time of day is ideal as it ensures that after you’ve watered your roses early in the day, their leaves will dry out, preventing water accumulation that can result in fungal diseases.
If your roses aren’t getting enough sun in your garden, transplant them into a sunnier area and make provisions for shelter against strong winds.
Your Roses Aren’t Getting Enough Air Circulation
You should avoid planting your roses within close proximity to other plants, especially fruit trees, as these usually contain pests and diseases that can be transferred to your roses.
Roses require a good amount of air circulation, and they also like to not be in competition with other plants for water, oxygen, and nutrients.
You should prune your roses early in the spring to encourage more circulation by opening the center of the rose plant or shrub. This allows more light to reach the roses.
Your Roses Need More Water
Roses need lots of water, ideally between one and two inches (2.54-5.08cm) of water every week. You should follow this watering schedule from spring to fall, and water the roses every three or four days when the weather’s very hot.
If you have porous soil in your garden, you should give your roses more regular deep soakings of water. When watering your roses, make sure you soak the soil up to between 16 and 18 inches (40.64-45.72cm). Otherwise, the water won’t nourish the plant roots.
However, be careful not to water your roses too much as this can cause a condition known as Flower Balling. This is when roses die before they can bloom because although the flower buds develop in a healthy way, they can’t open. It’s caused by wet, cool weather that waterlogs the outer rose petals. When sunshine dries them, the buds become tight shells, and they can’t open.
To treat this problem, you should ensure the following:
- Enable air circulation for your roses so that their buds dry quickly.
- Direct water to the plant base instead of its flowers or foliage.
- Protect the roses from a lot of rain, such as by installing a shelter.
- Remove balled buds. This prevents grey mold from becoming established and affecting other plants in your garden.
Your Roses Lack Adequate Soil Drainage
Whether your roses are growing in the ground or in pots, you have to ensure that you give them adequate soil drainage to prevent their roots from becoming waterlogged. This can cause root rot, which can be fatal for your roses.
Roses want fast-draining soil. While they can adapt to different soil conditions, ideally, you should give them medium-to-heavy loam soil.
When planting roses in planter boxes or pots, make sure there’s adequate drainage for excess water. You can do this by making drainage holes at the bottom of the structure, so your roses don’t sit in water.
Aphids Are Attacking Your Roses
A common pest that attacks roses and feeds on their new growth is aphids. These bugs can attack your roses in large numbers, which cause your plants to become brittle and yellow.
You can eliminate aphids by splashing them with a direct stream of water from a hosepipe. This serves to wash them off the rose plants.
For more severe aphid infestations, use insecticidal soap. I recommend Natria Neem Oil Spray For Plants from Amazon. It comes in a ready-to-use bottle so you can spray your roses easily to remove aphids, and you can also use it for other afflictions, such as powdery mildew and leaf rust.
I’ve written an extensive guide about pests that cause holes in rose bush leaves. Don’t miss it: 4 Pests That Cause Holes in Rose Bush Leaves
What Causes the Sudden Death of Roses?
Sometimes, you might find that your roses don’t start to show you signs of disease before dying. Instead, they die very quickly. What causes this to happen? Here are some reasons to consider and keep an eye out for so you can treat them quickly or prevent your healthy roses from being affected by them.
Flatheaded Borer Beetles
These beetles are drawn to roses that are stressed and not in the correct growing conditions. They lay their eggs in any damaged spots on the rose bushes, as SFGate reports. You’ll notice small holes where their larvae have produced tunnels into the cane of the rose bushes.
Unfortunately, if your roses are infested with these beetles, you need to remove any infected plants from your garden and destroy them. In the future, make sure you keep your roses healthy by giving them enough sunlight and irrigation.
If you’ve given your rose bushes a large number of glyphosate herbicides, this can kill them suddenly. Glyphosate is too harsh for roses to tolerate, as it gets absorbed into the plant’s leaves and stems. Their effect is worse if your roses are already stressed.
If you haven’t protected your roses against a big freeze, this can quickly kill them. Temperatures that go below 10° F (-12° C) are specifically fatal for roses. You have to take important measures to protect them.
Here are the steps to follow.
- Prune your rose bush to about three feet (0.9m) in height. Leave three or more of the healthiest and thickest canes intact.
- Remove any leaves so that you reduce how much the roses will dry out.
- Tie the canes together with twine.
- Use dormant oil spray on the canes. You can make this yourself with one gallon of water and five tablespoons of oil. Spray the canes with this oily solution.
- Dig a trench on the side of your rose plant, being sure to loosen the soil that surrounds the rose roots to prevent them from being damaged.
- Throw pine needles mixed with topsoil into the trench.
- Gently tip the plant into the trench, covering it with the soil that you earlier removed.
- Water the trench to nourish the roots and canes through winter with moisture.
- Cover with a pile of leaves.
When the weather warms up, such as in April, remove the pile of leaves. Wait a few weeks before you uncover the rose bush.
If you’re unlucky with growing roses because they always seem to die so fast, there are some elements that could be lacking in their care. You can nourish your roses so that they have a longer lifespan by:
- Watering your roses about an inch or two every week.
- Planting the roses in direct, bright sunlight.
- Checking for diseases and pests that could target your roses and treating them.
- Allowing roses to go dormant so that they can renew their resources for spring.