Reasons Your Garden Roses Seem To Die So Fast

Having a beautiful and thriving rose garden is a dream for many gardeners. However, even some experienced gardeners notice that their roses 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 and ten 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. 

Key Takeaways

    • Inadequate Sunlight: Roses need 6-8 hours of direct morning sunlight to thrive.
    • Limited Air Circulation: Avoid planting roses near other plants that can block airflow.
    • Water Management: Roses require 1-2 inches of water per week. Overwatering can lead to flower balling.
    • Soil Drainage: Ensure well-draining soil and proper drainage to prevent root rot.
    • Aphid Infestations: Treat aphid infestations with water or insecticidal soap.
    • Factors Contributing to Sudden Rose Deaths: Flatheaded borer beetles, glyphosate herbicides, and freezing temperatures can quickly harm roses.
    • Understanding Rose Dormancy: Roses may appear dormant during winter. Spent rose hips can encourage dormancy. Care during dormancy includes pruning, wrapping canes, and covering the plant with leaves to ensure healthy blooms in the next season.

What Causes Roses To Die  

Roses, whether grown indoors or outdoors, can die so fast if the conditions are not right. Therefore, 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:

Inadequate Sunlight

Roses need a lot of UV exposure every day. You should aim to ensure your roses get between 6 and 8 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. Alternatively, whenever possible, remove structures or prune overgrown plants that block your rose’s access to direct sunlight.

Limited 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. They can also block the sunlight and restrict airflow, making the environment too humid for 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. 

Water Management

Roses need lots of water, ideally between 1 and 2 inches (2.5-5 cm) of water every week, depending on the size and age of your plant. That means you should water the soil around the base of the bush enough to saturate 8-16 inches (20-41 cm) deep. The shorter the root system, the less water you can apply.

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 (41-46 cm). Otherwise, the water won’t be enough to hydrate the plant roots. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

Aphid Infestations

A common pest that attacks roses and feeds on their new growth is aphids. These bugs can attack your roses in large numbers, which can 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. Doing this in the morning will give the foliage enough time to dry out and prevent risks of fungal growth.

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

Factors Contributing to Sudden Rose Deaths

Sometimes, you might find that your roses don’t start to show you signs of disease before dying. Instead, they die very quickly. 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 

Flathead borer 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. 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. 

Glyphosate Herbicides 

If you’ve used large amounts of glyphosate herbicides against weeds near your rose bushes, this can kill your plants 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. 

Freezing Temperatures

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 in winter.

Here are the steps to follow. 

  1. Prune your rose bush to about 3 feet (0.9 m) in height. Leave three or more of the healthiest and thickest canes intact. 
  2. Remove any leaves so that you reduce how much the roses will dry out. 
  3. Tie the canes together with twine. 
  4. Use dormant oil spray on the canes. You can make this yourself with one gallon (3.8 l) of water and five tablespoons of oil. Spray the canes with this oily solution.  
  5. 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. 
  6. Throw pine needles mixed with topsoil into the trench.
  7. Gently tip the plant into the trench, covering it with the soil that you earlier removed. 
  8. Water the trench to nourish the roots and canes through winter with moisture. 
  9. 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. 

Understanding Rose Dormancy Vs. Plant Death

Sometimes, a loss of vigor doesn’t mean your roses are 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 1/4-inch (0.6 cm) 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.

Final Thoughts 

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 with 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) of water 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

Dr. Moritz Picot

Dr. Moritz Picot is a horticulture enthusiast and the founder of TheGrowingLeaf.com, where he serves as the lead content writer. He established the website in 2022 as a valuable resource for both gardening aficionados and beginners, compiling all the gardening tips he has accumulated over the past 25 years. Alex has a passion for nurturing plants, transforming backyards into inviting spaces, and sharing his knowledge with the world.

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