Roses need attention, but don’t go overboard with love

“Cured yesterday of my disease, I died last night of my physician.”

— Matthew Prior

Roses are tolerant, hardy plants, but experience has shown that constant applications of pesticides won’t make a healthier plant. Roses require the basics of sunlight, well-prepared soil, water and fertilizer. Your mission (if you choose to accept it) is control, not elimination, of pest and disease. Your final questions to the Plant Man included:

Q. My rose is growing great leaves, but I haven’t seen a flower yet.


A. Some rose varieties will concentrate their energies into growth the first year and flower little, particularly if they received heavy dosages of nitrogen. If your rose is a once-blooming variety it will not bloom the first year. Climbers are also not likely to bloom their first year (see below).

Q. My climbing rose never blooms although I prune it every spring.

A. Climbing roses flower on old wood, rather than new growth, so I recommend only stripping leaves at pruning time.

Q. How do I get rid of the aphids on my roses?


A. The tender new growth and flowers of your roses are desirable targets for aphids. These soft-bodied insects are easy to control by washing off with water, using horticultural oil, or an insecticidal soap product.

Q. Is it OK to plant roses in pots?

A. Smaller roses that remain less than 3 feet tall may be planted in 18-inch pots. Larger roses and climbers should be planted into 20- to 28-inch pots.

Q. My rose leaves look like my grandmother’s old doilies, just like lacework. What’s up?

A. Lacework holes in rose leaves are classic rose slug damage. Spray infested plants with insecticidal soap, neem or horticultural oil for control.

Q. What’s causing my rose leaves to wilt?

A. A number of different fungi may cut off the flow of nutrients and water throughout the plant, causing leaves to yellow or wilt. Prune out infected canes and spray a fungicide containing chlorothalonil at 14-day intervals, until control is achieved.

Q. I’m still getting mildew on my roses. Can I spray as needed?


A. Controlling mildew during overcast weather is nearly impossible. I recommend using Funginex at the first sign of a problem, but only at seven- to 10-day intervals.

I feel lonelier these days, but never alone. Roses have been a passion even longer than Catharine. I return to our roses, which fill the air with fragrance, and every garden with color and grace. All that’s remaining is a little warmer weather, which has a way of enticing roses to bloom and brightening the spirits of every gardener.

STEVE KAWARATANI is married to writer Catharine Cooper. He can be reached at (949) 497-8168, or e-mail to .