Preventing Rose Pests & Diseases

Dealing with rose diseases and pests by Flower Chick

How To Prevent Common Issues with Roses

The very best way to avoid rose diseases is to plant varieties that are disease resistant.  That’s what we want:  low maintenance, easy care roses!

In recent years I stopped spraying my roses with chemicals … for the sake of our health and that of our dog friends.  I now use organic sprays, homemade tonics, and enlist the help of beneficial bugs to keep my roses humming and strumming. 

Also, good cultural care can reduce the number of challenges your roses will present each season …  Disease prevention starts at pruning time.  

A well-pruned rose resists disease much better than one that has winter-damaged wood or lots of twiggy growth in the center of the bush. Pruning time also presents an opportunity to clean up fallen leaves that can harbor disease.

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Follow these six tips for healthy roses: Dealing with rose diseases and pests by Flower Chick

  1. Select disease-resistant varieties
  2. Follow good pruning practices
  3. Do not over fertilize
  4. Encourage beneficial insects
  5. Avoid working around roses when their leaves are wet
  6. Promptly remove any leaves that are infected

How To Prevent Black Spot

Dealing with rose diseases and pests by Flower ChickBlack Spot is a fungal disease that can run rampant on wet foliage. Black spots can develop on the leaves (especially lower leaves), which then turn yellow and eventually drop off. This stresses the rose and weakens it …

To prevent black spot, start a spray program as soon as the leaves emerge in spring using an organic rose spray labeled for black spot.  Adjust your watering so that you do not wet the leaves of your plant late in the day.  

Try and water the base of the plant, preferably with a slow stream using a soaker hose.  Of course, you  have no control over when rain might fall, and it is inevitable that your rose leaves will get wet at night.  Garden sanitation is important, as black spot spores persist in fallen leaves. Tidy up often!

Flower Chick’s Black Spot Tonic

I’ve also used a homemade “Black Spot Tonic” that helps prevent this scourge of rosedom.  

Here’s the recipe:
  • 1 tbsp. of baking soda
  • 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp. of dish washing liquid
  • 1 gallon of water

Mix all the above in an empty milk jug then pour some of the concoction in a clean spray bottle.  If you do see signs of black spot on your roses, the first thing you need to do is cut off and destroy all of the infected leaves.

Then, when you first start to see the spots appear, apply this tonic by spraying the leaves. This should heal your roses, and help prevent future outbreaks …


Dealing with Powdery Mildew

Dealing with rose diseases and pests by Flower ChickPowdery Mildew is a fungus that needs hot, humid days and cool nights to flourish… so it usually occurs later in the season. It will crinkle and discolor new growth, which appears a dusty white …

The most effective way to prevent powdery mildew is to provide good air circulation around your roses.  Since infections appear first at the top of the plant, it is easy to cut away the most severely infected areas with no harm at all done to the rest of the plant …


Combating Aphids, Mites and Thrips

Aphids are tiny insects found in large groups on the tender rose shoots. Spray aphids with shots of water to knock them off the rose. Inspect regularly to check that they haven’t returned …

Mites are very small insects that live on the underside of the leaves. They breed quickly in warm weather. Spray them with water to knock them off, checking frequently to see if they have returned. If the infection is very bad, use an insecticidal soap spray such as those available by the Safer or Bayer Advances brands …

Thrips are very small insects that feed on buds and flowers. They can be thwarted using an insecticidal soap as well.

Battling Japanese Beetles

Dealing with rose diseases and pests by Flower ChickThese shiny fluorescent green beetles appear in July in the Midwest. Their larvae live in well-watered lawns and garden beds for over 10 months of the year. (Eggs are laid beneath the plants that the beetles feed on).

The best way to remove them is to pick them off by hand and drop into a bucket or coffee can of soapy water. The soap prevents them from flying away …

If you are squeamish of bugs, just wear rubber gloves so you aren’t directly touching them. You can also treat your lawn and garden soil with parasitic nematodes, milky spore or chemicals made for grub control.

“How do I stop the rabbits and deer from eating my plants?”

That’s one of the most common questions I’m asked!

Dealing with rose diseases and pests by Flower Chick

It can be very frustrating … you just planted a beautiful miniature rose and two days later you discover bunnies munching it down to the ground. Or those lovely shrub roses you added to your garden turn out to be a big all-you-can-eat buffet for the local deer population.

Rabbit Proofing Your Roses

The best defense against rabbits I’ve found is a 3-foot-tall chicken-wire fence (use 1-inch mesh or smaller) with another 6 inches buried in the soil so they don’t burrow under. Usually they leave my mature roses alone, but now when I plant a new rose I place a cylinder of chicken wire fencing around the tender young plant …

Make sure to secure with garden stakes or sticks so the wind doesn’t blow it away. Definitely wear gloves when cutting and installing the mini fence. The first time I attempted cutting the fencing I didn’t… and wound up with cuts and scratches galore on my unprotected mitts. Ouch!

Go Chew on a Weed Mr. Bunny …

You can also try odor repellents such as blood meal or powdered fox urine (available at garden centers). These usually need to be reapplied frequently … especially after it rains.

Some folks swear by spray on taste repellents such as hot pepper spray or homemade tonics. They must be put directly on the plants, so rabbits get a good taste of it when they settle in for their rose snack …

It also needs to be reapplied periodically. Because rabbits prefer tender, young growth, if you keep your young roses covered for a few weeks in spring, then switch to an odor or taste repellent when the make-shift fencing is removed, the rabbits may lose interest in your garden and go elsewhere to munch …

Fertilizer Types of Rabbit Deterrents

Blood meal and bone meal are natural soil amendments that can make good rabbit deterrents. Rabbits are herbivores so the scent of these slaughterhouse by-products can turn them off and may get the critters to look elsewhere for food.

Blood meal is high in nitrogen … bone meal is also a source of nitrogen and is high in phosphorous.

Both break down in the soil, and will need re-application every week or two. I’ve used blood meal in the past and found it pretty effective …

Plants As Deterrents

Dealing with Rose pests and diseases by Flower Chick

Some folks recommend using common marigolds as a rabbit deterrent. A neighbor of ours likes to create a border with them around her roses and vegetable beds. Other effective border plants include onions – rabbits don’t care for the taste or scent.

Around The House Remedies

Human hair, dog fur, black pepper, fabric softener sheets and homemade tonics are some of the many household products I’ve heard used as bunny repellents, with mixed success. I don’t have much experience using them, but I do figure they would have to be replaced frequently.

I have tried homemade tonics on tender young perennials and they did seem to work. I’ve never used them as a rabbit repellent on my roses though …

Pets As Deterrents

Dealing with rose diseases and pests by Flower Chick

Pets can provide some deterrence. Our dog Daisy (a hound-lab mix) loved to chase the bunnies from the yard …

Here she is all pooped out and napping on our bed after a vigorous rabbit chase.

Not all dogs share that enthusiasm … we have friends with small dogs who happily coexist in the backyard with the rabbits and don’t stop them from eating the flowers. For the most part, I do think a dog will help keep the rabbit population in check at least.


Deer Proofing Your Roses

Dealing with rose diseases and pests by Flower Chick

Most people that have roses have a lot of them (they are so addicting!). This can offer the deer population plenty to munch on. Deer prefer the nice new growth of a rose…just like rabbits.

We live in a densely populated suburban location so we have not had any deer visitors to contend with. However we know people that have yards backing up to wooded areas where deer grazing is a common occurrence …

I’ve asked them for advice and most have said dogs, high fences, or the spray on product Liquid Fence deter deer best.

For the most part deer pass on ferns, ornamental grasses, plants with fuzzy foliage, plants that taste like lemon, mint, or sage, and hot or spicy plants like peppers. Roses, unfortunately, are one of their favorites …

Types of Deer Deterrents:

Spray Repellents

Spray repellents such as Liquid Fence or Deer Off can act in two ways …

Some have a predator scent giving off an odor that deer are afraid of and they will avoid that area. Other sprays deter deer by taste … once the deer tastes the unpleasant flavor, they often leave that location in search of better tasting food.

If you decide to use deer repellents, it’s suggested to select 2-4 different products and rotate them often. This will prevent the deer from getting used to any one scent or flavor.


Other popular deer proofing products include items that are placed in your garden to physically scare away hungry deer. These include solar-powered devices that emit a flash of red light that repels night foraging animals.

There are also some motion-controlled sprinklers available that douse the deer and other pests with water when they get close to your plants …

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Odor Aversions

Predator urine (such as coyote) is another popular organic solution. A powder formula is better than a liquid formula, as it won’t evaporate, sink into the ground or wash away as easily.

Some folks try hanging strong-smelling bars of soap (think Irish Spring) from trees or shrubs to keep deer out of your yard. Or scattering human or dog hair on the ground around targeted plants …

Barriers & Fencing

Although not entirely foolproof, a tall, sturdy fence can help prevent deer from entering your property.

Make sure the fence is tall enough. Deer can jump 9 feet, so a fence should be at the very least 8 feet to successfully deter deer. If you don’t want a tall fence, try putting in 2 fences that are 4 to 5 feet high placed about 3 feet apart. Bury the fence at least 1 foot underground so deer cannot get underneath the fence …

If the pesty animals have been returning for many years, or if they are particularly stubborn, consider a combination of the above methods to give the impression that your property is not a relaxing & inviting place to hang out.

A peculiar thing about deer and rabbits is how their likes and dislikes vary from neighborhood to neighborhood, and year to year.

Most years I never had a problem with animals eating my roses or hostas … then all of a sudden they took a shining to both. I recommend using more than one method of protecting your roses and alternating your strategy frequently. That seems to work the best with both deer and rabbits!

Please let me know what rabbit-proofing and deer-proofing systems you’ve used and which worked best for you by visiting our contact page

Flower Chicks tips for rose pests and disease prevention

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