Why Are My Rose Leaves Turning Yellow?
You work so hard on your roses, trying to do exactly right by them and keep them happy. So when you see some yellow leaves cropping up on your prized rose bush, it can seem like cause for alarm.
There are a lot of reasons for rose leaves turning yellow, but don’t worry–there are a lot of solutions, too.
Published: December 21, 2022.
Why is my Rose Tree Turning Yellow?
The most common reasons for rose plant leaves turning yellow are the following:
Don’t panic. If you pay attention to what your rose bush is telling you, you will be able to identify the problem and figure out the solution. Read on for an explanation of the possible causes of yellow leaves and what to do about them.
There are a number of reasons for yellowing leaves (known as chlorosis) on a rose bush. Some of the most common are listed below, along with possible remedies.
The most important thing is to monitor your plant so you can figure out what kind of TLC (tender loving care) it needs.
Roses like the soil to be moist rather than completely dry, though they also don’t like sitting in water. In order to strike the right balance when watering roses, you will need to feel your soil frequently, so you know how moist it is.
Water your roses when the top 3-4 inches of soil are dry. The best way to water a rose is to deeply water it and let it slightly dry in between waterings. See below for more tips on watering roses.
If your flowers or leaves are wilting, that is a good sign your plant needs more water.
Giving a rose too much water can also lead to yellow and dropping leaves because waterlogged roots will not be able to absorb nutrients and water, which will lead to plant stress. Eventually, waterlogged roots may become susceptible to root rot, which is an infection that will eventually kill off the roots of your plant.
It is tricky to strike the right balance when watering your roses (or many plants, actually), but if you pay close attention to what amount of water helps the plant thrive, you will figure it out.
Don’t keep the soil soaking wet. Let it dry out between waterings and only water when the top several inches feel dry.
Make sure your soil can drain adequately. Your soil should have good drainage and aeration, and if your rose is in a pot, make sure it has drainage holes and isn't sitting in a dish of water.
Rose leaves may turn yellow because the plant is not getting adequate nutrition from its soil. Roses are often deficient in iron, magnesium, or nitrogen.
If you suspect a nutrient deficiency is a problem, you can treat the problem by using a good-quality fertilizer or adding compost to your soil. This could be any plant matter or regular compost.
The best option is a fertilizer that is specially formulated for roses or choose an all-purpose fertilizer that has a high phosphorus ratio.
If your plant is suffering from iron deficiency, you can purchase iron chelates at garden stores or hardware stores. Iron chelates are added to water to increase the iron content in the soil and will reduce chlorosis due to iron deficiency.
If fertilizing your plant doesn’t improve the condition, you may want to identify the specific deficiency in your soil. Contact your local extension office and see if a soil test is available.
Poor Soil pH
Roses are picky when it comes to the alkalinity of the soil. If the soil is too alkaline (pH above 7.0), the rose will not be able to absorb nutrients. An ideal level for roses is between 6 and 7.
This problem can often be solved with the use of good rose-specific fertilizer. You can usually have your soil pH tested by the extension service as well.
So, roses need fertilizer, but they don’t need too much fertilizer. Overfertilizing or using granular fertilizers can damage foliage.
Make sure you follow the instructions for your fertilizer and keep it away from the foliage.
Roses need slightly acidic soil rich in nutrients and organic matter that retains moisture well but also soil that drains well.
If your rose bush is getting too much shade, this may be the cause of yellowing. Roses like around 4-6 hours of direct sun, though roses in bright, indirect light will thrive as well.
Sometimes leaves at the bottom of the plant will turn yellow if they are shaded by dense foliage at the top of the plant. This is nothing to worry about, and the plant will adjust on its own.
You will need to inspect your rose plant regularly for pests. Common pests that cause yellow leaves on roses are mites, aphids, thrips, rose leafhoppers, and Japanese beetles.
Don’t forget to check under the leaves for evidence of pests. You will see small specks all over the leaf or along the veins, or you may see silky webs if you have mites.
It is best to treat pests in the most gentle way possible and then scale up as needed. You don’t want to kill off other beneficial bugs that are taking care of other pests. Make sure you isolate any infected plants if possible.
Start by washing off pests with water. If that doesn’t work, use water mixed with a small amount of dish soap or neem oil. Keep your plant out of the sun when treating it, and make sure to give it air circulation to dry.
If these remedies don’t work, you will need to identify the precise type of pest, so you know whether insecticide is advisable.
The best way to protect a plant from pests and disease is to keep the plant healthy in the first place, so its natural defenses are strong.
Several diseases can also affect roses, including powdery mildew, black spot, and rose mosaic virus.
Powdery mildew will produce a white, chalky powder on the rose leaves. Make sure you avoid mildew by providing good airflow around your plant. Water in the morning so your plant can dry out during the day.
Like mildew, black spot is caused by the plant living in a humid environment. Make sure you remove any dead leaves around the plant and give it good airflow and water in the morning so the foliage doesn’t stay wet for too long.
Rose mosaic virus causes a viral infection in plants that causes leaves to look mottled yellow and green or to have veins or bands of yellow. There is no cure for this disease, so make sure to remove and destroy any infected rose bush.
You may want to choose a variety of rose that is disease-resistant, such as the knockout rose.
Roses thrive in sunny climates, but on very hot summer days, they may suffer from heat stress. You may notice yellowing leaves at the base of your plant near the ground.
Heat stress may be exacerbated by the plant being exposed to reflective heat, as is the case when very damp soil absorbs heat and reflects it back to the plant. In addition, if your rose is sitting in very dark mulch or above dark rocks, it will absorb heat which might overheat the plant.
Make sure you water in the morning and don’t allow the soil to retain too much water on hot days. Use light-colored mulch (cedar is good) around your plant if you live in a very hot climate.
Weed killer or lawn fertilizer used too close to a plant can also lead to yellowing leaves near the ground. Make sure that your rose bush is not exposed to chemicals used to treat your lawn or other plants.
Do Roses go Dormant?
Your rose bush may also be yellowing and losing leaves in the winter as a natural part of dormancy. If the yellowing started in early fall or winter, check to see if there might be another reason for the yellowing, but if you can’t find any other reason, keep an eye on it.
Roses are dormant all winter for rest, which is a natural part of their plant cycle.
Should I Remove Yellow Leaves from Roses?
You can certainly remove them if you don’t like the look of the yellow leaves. If your plant is outdoors, it's a good idea to remove them, so they don’t attract fungus or pests or shade lower foliage.
If your plant is indoors, you don’t need to remove the yellow leaves, though they will eventually fall off on their own.
How Often Do I Water A Rose Bush?
It may seem hard to strike a balance when watering your roses, but if you pay close attention to your plants, you will begin to get a sense of what they need. (Paying close attention does not mean overloving them with water, however.)
The frequency with which you water your roses will depend on a number of factors, including the time of year, your climate, the plant’s growing conditions, your soil, and your drainage, among others.
For this reason, it is difficult to say how often to water roses. You will need to water more in the summer when the days are long and warm (possibly even once a day if it's hot and sunny) and less in the winter when roses are dormant.
The best way to figure out when to water is to test the soil. Water when the top 3-4 inches are dry.
How Do I Water Roses?
When watering roses, you are watering the soil under the rose bush rather than the foliage itself. Water drops on rose foliage can lead to leaf burn and fungal disease.
It’s better to soak your roses and let them drain and dry out rather than water them a little bit each day. You will need to water it very slowly and let the water soak in. Try to soak it to a depth of 18 inches.
Get a watering can with a nice rainshower head, or use a rain setting on a hose. This will disperse the water better and will avoid any erosion that can be caused by a single steam watering can or strong stream from a hose.
Make sure your rose can drain. If it's in a pot, make sure it has drainage holes. If it is in the ground, make sure the soil is not already moist when watering your roses.
What Kind of Soil Do I Use For Roses?
The soil also makes a difference with roses. Your soil needs to drain so the roots are not sitting in water. If your soil is too dense, add some coarse sand, limestone, gravel, or other coarse material.
It’s a good idea to water your roses in the morning, before the intense midday sun. This will protect the foliage from sunburn that may be caused by water on the leaves and allows the foliage to dry before nightfall to reduce the risk of fungal infection.
Tips for Growing Roses
You can mulch around roses to retain moisture and prevent fungal disease. Use 2-3 inches of light-colored mulch.
It’s a good idea to replace your mulch every year.
You need to prune your roses for optimal growth. This is typically done in the spring. You can find pruning information here.
Make sure to remove any dead growth from rose bushes. This can be done any time of year.
Don’t panic if you see some yellow leaves on your rose bush. If you catch the problem early, you can work on a solution and get your plant blooming again as soon as possible.
Make sure to consider each potential issue and try to isolate what the problem may be. You can then try each solution in turn and see if it resolves the issue. If not, try the next one. With a little patience, you will get your rose thriving again.