The Disease Devastating Roses and What You Can Plant Instead
By Danica Dodson, Arlington Parks & Recreation
Posted on December 02, 2020, December 02, 2020

Hands planting roses

Have you ever taken a close look at your roses and noticed that they don’t look quite right? Perhaps the stems are very thick or the leaves look distorted and curled. Have you noticed a large amount of little thorns within a concentrated area? Do new leaves emerge red and stay red as the leaves mature? Maybe your roses have experienced branch dieback or perhaps the entire plant has died altogether. If any of this sounds familiar, keep reading to learn about the disease that could be affecting your roses. APRD’s Urban Forestry Land Manager, Wendy Pappas, also suggests some plants that can replace your diseased roses.

Rose Rosette Disease (RRD)

If your roses are exhibiting several of the problems listed above, there’s a good chance they are suffering from Rose Rosette Disease (RRD).  RRD has swept across the rose industry and caused a devastating blow for gardeners everywhere. All roses seem to be susceptible to picking up this disease, and once they are suffering from RRD they are more susceptible to other diseases as well. It also causes them to have less winter hardness, meaning they cannot tolerate cold weather. RRD not only causes roses to lose their beautiful appearance, but after several seasons it will likely cause the plant to die entirely.

RRD Transmission

This disease is transmitted through very small mites that cannot be seen with the naked eye. These mites move onto your roses through wind, clothes, pruning tools, or other gardening tools. The disease does not transfer through soil, but if you have roses infected with RRD and choose to dig up the plant, be sure to remove every bit of the root and leaves so it does not transfer to any new roses you plant.

What To Do If Your Roses Are Infected

Unfortunately, the best course of action if your roses have RRD is to remove all of the infected plant. This includes removing all of the roots, leaves, and stems and then disposing of them properly – do not add these to your compost! After removing all plant parts, you can place them into a sealed plastic bag and set it out with the rest of your trash for pickup, making sure no part of the plant has been left in your yard. Researchers are looking into various methods of biologically controlling the mites that transfer the disease, but at this time there is not a lot that can be done in that area. There are several chemical treatments that claim to remove the mites, but trials have not looked promising so far.

Replacing Your Roses

Once you remove your infected roses, you may be wondering what you can plant in that empty space in your garden. When it comes to your replacement plant, there are many options that also produce beautiful flowers and like being in the full sun:

May Midnight Salvia – This can be planted in full sun and a moist, well-drained area. May Midnight Salvia is a magnet for butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds, and will bring some beautiful purple blooms to your garden. This plant can tolerate heat and humidity and will stay in bloom from June to October.

Tuscan Blue Rosemary – This plant is very hardy and easy to care for, and who doesn’t love having some fresh rosemary around? In USDA hardiness zones 8-10, it will grow into a shrub that blooms sky-blue flowers in spring and summer.

Butterfly Bush – This plant blooms summer through fall and will have the pollinators lining up to make a visit to your garden!  It is tall and mighty and has a very long bloom time, making it a great addition to butterfly gardens or even as a landscape plant.

Luna Rose Hibiscus – These flowers can grow to the size of a dinner plate! Luna Rose is a compact plant, but it has massive flowers that you can see from afar. The deep, rose pink hue of these blooms will add a gorgeous pop of color to any garden.

Spirea – Spirea is an ideal plant for difficult areas in your landscape where you have not had any luck with other plants. Drought? Wind? Poor soil? Spirea doesn’t bat an eye and is one of the easiest shrubs you can grow.

We hope these tips and suggestions help you in your gardening endeavors if your landscape has been struck with the dreadful Rose Rosette Disease. Stay tuned for more gardening tips from APRD’s Forestry and Beautification team!

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