Garden Detective

Sick rosebush’s suffering may be due to its roots

What’s wrong with this rosebush? It may be suffering from poor nutrition – or unhealthy roots, experts say.
What’s wrong with this rosebush? It may be suffering from poor nutrition – or unhealthy roots, experts say.

Experts tackle readers’ garden questions.

Q: I have a rose that I purchased from Heirloom Roses. It’s an Ebb Tide and I planted it last fall in a large ceramic pot. The rose gets lots of sun in the morning and diffused sun throughout the rest of the day.

The bush leafed up and bloomed right away last season, which was lovely, and then a sucker-like branch grew from the base with more than 10 tiny blooms. The company said it should be OK and it will always be the correct rose, even if it’s from that odd, fast-growing gangly branch.

This spring, I got few small blooms, then another long gangly branch with many tiny buds. I cut it off and the remaining leaves do not look great.

I am not sure what to do. I’m afraid it’s dying; it’s definitely not thriving. Do you have any suggestions? Do I prune it way back? Does it need medicine?

Laura Laskowski, Folsom

Master consulting rosarian Baldo Villegas: This is a tough diagnosis based on a couple of photos. I would like to see the plant to give a better answer. But here are some thoughts:

Heirloom Roses only sells rooted cuttings. So, this is not a sucker from rootstock. Whatever sprouts should be Ebb Tide.

Based on the two pictures submitted by Laura, the foliage and the way the canes are growing, it appears to me that there is only one variety of rose involved in this pot. Based on the foliage, there are no signs of herbicide toxicity.

If I had this plant in front of me, I would take a pH reading of the soil to see if the pH is between 6.5 and 7.0 (neutral pH). I would also look on the undersides of the leaves to see if there are any spider mites involved as the foliage does not look correct.

I think that there are some nutritional problems here. What kind of potting soil was used? Has any fertilizers been added?

Personally, I would re-pot the rose. However, before re-potting, I would examine the roots of the rose to see if they are healthy as this might explain some of the necrosis on the leaf edges. Once the health of the roots is determined, I would use some quality potting soil and add some Osmocote or similar fertilizer to the planting mix.

After replanting, I would make sure that the plant is well-watered and babied for the next three weeks to see if new growth takes place. Depending on how the grower leans, I would either go with organics or with a MiracleGro schedule (of fertilization).

Editor’s note: The leaves look crisp or burned around the edges. That could be from too much heat (which we’ve certainly had and ceramic pots get hot), stress from not enough water or too much fertilizer.

The pot looks like it’s on drip irrigation. It may need more water. Or it may be getting too much – roses will sulk and not bloom under that scenario, too. Roses need about 1 gallon to 2 gallons a week, divided into two or three waterings.

Master consulting rosarian Baldo Villegas of Orangevale is a retired state entomologist and grows thousands of roses in his garden. Bee garden writer and consulting rosarian Debbie Arrington contributed to this report.

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