Rose Rosette Disease

Here are common symptoms of Rose Rosette to look for:

  • Stressed growth in leaves, canes, and blooms. This appears as growth that doesn’t look normal. Stunted, dwarfed growth in canes, narrow leaves, and odd looking blooms.
  • Bunching of stems, clustering, broom like appearance of stems giving it the name of witches broom of roses.
  • Bright red leaves and stems (not always abnormal, as in many rose cultivars, fresh new growth can be red or crimson). Look for mottled coloration and redness that doesn’t go away. This growth will also appear unusual.
  • Overall decline and eventual death of the plant.

Rose Rosette Disease is caused by a virus that is spread by a mite that feeds on roses called eriophyid mite also known as the rose leaf curl mite. These are not spider mites, but much smaller mites that are almost impossible to see with the naked human eye. They move on wind currents from rose to rose. It’s thought that this virus first showed up in wild, native rose populations in the US. It then spread to multiflora roses which are considered invasive, imported from Asia to serve as a plant solution for windbreaks and screens. From these invasive roses, the virus spread to infect landscape roses including the once thought to be disease resistant Knock-Out Roses series, and the Drift series.

Because gardeners and landscapers have relied so heavily on both the Knock-Out and Drift series of roses for their ease of care and beauty, the Rose Rosette Disease has done a lot of damage in wide areas. It’s not known why some roses still seem resistant to Rose Rosette, but it’s been shown that Knock-Out and Drift roses are not immune.

What do you need to do if your roses have the Rose Rosette disease?

  • Destroy the plant – dig up plant and roots, then bag and destroy
  • Limit use of the surrounding soil
  • Remove multiflora roses within 100 yards of roses – if cannot then try not to plant roses downwind from the multiforas
  • Watch for regrowth from any remaining roots and remove
  • Avoid planting any new rose varieties back in the same soil

My ag inspector who lives down the road, stopped by recently and we talked about this rose issue. Her information said the soil where diseased plants were located could be tainted for up to 5 years.

Preventing Rose Rosette Disease

The mite is extremely difficult to kill, as typical mite killing chemicals don’t often work well on this species of mite. However, some pesticides may offer some protection such as Sevin, bifenthrin, horticultural oils and insecticidal soap when applied weekly during June and July.

The best course of action is prevention. When receiving your roses, inspect them carefully and look for the above signs of Rose Rosette. Only plant disease-free rose plants. When planting, give your roses plenty of room to breathe and allow air to circulate, as this can help keep the mites from spreading from one plant to another, although this isn’t very foolproof. And finally, don’t rely on one type of rose in your landscape. We’re not referring to color. Instead choose different species. If there are multiflora roses growing wild nearby, consider destroying them if possible as the mite can catch a summer breeze to your roses.

We hope this helps you avoid and end your infestation of Rose Rosette. It’s a heartbreaking disease, but with proper prevention and planning, you can avoid or diminish its effects on your garden and landscape.

We are committed to monitoring the new growth of our roses coming in from different growers. The Knockout and Drift Roses are anticipated to be in short supply over the next couple of years as many growers will be discontinuing their growing rights for these plants due to this terrible disease.