Common rose pests: controlling them naturally

May 25, 2018 | By | More

common rose pestsRoses are perhaps the most beloved of ornamental garden plants. Easy-to-grow hybrid roses such as the popular Knock Out rose has made it possible for even beginning gardeners to enjoy roses in the landscape. Even so, several common rose pests can make keeping plants healthy long enough to be rewarded by the fragrant and showy flowers a challenge.

Harmful pesticides can keep your rose bushes looking pristine, but this comes at a high price. Pesticides don’t just kill pests, they also indiscriminately kill beneficial insects like ladybugs and pollinators. To keep your garden a healthy ecosystem and haven for wildlife, learn how to control common rose pests naturally – even if it means accepting some cosmetic damage to your bushes.

You can improve the appearance and health of your prized roses by knowing ahead of time what challenges lie ahead at the beginning of the growing season.

Sawflies

One early spring day, your roses look great and almost overnight, you notice the leaves look like Swiss cheese. What gives?

common rose pests

Sawfly larvae damage on rose leaves

If the leaves on your rose bushes are riddled with little holes and you see inconspicuous green worms on the undersides of them, along the margins of the holes, you have sawfly larvae. Sawflies are common rose pests, and they also wreak havoc on other garden plants such as perennial hardy hibiscus.

As with some other garden pests, it’s not the adult form of the pest that causes the trouble, it’s the larvae. Sawflies are easy to overlook in the spring garden when pollinator activity is high, but they look like a small wasp. They will lay their eggs on the undersides of leaves where the caterpillars will emerge within several days.

These common rose pests are best controlled naturally at this larval stage. Get some Bt (bacillus thuringiensis) in a spray bottle. This harmless, organic-approved pesticide will kill sawfly caterpillars and do no harm to birds, pollinators or other insects in your garden. Spray the undersides of your leaves generously, until they are saturated. This is best done at dusk so leaves don’t scorch in the sun. Reapply every 2 weeks for 3-4 applications.

Aphids

Another common rose pest that makes its presence known on your roses in the spring is aphids. There are so many types and colors of aphids, and while it seems there is no garden plant they don’t like, roses are a favorite treat. These tiny pests cluster in masses on stems and leaves slowly sucking tissue from plants weakening them considerably.

Watch for aphids and take action before you see your plant struggling. Aphids prefer tender plant tissue, so look at the ends of branches where new growth is pushing out and spot masses of tiny, round-bodied, slow-moving bugs. They may be orange, red, white, black or green.

There are three ways to naturally control these common rose pests:

  1. You can easily knock aphids off plants with a strong stream of water from your garden hose. Once you’ve washed them away, they cannot get back up. This approach works best for minor infestations.
  2. Ladybugs are voracious predators of aphids, and ladybug larvae eat thousands of them. You can purchase a jar of ladybugs from your local garden center. Keep purchased ladybugs refrigerated until you are ready to release them. Water your plants and release the bugs at dusk.
  3. Insecticidal soap is an organic pesticide that kills bugs on contact. This should be a last resort because it will also kill any ladybug larvae, pollinators or other beneficial insects if it comes into contact with them. To minimize the damage, wait until dusk when pollinators aren’t active and be selective, spraying the soap carefully and taking care to only spray aphids.

Japanese beetles

Beginning in June in most parts of the country, adult Japanese beetles emerge from the soil and start breeding and feeding. These metallic green beetles are easy to spot, and they are a common rose pest that can skeletonize leaves in no time flat.

common rose pests

Japanese beetles feasting on my roses

Here is an entire post on the control of these voracious pests. For roses, the best way to control them is by handpicking. If you can, start in the morning picking or shaking beetles off the branches, leaves and flowers on your rose bushes and into a big jar of soapy water.

Beetles are sluggish and slow in the morning making them easier to catch. I venture out to my garden a couple of times a day when I can and pick off beetles. They are harder to catch in the heat of the afternoon, but every one you catch prevents dozens more in the future. With practice, you can get rather good at catching them and you’ll save your plants in the process.

Whatever you do, don’t resort to those bag pheromone traps. They will only serve to attract more beetles to your yard – it won’t serve you or your gardening neighbors in the long run. Thankfully, the adult beetles are only around for about 6 weeks in summer. After that, you won’t see a single one.

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Category: Flowers, General, Home and Garden

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