No one likes when their precious plant babies get sick, and some diseases are more manageable than others. We hate to be the bearer of bad news—but rose rosette disease is one you definitely want to take seriously. If you are passionate about growing roses, this disease can be pretty devastating. The best option is simply to destroy the affected rose plant to prevent it from spreading. But, before we go full doom and gloom on ya, let’s learn a little bit about how to identify it, prevent it, and some management tactics you can take to keep it from getting out of control.
What is Rose Rosette Disease?
Otherwise known as witches-broom, rose rosette disease is actually caused by a virus spread by a teeny, tiny little ‘eriophyid’ mite (more simply, a plant parasite). It causes roses to develop oddly deformed flowers, leaves, and stems. The mites that spread it are not visible to the naked eye, and the disease, once it takes hold, can be fatal within two to three years. It is specific to roses, and its primary host is believed to be Rosa multiflora, but pretty much all hybrid roses are susceptible to it.
How is Rose Rosette Spread?
Typically, rose rosette disease is transmitted in one of two ways: eriophyid mites or through grafting. After feeding on an infected plant, these microscopic mites can crawl short distances on your rose plant to infect other areas. They can also be carried much further on wind currents, though, which is how they can infect new roses.
While you cannot transfer the virus itself from one plant to another on tools (say, a pair of shears), it is possible to carry the mites themselves on gloves, clothing, or tools. The cold doesn’t kill these little buggers either; they can hide out in buds, spent flowers, leaf axils, or leaf scars and survive until another season. The virus will likely remain inactive in the winter, but symptoms can show up on new growth the following spring.
Multiflora rose, which is considered an invasive species in the United States, is often a carrier of the disease. It is said that all but nine states in the country have reported infestations, so it is, unfortunately, a pretty widespread problem.
It can take anywhere from two to five years for rose rosette to completely take out a rose bush, so in the early stages, symptoms may only appear on a couple of shoots or a small part of the plant.
How to Tell if Your Roses Are Affected by Rose Rosette Disease
There are some pretty distinct symptoms and signs of rose rosette to keep an eye out for. These include, but are not limited to:
- Excessive thorns
- Flower buds that emerge in tight little clusters (the ‘rosettes’ that give the disease its name)
- Deformed flowers that appear stunted in growth
- Deformed or contorted foliage
- Very bright red new growth that never turns green
- Really thick stems
- Discoloration in general (i.e., yellow foliage)
- Reduced winter hardiness
A rose that is infected with rose rosette disease could have all or just one of these symptoms. It can take anywhere from two to five years for rose rosette to completely take out a rose bush, so in the early stages, symptoms may only appear on a couple of shoots or a small part of the plant. It is also worth noting that some of these symptoms are similar to what you would see if your roses were subject to herbicide damage. It’s easy to confuse them, but generally, the sprayed foliage will not grow as vigorously as the infected bush. If you’re not sure, though, feel free to pop by the garden center to talk to one of our experts!
Managing Rose Rosette Disease
Virus transmission occurs the most when plants are in an active growth stage, so usually between May and mid-July, with symptoms usually also showing their ugly heads around July. Multiple generations of mites can occur each year right up until fall, when the females go looking for a warm place to sleep for the cooler months.
So, to control this disease, you have to be able to control the mite's reproduction cycle and stop them from spreading. Regularly scouting for signs of rose rosette and being familiar with the symptoms is very important for management.
You can also use organic pesticides like horticultural oils or insecticidal soaps every week through June and July. When doing so, pay close attention to new growth where the mites are more likely to hang out. As we mentioned earlier, mites can travel with the wind, so it’s best to avoid using tools like leaf blowers around your roses.
If you do stumble upon an infected plant, though, it is best to remove it and the soil around it immediately and safely dispose of it in a garbage bag (not in your compost) to prevent the disease from spreading any further.
The best way to prevent rose rosette from taking over your garden is to buy disease-free, healthy roses from reliable places like Carolina Seasons. And, keep your roses in tip-top shape so they are better able to fight disease.
Plant your roses fairly far apart, so mites are not able to crawl from plant to plant, and follow a proper fertilization schedule to promote healthy growth. Pruning your roses in late winter and early spring may also stop mites from damaging your plant before they have a chance. Since they like to overwinter in flower buds and seed heads, pruning them and disposing of them in early spring can eliminate any mites that might have made a home in there.
Protecting your roses from winds in the area is another great prevention tactic. You can do so with walls or with other plants. Since the mites that spread the disease are easily blown by the wind, this will reduce the risk of them landing on your roses.
Plant disease can be devastating for gardeners. But, with the right knowledge, you can tackle problems like rose rosette with confidence. Or, if you need someone to bounce ideas off of, the team at Carolina Seasons has plenty of know-how we’d be happy to share.
When you’re establishing a brand new lawn on freshly graded soil, or looking to revitalize an older lawn, you’ll want to make sure you choose the right grass for Greenville, NC. From the sidewalk, it may seem like grass is grass is grass. But that’s not quite true.
Like trees, there are so many different types of grass, and some do better in certain locations. In general, grass is divided into two different categories: cool-season and warm-season. Our hot summers here in North Carolina mean we need warm-season grass if we really want our lawns to thrive.
Warm-season grasses flourish in the intense heat of summer, but they don’t love the deep chill of winter in the northern states. One of the best warm-season grass choices for Greenville, and for most of North Carolina, is centipede grass.
Centipede grass is often called “lazy man's grass” because it does not require frequent mowing or fertilization, and it is extremely drought- and heat-tolerant. That means the lawn will survive even if it has to go several weeks without water.
Centipede Grass Care
Many grass experts say that centipede grass should be mowed to a height of 1-1½ inches height and that height is ok. We’ve seen many healthy centipede lawns with a really tight looking, short mow height. However, in our experience, a slightly taller grass blade (1½-2 inches height) is beneficial in that it shades the roots and stolons just a bit more from the harsh summer sun and gives a lusher texture.
As grass grows, it uses nutrients from the soil. An easy and inexpensive way to put those nutrients back into the soil is to leave grass clippings on the lawn to decompose after mowing. Small clippings are ideal for leaving on the lawn, so either mow frequently, use mulching blades on your lawn mower, or both! Many folks seem to think that lawn clippings cause thatch build-up, but thatch is actually made up of the roots, stems, and lower portions of grass leaves that are located below the mower blades. Heavy fertilizing and watering contribute to thatch build up. If thatch reaches ¾ inch, it’s time to dethatch or power rake. This should only be done during the growing season and with a blade spacing of 3 inches to avoid seriously injuring the lawn.
Another task that contributes to excellent lawn health is coring, or aeration. Centipede does not grow well in compacted soils. You may have noticed bare spots in the grass caused by high foot traffic and compaction. Coring allows oxygen to move easily into the rootzone. It might seem counterintuitive, but oxygen gas is actually needed by plant roots to grow. Compacted soils impede the roots’ access to oxygen, and coring is the best way to solve this problem.
Like dethatching, coring should only be done during the growing season so the lawn can recover from the procedure faster.
Centipede grass seems to grow best if it receives at least 1 inch of water each week. In these times of freshwater shortages, we don’t recommend watering the lawn. But the fact is, water does help centipede lawns grow. With that in mind, it’s up to you to decide how important it is to have the prettiest lawn (and honestly, we’ve never heard of anyone receiving a Medal of Honor for their lawn!).
Warm season grasses are known for being drought-tolerant once established. And if you let them do their job, they can pull through a drought surprisingly well. However, you have to be willing to let them go dormant during a drought, which means your grass will turn a deathly shade of grey-green. If you halfway try to water during a drought, you may actually be doing more harm than good. So, make your choice in the beginning: are you going to water heavily to keep the grass fat and happy, or just let it do what it was meant to do?
First of all, let’s get one thing straight—centipede grass should never be the same deep green lush color as the fescue grasses you find in the Piedmont and Mountain regions of our state. If it is, it has been severely over-fertilized and will suffer long term consequences in the form of fungal disease, thatch build up, and increased cold damage during winter. Think of Granny Smith apples when you think of centipede grass—a bright, happy, lemon-limey green.
If you think you need to add something to your centipede grass to improve its health, the first step is to have a soil sample tested by the NCDA. Their lab in Raleigh will prescribe exactly what you need. If that sounds overwhelming, keep in mind we can help you with this. If you bring a soil sample to us, we will box it up, fill out the paperwork, send it to Raleigh (via the Pitt County Ag Extension courier), and we will help you interpret the results. Normally, NCDA does not charge for testing from around April to November. The lab is busier December to March, so they charge a small $4 fee per soil sample during this time.
We have seen so many off-the-cuff fertilizer, nutrient, weed control, and insect control recommendations based on symptoms and not on science. For example, “Is your centipede yellow? Add iron!” The problem with this advice is, if your soil pH is above 6.0 or the phosphorus level is high, the iron in your soil is tied up and the roots are denied access to it. Sure, an iron treatment might help temporarily, but it’s not a long-term fix. You, and your wallet, would be better off finding and correcting the root cause of the problem.
Timing is everything. Especially for fertilizer applications. Actively growing centipede grass is cold-sensitive. If it is exposed to freezing temperatures, it may die. So, it’s important to let the grass come out of dormancy in the spring and begin active growth before fertilizing (NC State Extension Service recommends waiting until June through August to fertilize). Fall fertilizer applications can be problematic. A few years ago, the Pitt County Extension Agent told me about a lawn in one of our neighborhoods that was fertilized in the prior year’s fall. The lawn jumped in growth, and then it got cold. The next spring, there was barely a patch of centipede that remained alive. It was tender and froze to death.
We’ve covered the key points to growing a good centipede lawn. Of course, there’s a lot more to know about the use of pre- and post- emergent weed killers, insecticides, and fungicide treatments. Keep in mind that the rainwater runoff in many of Greenville’s neighborhoods goes straight into the Tar River. Some newer neighborhoods have retention ponds that allow chemicals to at least partially dissipate before moving into underground water reservoirs. Best management practices in nurseries indicate that you can never expect to be 100% free of pests, so find a level of pest damage that is acceptable and try to manage things at that level. We think the same should go for homeowners as well.
For more information on warm season grasses, check out NCSU TurfFiles online, call us, or call your County Extension Office.
Scale insects are a common houseplant pest. They are strange insects in that they don’t really look like insects at all. They are basically immobile, remaining in one place for nearly their entire life cycle. They basically sit where they are born and feed off the sap in our plants. They often go unidentified because they don’t move much. They appear as tiny bumps on the stems of plants, and a large enough infestation will eventually kill the host plant.
There are two kinds of scale insects, Armored and Soft Shell. Armored scales develop a hard protective bubble over themselves that measures about 1/8th of an inch long and keeps them firmly in place. Softshell scales secrete a waxy film, which allows them to move a little bit. The females lay eggs inside their shell, and when the nymphs hatch, they crawl a short distance away and begin to make their own shell. Interestingly enough, ants will "farm" and protect scales on outdoor plants because they produce a honeydew that ants love.
How to Get Rid of Scale Insects
There are a few different ways you can get rid of scale insects on your plants, depending on the level of infestation you have.
Symptoms of scale infestation include yellowing or wilting leaves and stunted growth, combined with the telltale bumps on plant stems and leaves. A large infestation will eventually kill a whole plant.
If you’ve caught a scale infestation on your houseplants early, you can treat it a few different ways.
If you have a medium infestation, you can try organic pesticides.
If you’ve got a large infestation, your best bet is to dispose of the affected plant in a sealed garbage bag. If you want to tackle it with an insecticide, it's worth a try—but your plant has probably already sustained enough damage that it will not be able to recover. If you can find a section of the plant that is not infested, take a cutting and start propagating it. Just make sure you treat the cutting with Neem oil or alcohol to make sure there are absolutely no bugs hitching a ride.
Scale infestations can be tough to diagnose, and even tougher to eliminate. The best solution is to prevent an outbreak in the first place. Inspect your houseplants regularly, and make sure you adjust your watering schedule as the seasons change. During the winter, our furnaces dry the air out, so your plants may dry out sooner than expected. Plants that experience water stress, either by over- or under-watering, are more susceptible to pests.
If you need products to help you tackle scale insects, or if you need to replace a beloved plant you lost to scale, stop by the garden center in Greenville. We can offer advice on the best products to deal with them, or help you choose a healthy replacement plant.
Even though we experience relatively short winters here in Greenville, NC, preparing our yards for the season is an important task. It might seem unnecessary to spend time and energy into cleaning up the yard just for the cold weather—much of the garden will be dormant, after all—but it’s really valuable for your yard’s overall health. Don’t think about it as prepping your yard for winter, but as equipping it to bounce back as beautiful as ever come spring. Here are essential tasks to add to your garden cleanup guide this fall:
How to Prepare Your Plants for Winter
Since we can escape the chilly temperatures and harsh winds by locking ourselves inside with a warm beverage and a cozy blanket, we often don’t consider the living things that have to withstand those conditions outdoors. Although many of our plants are dormant at this time, dormancy alone doesn’t protect them from irreversible winter damage. Just like you’d bundle up the kids to send them to the bus stop, there are a few ways to keep your plants cozy during the cold.
Water your new plants well into the fall. Just because another hot Greenville summer is over doesn’t mean your plants can quench their own thirst completely. Continue regular watering until temps drop low enough that evaporation from the soil is less of a problem.
Lay mulch around the base of your trees and shrubs, and put down a layer on your garden beds. Whether it’s a layer of shredded leaves, shredded hardwood, or compost, the material will provide the soil beneath with a layer of insulation from the cold. It also helps to retain moisture, which plants still need to supply their roots even during dormancy. Over time, mulches decompose and actually feed the soil, this in turn contributes to a healthier root zone ecosystem. And healthier roots mean healthier plants. Check out our available mulches and use our mulch calculator to see how much you need for your yard. Be careful not to over-mulch, as too much could be a breeding ground for disease.
Prune away any dead or diseased limbs from your shrubs and trees. Damaged branches provide an opportunity for disease to enter and spread. Also, once the leaves drop from deciduous trees, it will be easier to see if any limbs need to be pruned out for shape, crossing too closely to another branch, growing in the wrong direction, or double leaders.
Don’t forget, you can still plant many trees, shrubs, and perennials throughout the winter around here. In the nursery, shrubs and trees are packed together to reduce exposure to cold winter winds. Putting plants in pots means their contained roots are above ground, and they are actually exposed to colder temperatures than in the ground. With winter plantings it is crucial to make sure the root balls are not allowed to dry out. So mulch well and keep up good watering practices!
How to Winterize Your Lawn
Preparing your lawn for winter is just as important as prepping your plants. Proper lawn care before winter will ensure your grass can nourish itself until spring and encourages a lush, healthy lawn next year.
Rake the fallen leaves as they fall. No, that doesn’t mean you need to rake every day, but staying on top of it throughout the season will make it much easier than having to rake and bag your entire landscape at once. Although it’s a time-consuming task, it’s important to either rake or mulch the leaves so that you aren’t leaving a thick, moist mat over your lawn. We doubt we need to tell you how much of a disease hazard that is! Plus, you can make it a kid friendly event—we all know how much the kids love to rake up leaves, just to jump into the piles!
If lime is needed on the lawn, late fall or early winter is a good time to apply it. The drizzling winter rains minimize runoff and the cycle of freezing and thawing helps incorporate the lime into the soil. Lower traffic on the lawn during winter is also beneficial.
As grasses prepare to go dormant for the cold season, we want to avoid encouraging any tender growth that could be damaged by freezing temperatures. So avoid fertilizing warm season grasses, such as centipede, in the fall or winter. For people who are new to Eastern North Carolina and are used to cool season grasses such as Fescue, this is a key difference in caring for your lawn.
You will begin to see winter weeds, such as chickweed and henbit, pop up once temperatures dip. Keep in mind, it is more environmentally friendly to have some tolerance of weeds in the lawn, while still controlling some of them. Be sure to read and follow chemical weed control labels closely. Because weed control chemicals are plant specific, the first step in getting rid of weeds is identifying them. Then choose your control based on the plant. If you need help sleuthing what type of weeds you have, bring them in to the nursery and we will identify them for you! Another great resource is NC State Extension’s Turf Files. Once your weed is identified, use the Turf Files to see chemical control options.
Other Ways to Prepare Your Yard for Winter
Bracing your trees, shrubs, and grass for winter is essential for a healthy landscape, but there are other aspects of your yard that could use some attention during the fall, too. Preparing your yard for winter also includes cleanup and storage of non-living things.
First of all, clean up debris that’s lying around the garden. Put those bags of raked leaves out for pick-up or mulch them and place them in a garden bed, get rid of your plucked annual flowers, and properly dispose of any tree clippings (especially if they show signs of disease).
Next up, store away anything that might be damaged by winds, or items with metal that might rust during the off-season. This includes outdoor furniture, playsets, bikes, garden decor, and gardening tools and appliances. If you want to keep your grill accessible, make sure to cover it with a good-quality unlined cover and keep it sheltered if you can.
Make sure you protect your hoses by disconnecting them and draining any remaining water. Store them in a warm, dry area—freezing temperatures can cause cracks and damage. If parts of your sprinkler system can’t be disassembled and stored, make sure to properly winterize and insulate them so you don’t end up with busted pipes.
Set your yard up for an easy winter by adding these few items to your fall checklist before locking up the shed for good. While you may not see the benefit right away, proper lawn and garden care and general yard cleanup will make a world of difference when the spring arrives to reveal a gorgeous garden this spring. The growing season is busy enough—get yourself ahead now!
Carolina Seasons Nursery