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.
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!
When you’re enjoying the quieter, mindful moments in the shade of your garden, nothing pulls you out of it quite like the company of mosquitoes. Lighting a fire or a mosquito coil is one thing, but your garden can also provide a far more natural and elegant solution for your mosquito trouble.
Mosquitoes don’t share the same love for aromatic plants as we do, and planting a few specific varieties will work to keep the mosquitoes out while keeping your garden free of chemicals. Not to mention, you’ll have fewer bug bites to show for it!
Citronella: The Ultimate Mosquito Repellent
Let the record show: mosquitoes hate lemons. Citronella is the ultimate mosquito repellent, sourced from varieties of plants like lemongrass and lemon balm. Citronella is typically the main ingredient in most mosquito repellent sprays. Lighting a citronella candle or torch works well in a more contained space in your yard, like a deck or patio, but it isn’t as effective out in the open where the wind can carry it away. In cases like this, growing your own lemongrass in your garden is more effective.
Scented citronella geraniums are also ubiquitously known as the “mosquito plant”. It’s true, they do contain a fragrance mosquitoes strongly dislike, but they also work best in smaller spaces, like entryways. They bloom beautifully, and when plucked and rubbed on your skin, work as a natural bug repellent.
The Next Best Anti-Mosquito Plants
These aromatic plants have the ability to repel mosquitoes and other pests with their powerful fragrances. We love them; mosquitoes despise them. With a few of these species in your garden, mosquitoes are no match!
Intersperse a few of these anti mosquito plants, and you can work and relax without this pest’s constant distraction. We’re excited to have you reclaim the meditative quality of your garden. You could even take an outdoor nap— you’ve earned it!
Carolina Seasons Nursery