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Helping roses survive the summer heat - Roses need hydration, gardeners need to be cautious of infections from rose thorn punctures


Last updated 8/14/2014 at Noon

Recent severe weather all over the world and especially in the Western United States indicates the unpredictability to be expected in the future. Globally, June 2014 was the warmest June on record.

Locally it seemed insignificant, while daily temperatures fluctuated from above and below what is considered “normal.” The last days of July continued to bring more unstable conditions and high temperatures are predicted to continue this month. In our region warm weather is typically expected to continue through September, sometimes into October.

Gardeners should be ready to adjust their practices, or be more disciplined, in using current proven methods to minimize the influences of heat.

Some local gardens had a nice show of blooms into July, due to the short hot periods. There have been some reports of plant and blossom sunburn. This is the result of the plant being unable to hydrate at the same rate as it’s evaporation. As I have been advocating for the past four years, after the June/July bloom cycle, let roses “do whatever they do,” that is, let the hips develop, just remove the petals and discard, keep the bed clean of debris while keeping rose bushes well-hydrated. Do not fertilize.

Take a daily tour of the rose garden is important in order to look for any changes. It doesn’t take long for a rose to suffer if it’s irrigation supply fails. Examine the lower leaves. If they appear yellow or brown, have fine webbing and/or look dirty, there may be an infestation of spider mites. These mites thrive in hot weather. They’re generally found on the undersides of the affected leaves. A strong spray of water from below, followed by an overhead shower should take care of the problem or, at least, hold it in check. Give the shower early in the day so the plant has time to dry before the sun becomes hot. It may be necessary to repeat after a few days if the infestation is heavy.

Gardeners are always faced with risks. One recently came to my attention through a Dr. Gott. It’s a dangerous fungus with the scientific name Sporothrix schenckii. This fungus is the source of the fungus infection sporotrichosis. It is often referred to as the “Rose Thorn” or “Rose Gardener’s” disease.

The fungus resides on hay, sphagnum moss, the tips of rose thorns, and in soil. It can cause infection, redness, swelling and open ulcers at the puncture site. The fungus can also spread to the lymphatic system and move on to the joints and bones where it ends up attacking the central nervous system and lungs when the thorn or thorns are deeply imbedded.

A relatively uncommon condition, diagnosis of sporotrichosis can be complicated. Physicians often mistake it as staph or strep infection. If a gardener suspects they may have this condition, they should be sure to inform their physician that they are a rose gardener so appropriate diagnosis and treatment are rendered.


Because the fragrance and beauty of roses is well enjoyed, many people have had their skin pierced by thorns (“prickles” is the correct anatomical name). Good protective measures include wearing appropriate clothing (gloves, long sleeves, or gauntlets) when working among roses and thoroughly cleansing even minor scratches and punctures with an anti-bacterial soap. Rubbing alcohol, which a rose gardener should already have handy to clean pruners with, can be applied as an immediate wash until one can use anti-bacterial soap.

Anything more than a minor puncture should be watched carefully for signs of infection. Seek medical attention as soon as possible if any of the symptoms described above occur. Even the simple things in life have risks – take precautions in order to stop and smell the roses.

To learn more about roses, their care, and educational opportunities, visit


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