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By Frank Brines
ARS Master Consulting Rosarian 

Time to let roses sleep


Last updated 8/20/2019 at 7:05am

Summer is certainly upon the valley – and based on past experience, it’s only going to get hotter before it gets cooler. I didn’t need to tell you that at the beginning of August, did I?

Since high summer temperatures and less-than-ideal conditions for roses are inevitable for the next couple of months, let’s get ready.

Those gardeners who have taken my advice are letting their roses continue their summer dormancy – this period should last until about mid-September. After all, why make them produce blooms when they’re struggling to stay hydrated? Let the roses ‘do whatever they do,’ that is, just remove and discard the withered petals and let the hips develop, keep the bed clean of debris and don’t fertilize.

Two or three times a week, depending on the temperatures, give hybrid teas and other roses of similar bulk, a deep, slow watering of three gallons of water each. Take an investigative stroll through the gardens in the morning, look for leaf wilt, drying or discoloration of leaves and the general leaf reflectance or surface luster. If it appears dull, investigate the plant for disease, drought or pests.

During that daily tour of the garden, look for any changes. It doesn’t take long for a rose to suffer once its irrigation supply fails.

Examine the lower leaves. If they appear yellow or brown, have fine webbing or look dirty, there may be an infestation of spider mites. They thrive in hot weather. They’re generally found on the undersides of those leaves.

A quick check can be made by lightly running your fingers across the underside of the leaf. If it has a small grainy feel, it most likely is the spider mite. 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.

Do this every three days for 10-14 days, inspecting regularly. It may be necessary to repeat after a few days if the infestation is heavy. Removing the bottom leaves approximately 8 inches from soil level can help in reducing or eliminating the spider mite problem. It should be done earlier in the year, before an infestation.

The world is dangerous enough for plants, but gardeners are also faced with risks. One risk recently came to my attention through a Dr. Gott. It’s a dangerous fungus with the scientific name Sporothrix schenckii. It afflicts humans with 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 embedded.

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

Those following my summer protocol for growing roses should have rose hips and few blossoms left on the bushes. Otherwise, induce a semi-dormancy period. Soon it will be time to “wake” the rose bush up again for a couple bloom cycles yet in the year.

About mid-September, a small pruning should be done, do not remove more than a third of the current growth. Around the first to mid-September begin fertilizing again with one higher in phosphate, the “P” in NPK rating.

Most organic fertilizers don’t use this obvious rating. Gardeners will need to read the packaging information which will be in percentages. In either case, look for something similar to 8-10-8.

Everyone enjoys the fragrance and beauty of roses and have often had their skin pierced by thorns or “prickles” is the correct anatomical name. Good protective measures include wearing appropriate clothing such as gloves, long sleeves or gauntlets when working among roses and thoroughly cleansing even minor scratches and punctures with an antibacterial soap.

Rubbing alcohol – which gardeners should already have handy to clean their pruners – can be applied as an immediate wash until they can use antibacterial 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 signs described above appear. Even the simple things in life have risks – gardeners should take precautions so they can stop and smell the roses.

Last year I experienced chilli thrips which caused much damage to my roses and other plants as well; however, I haven’t seen any sign of those thrips at this time. Signs are usually noticed on new young growth during and more likely when temperatures are high.

The new tips will have signs of dead or dried young leaves eventually moving down the cane. Begin treatment with insecticide as soon as noticed.

And when there’s time, visit Rose Haven Heritage Garden, located at 30592 Jedediah Smith Road in Temecula. The cross street is Cabrillo Avenue. Also, visit


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