A variety of problems causes wilted rose leaves on new growth. Look for other symptoms, such as red twig tips, honeydew or spotted leaves to pinpoint the cause. Continue caring for the roses, providing adequate fertiliser and water while evaluating the condition and finding a treatment.
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Roses are vulnerable to many diseases that case wilted new leaves. However, most are accompanied by other symptoms. Rose rosette causes wilted or wrinkled new leaves that may be bright red. As the disease progresses, the twigs develop a scraggly witch's broom appearance. The disease has no cure. Destroy the plant before other roses become infected. Fungal cankers invade the plant via injury from hail, cultivation or lawnmowers. The cankers may eventually girdle the plant, causing reduced growth, wilting and dropping leaves and eventual death.
Many insects, such as aphids, Japanese beetles, leafhoppers and sawflies bother roses. Aphids and leafhoppers suck the juices from the plant, distorting or wilting young leaves. They also secrete honeydew, a sticky substance that attracts ants, on the leaves and stems. Honeydew also leads to black sooty mould. Many beneficial insects prey on aphids and may control them without any additional measures. Squirting the undersides of the leaves with a steady stream of water several times each week dislodges and kills aphids. Insecticidal soaps are relatively safe chemical controls for aphids. Cover the entire leaf surface to coat the insects' bodies. Reapply every few days until control is achieved.
Environmental factors are a less likely but possible cause of wilting new leaves. Herbicide injury can cause distorted or yellowed leaves on roses. Very dry or very wet soil also reduces growth or causes young leaves to wilt.
Do not indiscriminately spray roses with pesticides or fungicides. Instead, take a plant sample to a county extension office for to positively identify the problem. Grow disease-resistant varieties in full sun and well-draining soil. Space roses at least 2 feet apart, depending on the variety, so air freely circulates, reducing disease problems. Fertilise the plants in spring regularly and prune them each winter.
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