Leaves Falling Off A Rose Bush – Why A Rose Dropping Its Leaves

Leaves Falling Off A Rose Bush – Why A Rose Dropping Its Leaves

Leaves falling off of rose bushes can be caused by different things, some natural and some due to fungal attacks. But, when a rose is dropping its leaves, you can be sure there is something wrong with your roses that needs to be addressed. Let’s look at a few reasons why rose leaves might fall off.

Fungus Causing Leaves Falling Off a Rose Bush

An attack of black spot fungus can cause the leaves to fall off of our rose bushes. First, you will notice tiny black spots on some of the leaves, which look a lot like fly specks or fly poo, but they certainly are not. If left untreated, the black spot fungus will quickly spread over the foliage of the infected rose bush. The black spots will get bigger, leaves turn yellow with sometimes brownish edges and fall off.

The best thing to do is to spray our roses preventatively for fungal attacks. Once you notice an attack of any fungus, spraying is of utmost importance. Keep in mind, though, that once the black spots are there, they will remain even once the fungus is dead. The new foliage generated will be free from the black spot fungus if our spraying did its job and truly killed the fungus.

Heat Causes a Rose to Drop Its Leaves

In the midst of a string of intensely hot days, some rose bushes will become very stressed, even with our best attempt to keep them comfortable and well watered. These rose bushes will start dropping leaves for no apparent reason and cause quite a bit of alarm for the rose loving gardener. It is actually the rose bush trying to create better cooling airflow for itself. By dropping some of its foliage, the rose bush increases the open area for air to circulate around its canes in an effort to cool down.

Sometimes all that foliage is just way more than the rose bush can possibly support and keep healthy under severe heat stress periods. So the rose bush starts dumping foliage in an effort to keep only that foliage which the root system can adequately support with moisture, plus just enough to provide what the roots need to keep the overall bush alive and as healthy as it can be.

To help stop some of this foliage loss, you can make some heat shades to help block a few hours of those most intense times of the sun’s heat upon the rose bushes. Once the day is winding down and the intense sunlight and heat are as well, you can rinse down the foliage of each rose bush at the same time, giving them a refreshing drink of water. This will help cool down the entire bush as well as helping keep the pores on the leaves open and performing as well as they can.

Lack of Water as a Reason for Rose Bushes Losing Leaves

Another reason for rose bushes dropping their leaves is the lack of water. If the rose bush does not have enough water to support all the foliage, it drops foliage in an effort to preserve itself. The leaves and root system work together to keep the overall rose bush healthy. If either one, the top or the bottom part of the rose bush, do not get what they need to perform at the best levels needed for the overall health and well being of the rose bush, changes must be made. In nature, many times, such changes are swift and easily noticed. If you are paying attention to your rose bushes or other plants for that matter, you will see the warning signs of such things as a lack of water.

Keeping the rose bushes, shrubs and other plants in the garden well watered during times of intense heat may be a huge chore but is truly of utmost importance to a healthy and beautiful garden or rose bed. Feeding them is important as well, but a serious lack of water will have disastrous effects in the conditions of intense heat. Keep your gardens and rose beds well watered, especially in those hot strings of days to allow them to be as beautiful as you truly want them to be.

It Can Be Normal for Leaves to Start Falling Off Roses

We notice on many rose bushes that the lower leaves seem to be turning yellow and falling off, causing serious concern. It is just the lower leaves, though, and no mid to upper level leaves seem to be affected. Many rose bushes will get so full of mid and upper bush foliage that it shades the lower foliage. Thus, the lower foliage is not really needed to maintain the rose bush any longer and the bush starts dumping it. In this way, those rose bushes concerned are focusing on the growth that is producing more of the good for the overall bushes health and well being.

Some rose bushes actually become what is called “leggy” due to this dropping of foliage. In order to hide those bare canes or “legs” of the rose bush, many folks will plant some low growing and low blooming plants to help beautify and cover that leggy look.

The Rose Leaves Are Turning and Drying Up

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The vibrant, fragrant blooms of roses (Rosa spp.) have long made them a staple in garden. This genus of plant boasts an impressive list of more than 150 different species of climbing, shrub and miniature flowering plants growing in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 2 through 11. Unfortunately, roses are susceptible to several problems that cause its leaves to distort and dry.

Aphids on Roses

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Aphids are a particularly common rose pest. These tiny, pear-shaped, sucking insects love to feed on succulent new growth. There are several species, which may be yellow, green, or blackish in color. You may see them referred to as greenfly or blackfly, but they are not actually flies.

A single aphid is not a big threat, but aphid colonies can grow shockingly quickly, and you will easily be able to see them on the plants. As they feed, the plant will become puckered, brittle, and yellow and the plants will slip into decline.

Symptoms of aphid infestation and damage include:

  • Distorted flower buds and leaves
  • Sticky "honeydew"
  • Black sooty mold growing on the honeydew
  • Clusters of aphids
  • Ants crawling on the plants and feeding on the honeydew

Because they are such tiny, tender insects, you can often control aphids by hosing the rose off with a strong blast of water. You will need to get all areas of the plant, including the undersides of the leaves, and you will need to do this more than once.

If water does not seem to be controlling them, try insecticidal soap. Make sure the plant is completely coated. The soap needs to make contact with the aphid.

Uneven Yellowing

Uneven yellowing of leaves that includes dark spotting generally means that the rose bush is infected with a fungus called blackspot. Blackspot is activated by very wet conditions as the fungus spreads on the plant, it creates large, dark circles ringed with yellow areas on the leaves. The leaves eventually turn yellowish brown and drop off, killing the plant.

If a rose bush is infected with blackspot fungus, it's best to prune away all infected areas as soon as possible. If the leaves are turning yellow and have red spots, this generally points to a nitrogen deficiency. Re-balance the soil by adding nitrogen-rich fertilizer or a gardening compound designed to correct the issue.

Desert rose losing leaves

My desert rose bloomed beautifully earlier this summer, but it started to lose leaves about a month ago. The plant is on the south side of the house, getting full sun from morning to late afternoon. It looks sickly now, and has stopped blooming. The leaves turn yellow first and then fall off. At this rate, there won't be any leaves left. Can somebody tell me what is wrong with it? Many thanks!

I would tend to suspect too much water--it could be other things but these plants don't need a lot of water, and yellowing leaves that eventually fall off is one of the symptoms of overwatering. Also, does your pot have a drainage hole? Can't tell from the picture obviously but it looks like one of those more decorative pots that often don't have drainage, and that'll be a killer for sure with a plant like this that doesn't like to be too wet (although it's still plenty easy to overwater them even if there is a drainage hole)

The fact that these plants are caudiciform is a dead giveaway that they can easily be overwatered. Caudiciform plants have the capacity to store large amounts of water between rare rains in their native habitats.

I'm sure you like the decorative pot it's in, but it would help if it were in an unglazed terra cotta pot, preferably an "azalea" pot, one that is wider than it is tall. I'd make sure the drainage hole is unobstructed, and not put any kind of saucer under it unless the saucer is completely dry at all times. How often you water it depends on the temperatures and humidity where it sits, but it sounds like it is being overwatered. When it is watered, it should be put in a sink or some place where the water can run freely out the drain hole, and a thorough watering will hold it for quite a while. After a day of draining it can be put back where it belongs.

You didn't mention fertilizer, but plants that are seldom watered require less fertilizer more infrequently than those that are watered often.

Thank you for the advice. No wonder why fungicide and bug sprays have not worked :-( When I first bought the plant, I read about it online. Later on, the only thing I remembered was that it wouldn't survive the winter in Maryland. I started to treat it as a tropical plant by watering it just about everyday. The soil is wet/moist all the time :-) . I should have known from its name that it could not be watered so much :-(

The pot does have a drainage hole, and there is no saucer under it. The pot is very shallow, about 6" deep and 15" in diameter. Our summer temperature this year was between high 80s and mid 90s, but it has cooled down to mid 80s since last week. I have fertilized the plant a couple of time, but not regularly. I might have thrown in a handful of slow release fertilizer.

I will reduce the amount of water, and let the soil dry out between watering. Will get a new pot, maybe the type people use for cacti.

The plant looks pretty sad now, a lot worse than it appeared in the photo. There are still a lot of flower buds, but I don't know if they will open or if they will fall off. Would the leaves grow back? Do I need to cut the branches back? The plant is not big, only about 15" tall. Should I leave it alone and see what happens next spring?

A lot depends on how badly the roots have been damaged--if it's able to recover then it will grow new leaves. Chances are you'll probably lose out on most of the flower buds that are there now, but if it gets healthy again it should make new ones. If the soil is still really wet, you might consider repotting as soon as you can into some drier soil. When you pull it out of the pot, if there are any brown mushy looking roots trim those off since they're rotten (hopefully you still have some healthy looking roots too). Then I like to swish the roots in some dilute hydrogen peroxide (or some people use chamomile tea) which will help kill fungus, then put it into some nice fresh potting mix in a new pot (or if you re-use the old one, I'd make sure to clean it out with bleach or alcohol before putting the plant back in).

Thank you ecrane. I will re-pot it this weekend.

Mine has the same problem and we have had lots of rain. So over watering is diffinately the problem.

I finally had to move it under cover to keep the rain out, but keep the sun in. Very tricky situation, but the good news is it does come back.

Rose Leaves Falling Off: Why Do The Leaves Fall Off My Rose Bushes - garden

Welcome to The Helpful Gardener. It sounds like congratulations are in order for your wedding as well.

I think I know what happened to your rose, I just don't know how far gone it is, but let's give it a try. I would also like to say that miniature roses really want to be grown outdoors. You can keep it in a pot and move it outdoors for the summer. Just don't put it directly in the sun right away. Give it time to get used to the stronger sun. Plants can get sunburn just like we do. Also keep in mind that miniature roses will go dormant in the winter, so part of what is going on could be that.

Potted plants should be watered until the water runs out of the drainage holes. They shouldn't sit in water for more then a few minutes.

It sounds like you overwatered and weakened the plant. Then you didn't water enough and possibly have too much residual salts in the soil from the fertilizer.

Here's what I would do. First I'd snip the remaining stems until I get to live stem. That may mean you will have very short stems now. Then I would GENTLY ease the plant out of the pot to see if the roots are healthy. They shouldn't be brown and mushy, but cream or white. If the roots look mushy, put it back in the pot, put the pot in the sink and GENTLY flush the soil with tepid water for a couple of minutes to rinse out the salts as much as you can. Let the plant drain off the extra water. Now wait one day for the roots to be completely hydrated.

While you are waiting, get a bag of potting soil that doesn't have any fertilizer in it. An organic potting soil would be wonderful if you can find it. Also get some liquid organic fish emulsion fertilizer. It smells bad when you open it, but the smell will dissipate once you mix it with water and use it. Being organic it won't burn the roots of your plants. You should be able to find it in any big box store or Mart store where you will find the potting soil.

Now take it out of the pot again. The soil will be moist and easy to remove from around the roots so you can cleanly cut away any damaged or mushy roots. If all you have is the Miracle Gro potting soil with fertilizer in it, reuse the old soil. If you have had to cut away alot of the roots don't fret as you have reduced the top growth and the roots have less top growth to support. You will now probably have to repot it in the smaller pot. You don't want it to be in a pot with too much soil. Wait one to two weeks before you fertilize.

If this weren't a wedding present I would probably have told you to throw it away and get another, but hopefully it will recover. You can use the organic fertilizer once a month in the winter. Once spring comes you can use it every two weeks.

Here's some info on miniature roses. Most of it pertains to growing them in the garden, but you should find this helpful. Be sure to read #24.

You should also find these sites helpful.

Good Idea

I am going to Walmart today to see what I can get. Thank you so much. I'll let you know how it works. I really appreciate the advice.

Shawna, you are so very welcome! I hope you find everything you need.

I'm glad you found that helpful.

Web like things sounds like maybe spider mites. You can make a solution of water with a little bit of real soap (not detergent, something like Dr. Bronner's) and a little bit of salad oil and spray it on the leaves. Leave it on for a little while then spray with plain water and wipe down. You should be able to wipe all the mites and webs off at that point.

But I don't know if the mites/ webs are what is making your rose bush die. Posting a few pictures of it would help people help you. Instructions for posting pictures here are in New to Helpful Gardener? under Helpful Tips and Suggestions for New Members.

Where are you keeping your plant?

I think rainbowgardener is correct and it is very likely spidermites.

Putting the pot inside a plastic bag to protect the soil from washing out and giving your plant a shower once a week in kitchen sink or regular shower once a week will help. I like to thoroughly spray my indoor winter plants every morning with filtered water. This really helps in my forced air vent heated low humidity house, and my plants suffer when I don't keep it up.

I think mini roses kept indoors in winter prefer lower temps, 55

65°F at the most if you can.

Re: Indoor Miniature Rosebush is Dying. Please Help

Re: Indoor Miniature Rosebush is Dying. Please Help

Honestly, roses are not indoor plants. There's no amount of light coming through the glass that will be the same as full sun outside.

A picture would help as well as telling us where you are. How long have you had this rose bush and when did the problem start?

Re: Indoor Miniature Rosebush is Dying. Please Help

Re: Indoor Miniature Rosebush is Dying. Please Help

Re: Indoor Miniature Rosebush is Dying. Please Help

Yellowing leaves on roses is a stress symptom. Unfortunately, many different things could be causing this stress:

Spider mites are common on indoor plants. They are very tiny. Unless you have a bad infestation (at which point you will begin noticing tiny bits of webbing), they are difficult to see with the unaided eye. But hold a piece of white paper under some branches and shake the branches. Spider mites will appear as teeny tiny reddish specks on the paper. They thrive on the dry conditions of air conditioned indoor air.

Over-watering can do it. I wouldn't keep the soil damp all the time. I would water it thoroughly and then not again until the top layer of the soil is drying out. But in the meantime, mist the leaves daily as long as the plant stays indoors. A humidity tray helps too - the plant doesn't like dry indoor air, even without spider mites.

Nutrient deficiencies can be the stress, but so also can fertilizer burn. How have you been feeding it?

You said your porch gets "nothing but sun." If it is truly a porch, not a patio, that sounds unlikely. Porches are attached to houses. Therefore, the porch is necessarily shaded by the house at some parts of the day. What direction does your porch face? If it faces west and gets the hot afternoon sun, that is not a good summer location for your rose bush. Any other direction would probably be fine. I would wait for a cooler, overcast day and get your rose out on the porch.

Keep us posted on how it is doing and what you find!

Re: Indoor Miniature Rosebush is Dying. Please Help

Re: Indoor Miniature Rosebush is Dying. Please Help

Re: Indoor Miniature Rosebush is Dying. Please Help

Re: Indoor Miniature Rosebush is Dying. Please Help

Re: Indoor Miniature Rosebush is Dying. Please Help

Re: Indoor Miniature Rosebush is Dying. Please Help

Rose simply does better when grown to field. It does less well when grown in pots. And even less well grown indoors.

I wish it was not so. Cause by hook or by crook I intend to collect all of Hugo Dots mini-rose, or back breeding them.

Re: Indoor Miniature Rosebush is Dying. Please Help

Re: Indoor Miniature Rosebush is Dying. Please Help

Re: Indoor Miniature Rosebush is Dying. Please Help

Roses would do better outdoors whenever the weather is good. Roses in the ground are hardy to zone 3 or 4.
If you do keep roses in pots, remember they require high light to bloom well and they are heavy feeders and need regular pruning since the only bloom on new canes and fertilizer after each bloom cycle. If you let your roses go dormant in winter, you would reduce watering and not feed them.

If you keep roses in pots long term indoors or out, you still need to remember that potted plants are totally dependent on you for all their water and nutrients. You will have to feed the roses, change the soil, and uppot as the plant grows. Most potted plants need to be repotted into a larger pot or the root ball reduced and repotted to keep it in the same pot with new potting mix every 1-2 years. Over time bacteria and fungal spores build up in the soil, especially if you have dead roots and have over watered, the soil becomes more acidic and the root mass grows and gets crowded because the pot does not allow the roots to spread and seek out new ground and nutrients. New soil give the plants a nice soft clean media for the roots to spread out in and it reduces the number of bacteria and fungi in the pots. The pots themselves if you are using older pots should be cleaned and bleached before reusing. Plants like roses, which are very susceptible to fungal and bacterial diseases anyway deserve a new pot every couple of years.

Some people like to use the organic mix in pots. I prefer perlite and peat moss or cinders. I just have better luck with them. I find that the compost in the organic mixes hold too much water and it costs much more than a custom mix I make. I do use MG potting soil, it is a good product. Moisture control is only good if you know how to water have total control over watering, or live where it never rains.

All plants need nutrients but organic fertilizer requires soil organisms to break it down into a form that the plants can use. You would have to use fish emulsion, kelp meal and compost tea every week since the soil cannot feed the plant in a small pots, you will need to feed the plant.

Roses are heavy feeders, they need regular feeding. I would use a rose food or MG for acid loving plants. Salts build up in the pots if you use a liquid fertilizer weekly like MG for acid loving plants then water weakly weekly with 1/4 strength solution.

Fertilize once each week with 1/4 strength fertilizer early in the morning and hit the under sides of the leaves while the stomata are open and the plant will have the day to dry off in good air circulation. The fourth week only flush the pot with water until it comes out the drain holes in the sink to leach salts from the pots.

Never leave a plant in a saucer full of water. I only 1 saucer with pebbles half filled with water as a summer watering hole for bees and beneficial insects. The first thing I do with any built in saucer is rip it off. The saucered pots are getting harder to find. I don't use self watering pots because they are very good at killing my plants.


The most common reason roses fail is improper watering. If buds and flowers start to look dry and shriveled, and leaves are suddenly dropping, the plant is drying out and should be watered immediately.

The best way to water is to place the pot on a tray and water from below the foliage. When water runs freely into the tray, stop watering. Allow the water to drain into the saucer for a few more minutes and then dump any excess water that remains in the tray. Never let the pot stand in water. The goal is to keep the soil slightly moist, but NOT wet.

Yellow leaves can be a sign of too much water or not enough light. If your pot came wrapped in foil, remove it so excess water can escape and move it to the brightest area possible (preferably a south-facing window). If you can't provide it with at least 5 hours of direct sunlight a day, you might want to consider supplementing it with an artificial grow light until you can get it into the garden. If you think you may have over-watered, let the soil dry out before resuming watering, and remember that with fewer leaves, it now needs less water.

At 60F, temperature is probably not your problem. Humidity may be a factor, as miniature roses do not like warm, dry air. Setting the pot on a pebble tray filled with water will help keep the air around it more humid.

Keep in mind that roses forced to bloom in the winter will be difficult to keep looking good until spring if kept indoors. This does not mean they will be lost, it just means that they may not look the greatest by the time spring rolls around. If your rose bush has lost many leaves, you may want to cut it back to about 2-3 inches, or to the point where you see a healthy, green-white stalk. New growth should reappear in 6-10 days.


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