8 Reasons For Rose Leaves Turning Yellow And How To Stop It

Roses are some of the most beautiful flowers you can have in your garden. They’re seen as romantic and luxurious flowers and have long been given as gifts to someone special.

8 Reasons For Rose Leaves Turning Yellow And How To Stop It

There are so many different varieties of roses available and they come in a wide range of colors.

Although the flowers of a rose bush come in different colors, the leaves on the bush shouldn’t. These should be a healthy green color but they can turn yellow. Yellow leaves on a rose bush are a problem and a sign that something is wrong with your roses.

There are many reasons why your rose leaves might turn yellow. These can include too much fertilizer, too much water, or not enough sunlight. There are also many other reasons why your rose leaves may turn yellow.

That’s why we’ve written this article to investigate the 8 reasons why your rose leaves may turn yellow. As well as identifying the causes, we will explain how you can fix the problem and make your rose leaves a healthy green color once more.

1. Not Enough Water

Drought stress is a serious problem with roses. To get the best roses, their soil needs to be adequately hydrated and this means that the soil needs to be moist to a depth of around eight to twelve inches.

If the soil dries out so that the moisture doesn’t get this deep and it remains like that for too long, it can turn your leaves yellow.

Several aspects can dry out your soil. It’s more complicated than simply not watering your roses enough. You need to be extremely careful in the following circumstances:

  • Direct sunlight – if sunlight beats down directly onto the base of the rose, it will increase the rate of water evaporation from the soil
  • Soil is sandy – if the soil is sandy or doesn’t have enough organic matter, it won’t retain enough moisture
  • Planted in pots – roses planted in pots or containers don’t have as much soil and therefore, won’t be able to access as much water
  • Heat waves – too much heat and not enough rainfall will affect the soil moisture

In most climates and situations, your roses will be fine with a single thorough watering every week. You will need to adjust this depending on the circumstances listed above.

How To Fix It

One of the easiest ways to ensure that your roses can access the water they require is by using mulch around the base of the stems. You should add a layer of compost that is around one inch thick to the topsoil at the base of your rose stems.

This compost will help the roses to conserve moisture. It will also increase how much moisture is retained by the soil while shading it from the sun and preventing further evaporation. 

If you live in a hot climate and are especially struggling with moisture in your soil, you can try using a soaker hose. This can be very effective at keeping moisture in your soil.

By consistently watering your soil and using mulch, you should see that your roses will recover. This may take a few weeks but you should see improvement with the yellow leaves.

2. Too Much Water

To make things a little more complicated, too much water can also cause your rose leaves to turn yellow!

To be precise, it’s not too much water that causes the problems but the effect of having too much water. When the soil becomes too saturated with water, it can deprive the plant roots of the oxygen that they need.

Soil for roses needs to be light and aerated enough for oxygen to get into the roots and the roots to respirate.

However, if the soil becomes too wet and muddy or the water can’t drain away correctly, then oxygen won’t reach the roots. Without enough oxygen in the roots and throughout the plant, the leaves can turn yellow.

Several circumstances can make this more likely. These are:

  • Slow-draining soil – if your roses are planted in slow-draining soil such as clay, water won’t drain away
  • Planted in pots – roses planted in pots and containers must have adequate drainage in the base
  • Overwatering – don’t water your roses too much

Take into consideration your soil type and climate when you water your plants.

How To Fix It

Don’t water your roses every day as even in the driest conditions, this will be too much. You should only water your roses once a week and only during the spring and summer months.

Give them a generous soak during these months and apply a thin layer of mulch on top of your soil

If you see that your soil is too damp, you will need to be especially careful. Not only can this turn your leaves yellow but if it progresses further, it can lead to root rot and the death of your rose plants.

Some clay soils can be amended so that they have more organic matter and allow for better drainage. As a last resort, you may need to transplant your roses. If the soil isn’t suitable and doesn’t drain correctly, you may have no choice but to relocate your roses to better soil. 

If your roses are planted in a pot or container, make sure there are plenty of drainage holes in the bottom of the container.

3. Too Much Fertilizer

One of the most common reasons why your rose leaves may turn yellow is because of the fertilizer you’re using. Although rose plants need fertilizer to grow, applying it in the wrong way can have the opposite effect and can damage the plant.

If you use fertilizer too often or in too high a concentration, it can result in your leaves turning yellow.

Fertilizer contains salt and this salt will build up as you use the fertilizer. Too much fertilizer means that there will be too much salt in the soil around the roots.

Salt draws moisture out of the plant and the soil and this prevents your roses from getting the water they need. This will result in your leaves looking burned or yellow.

As we saw in the previous points about water, getting the right amount of fertilizer is important. Too much can have similar effects to not having enough. 

You should also be careful about other sources of fertilizer that could impact your roses. For example, if you fertilize your lawn or other flowers this can interfere with your roses.

Many fertilizers are water soluble so when you water your lawn or it rains, you may find that the fertilizer on your lawn gets washed away and lands on your roses.

How To Fix It

The first step is to make sure that you are using the right fertilizer. We recommend using a fertilizer that is specially formulated for use with roses.

These are made with the right nutrients in the right amount for roses, whereas generic fertilizers may not have the right balances. 

These fertilizers are formulated so that they will release the nutrients over time instead of all at once. This will help prevent your leaves from telling yellow and can reduce the build-up of fertilizer salts.

Another step is to temporarily scale back the amount of fertilizer that you use. Prune any leaves that have been affected and water your roses well for the next few weeks. You should hopefully see that your roses will recover.

4. The Wrong Soil Nutrients

The Wrong Soil Nutrients

For your roses to be healthy, they need a steady diet of the appropriate nutrients. If they don’t get the nutrients they need this can cause them stress and result in the leaves turning yellow.

The biggest cause of this is happening is a lack of nitrogen. Roses need a lot of nitrogen in the soil so that the photosynthesis process can happen.

Nitrogen fuels the formation of chlorophyll in roses and this not only results in photosynthesis but also the leaves remaining green. If there isn’t enough nitrogen in the soil, your leaves will turn yellow.

Your roses are more likely to suffer from a lack of nutrients if the soil is sandy. Roses do not thrive as well in sandy soil and should be planted in soil that has more organic matter.

If your soil is sandy, you will need to supplement with fertilizer annually so that your roses can get the moisture and nutrients they need.

There are other nutrients that can result in yellow leaves, however. A lack of iron or magnesium can also result in yellow leaves as well.

These nutrients are often affected by the acidity levels of your soil. If your soil is too alkaline, this will affect how much iron and magnesium are available.

Roses grow best in soil that is slightly acidic and is in the pH range of six to seven. If your soil is above pH 7, this will likely result in yellow leaves.

How To Fix It

To make sure that your roses get all of the nutrients they need, you should use a fertilizer that is specially formulated for roses. 

Add a layer of mulch to the surface of your soil and around the stems of your roses as well. This layer should be around one inch thick.

The best materials for rose mulch are well-rotted manure or compost as they can hold a lot of moisture. They also are able to release nutrients into your soil over time.

Your mulch should be applied twice a year in spring and before winter. Fertilizer should be applied once and this is ideally in spring after the last frost of the colder months.

If you need to add more fertilizer you can, but do not add any after the middle of August. This is because the fertilizer will promote new growth and you don’t want any new growth as you head into winter.

Check your soil with a soil gauge so you can see if it is in the correct pH range. If it is higher than pH 7, you should consider transplanting your roses to more acidic soil. It’s very difficult to change the acidity of the soil.

5. Not Enough Sunlight

Roses need direct sunlight to remain healthy. To have your roses grow, flower, and be at their best, they ideally need at least six full hours of sunlight.

If your roses get less light than this or are planted in shade, they may not flower as they should. The leaves of the roses can even begin to turn yellow as a sign of stress caused by not enough sunlight.

You may also find that the leaves at the top of the rose are fine and remain a healthy green color, but the lower leaves still turn yellow. This can be because although the sunlight is sufficient, the top leaves are in fact acting as shade for the bottom leaves. 

How To Fix It

There are a couple of steps you can take to solve the problem of your roses not getting enough sunlight. The first is to prune any shrubs or vegetation that are causing the shade. 

Take a look around your rose bush while the sun is shining and see which neighboring plants are casting a shadow over your roses.

Commonly, this is a branch of a tree that has overgrown, but it can also be an overgrown hedge or even a batch of taller flowers and leaves that are in the way. Try and prune them as much as you can to give your roses some sunlight.

If this isn’t practical for any reason, you will need to transplant the roses. Find a part of your garden that gets more sunlight so that the roses can soak up the sun.

If it’s the top of the roses that are causing the lower leaves to turn yellow, then this is more difficult to deal with.

You can try transplanting the roses so that the sunlight hits them from a different angle but often, the best course of action is to prune the yellowing leaves and leave the healthy green ones alone.

Removing the yellow leaves will reduce the stress on the plant and preserve the healthy parts.

6. Too Much Heat

Too Much Heat

Another cause that can result in the leaves of your roses turning yellow is too much heat. If the plant begins to overheat this can result in the plant becoming stressed and ultimately, in the leaves turning yellow or falling off. 

There are a few circumstances that can cause your plant to overheat. These are:

  • Heatwave – if your area has a sudden heatwave, this can shock your rose plant and cause it to stress
  • Excess water – if too much water pools around the base of the plant, this can act as a mirror and will reflect sunlight onto the leaves
  • Dark mulch – if you use mulch that is very dark and heavy, it can absorb sunlight

Be careful if any of these circumstances arise.

How To Fix It

There are several different actions you can take to prevent your roses from overheating. 

In the case of a temporary heatwave, you should add some temporary shade to keep your roses out of the direct sunlight and offer them some relief.

Remember, depriving your roses of sunlight can also cause the leaves to turn yellow so don’t do this for too long and remove any shade as soon as the heatwave has passed.

If the heatwave is going to last for longer or you live in a particularly hot climate, you may want to move your roses so that they are partially shaded.

They need around six hours of sunlight a day so somewhere they can catch the morning sun but spend the afternoon in the shade (or vice versa) would be ideal.

If you’re using dark mulch, switch to a lighter mulch that retains less heat. Materials such as shredded cedar bark or straw are ideal.

You should also check that you are not overwatering your plants. The water should be able to sink into your mulch and soil and should not remain pooled on the surface. If it isn’t being absorbed, you are using too much water.

7. Invading Pests Or Diseases

If you spot yellow leaves on your roses, take a close look to see if there are any invading pests present. Spider mites and rose leaf hoppers love roses and they can both have a visible impact on your roses.

Spice mites will cause yellowing to your leaves and these can be spotted by the presence of small webs on your rose stems.

Rose leaf hoppers can also cause yellowing but this is a surface issue instead of something more serious.

Leaves that not only turn yellow but also have brown and black spots, could have the fungal infection Black Spot. This sounds worse than it is and if it is caught early, it can be easily treated.

How To Fix It

For spider mites and rose leaf hoppers, you can deter these with a natural insecticide. Apply a natural insecticide such as neem oil to the affected leaves, stems, and anywhere else that you suspect the pests have been.

You only need a small amount of this oil and it should keep the pests away.

If you have Black Spot, there are a couple of actions you can take. You should begin by pruning any affected leaves. Make sure you do this with a sterilized tool and then burn the leaves once they have been removed.

Don’t add them to your compost pile or garden waste as you will run the risk of the fungus spreading.

Once you have removed the already affected leaves, you can ensure the infection doesn’t spread any further by applying a homemade fungicide.

This can be made by mixing four teaspoons of baking soda with a gallon of water and mixing it fully. Apply this to your rose leaves so that Black Spot won’t spread.

8. Winter Dormancy

The final reason why your rose leaves may turn yellow is because of winter dormancy. Most rose plants are deciduous so they don’t flower throughout the year. They shed their leaves each year and then go into a dormant state during the cold winter months. 

As the leaves shed, they may turn yellow first. If you notice that your leaves have turned yellow and it is the cold winter months, then you don’t need to worry. This is part of the natural cycle of a rose and is not a sign of any larger problems.

The plant is simply preparing itself for the spring months and the new growth of leaves that will occur. 

How To Fix It

You don’t need to! This is perfectly natural and nothing to worry about.

Final Thoughts

In this article, we introduced eight reasons why your rose leaves may be turning yellow. Seven of these reasons indicate problems with your roses or their environment that need to be resolved whereas the eighth is a natural occurrence and nothing to worry about.

If your rose leaves are turning yellow, work through this list and see which factor applies to your roses. You should then be able to resolve the problem with our handy tips.

Diane Peirce

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