The Q&A Archives: Brown Stems On Rose

Question: I purchased a container shrub rose 'mutabilis' in August and planted in a pot with good drainage and potting soil and a full-sun W/SW exposure. Until November it was doing great; it was blooming like crazy. Then it began to have wilted stem tips and leaves. But when I watered it, all the inner leaves turned yellow and fell off. This occurred several times and when I inquired at the garden center they said I was either watering too much or too little. I now use a water meter and only water when it begins to get dry. This change has helped some. However, within the last 2 weeks the outer stems and twigs have turned brown and gotten very brittle. I live in zone 10. I am new to growing roses and to gardening in such a warm climate. Can you help?

Answer: I tend to agree with the person at the garden center - over or underwatering can cause real distress in plants. On the other hand, roses usually lose their leaves in the winter, so the problem might not be a problem, at all! Roses never really go dormant in Southern California as they do in other parts of the nation, but you'll need to prepare your rose for a winter rest by removing all of the leaves. Just pull them off and dispose of them. Wait until mid-January, then prune back the stems (especially those that look withered or off-color). New buds should form on the stems and new flowering stems should begin to grow in the spring.

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