The Q&A Archives: Rejuvenating Wilting Roses

Question: Last fall I moved into a house with a climbing rose bush. I have never grown roses before and don't know anything about proper procedures; nor do I know exactly what type of rose I now own. It seemed to survive the winter well with minimal pruning, and began growing new growth this spring. It sustained some seemingly minor leaf damage from 3/4-inch lime-green caterpillars that have feasted on many plants in the garden. Just yesterday, however, I noted that all the leaves on several of the branches have curled up, as if wilting. There are no other visible signs (to my untrained eye) to explain this, but it doesn't look good. What should I do? John Rebstock Cheverly, MD

Answer: It's hard to say what's troubling your climbing rose. Stems wilting suddenly can be a sign of wilt disease in the soil or a boring insect in the stem. Check the stems that's wilting just below the last wilting leaf to see if there is any holes in the stem. If so, just prune it off and remove it. If the wilt occurs in other areas and you don't see any signs of the borer, then it may be a wilt disease in the soil. Wilt diseases are especially difficult on heavy, wet soils, so be sure your soil is well drained. Other than that, feed the rose regularly with rose food, keep it well watered during dry periods and you should be rewarded with tons of roses this summer.

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