The Q&A Archives: Climbing Rose Ailment

Question: My lady banks climbing roses look good -- that is if you don't look too close. They have buds that look like they will open in the coming weeks but the problem is with the leaves. They are not a healthy dark green anymore. They are light in color (a greenish yellowish hue) and kind of shriveld looking. I feed them once every two weeks and can find no insects causing damage. I water about 3 times a week. Any ideas?


Answer: Chlorotic leaves (those with absence of color) indicate you need to feed more often. Fertilizing roses is a popular topic for endless discussion -- and one everyone has an opinion about! In general, roses prefer a rich diet. The soil pH should be near 6.0 in order for the rose to be able to use the nutrients, so a soil test might be in order. Frequency will depend to some extent on what type of roses you are growing (and what type of fertilizer you use). Repeat bloomers such as hybrid teas seem to respond better to frequent light applications, while the older varieties of shrub roses are a bit less demanding and so once a year in early spring may be enough for them. You can use granular, powdered or timed release type fertilizer or, if you have the time and patience, the foliar spray type or even a combination; nitrogen is probably the most important nutrient, along with phosphorus and potassium. Some gardeners will also add Epsom salts, about a half a cup per plant per month, to provide magnesium. However, to really know what nutrients are needed in what quantity (too much is no better than too little) you should run some basic soil tests.
Hope this information helps!

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