The Q&A Archives: Roses Drop Leaves When They Set Blooms

Question: My roses seem to drop most of the leaves when they set buds and bloom. After they finish blooming, the leaves return until the next round of blooms. The blooms appear to be of normal size, shape, and color. The leaves do not change color, they just drop.

They are given a deep watering once a week and light watering every other day.

Answer: I'm really stumped! What you describe is not normal behavior for a rose bush. If the plant is under stress it can lose leaves (in favor of producing flowers) but foliage is necessary for the health of the plant so this pattern will eventually take its toll. Roses are heavy feeders and perhaps putting your plant on a regular feeding schedule will help it retain its leaves while blooming. 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. 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.

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