The Q&A Archives: Roses dropping buds

Question: Last year some of my old-fashioned roses leafed out fine, but the new growth browned, withered and died right after the leaf buds opened. How can I prevent this from happening this year? Brian Rice Ann Arbor, MI

Answer: Old-fashioned roses tend to flower best on two-year-old wood, so it could be the age of your canes. Or it could be drying weather conditions, says Lowell Ewart, ornamental horticulturist at Michigan State University in Lansing. If many of your canes are three to four years old, they're less vigorous and will tend to drop their buds prematurely. Prune out any rose canes older than three years to stimulate new growth, he recommends. A heat wave or prolonged dry period will stress the plant and it will drop new growth, says Ewart. Keep the plants well watered and mulched during dry periods, and if those conditions are common in your garden, consider a windbreak. It can be as simple as a perennial border, some hardy evergreens, such as arborvitae, large annuals like sunflowers, or even a fence.

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