Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Inland Northwest, High Desert
June, 2004
Regional Report

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'Almost Wild' shows off her summer finery amid glossy, dark green leaves.

Why is Rose Yellow?

With the advent of summer days, Rose and all her friends will show off their June glory any time now. Some growers believe that June is the best time for Rose, and that's hard to dispute in light of that first glorious flush of color. Of course, not all the colors shown are welcome.

Rose is supposed to be the crowning glory above a glistening, green shrub. When the leaves below don't look their best (ok, they're downright yellow), it takes a lot of the fun out of the whole experience. How's a girl supposed to show off without a great backdrop?

In our region we are likely to see yellowing leaves with green veins. The problem is iron chlorosis, a fifty-cent word that means Rose has iron-poor blood.

Bumping Up the Iron
"But I gave her iron!" you wail. Being a good gardener, of course you did. But our soil is highly alkaline, and it takes more than an application of iron before Rose knows there's been a change. First, you have to fix the alkaline part by adding sulfur.

Sulfur acidifies the soil, and brings the pH down to where Rose can "take in" the iron. But we're still getting ahead of ourselves. Just putting down iron and sulfur won't do it, either. You've got to water the stuff in. With lots of water.

Rose and her pals are notoriously heavy drinkers anyway, but unless you drench the soil around them after applying the recommended amounts of iron and sulfur, not much will happen. And even then, it will take a little time for Rose to notice that her diet has improved.

You can speed the greening-up process by spraying the foliage with iron fertilizer. The nutrient is more quickly absorbed through leaves than through roots. And add a dash of epsom salts (magnesium) around her base to help green up those leaves, too. Once you've got the recipe right, it takes time for the fruit of your labor to show. But it will.

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