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May 2, 2018 12:01 PM CST
Thread OP
Name: Vicky
Erie, PA (Zone 6b)
Hey there,

This rose bush hasn't blossomed yet--I live in northwestern PA and the weather broke only recently. Went outside for some sun and saw this white-gray crusty almost dead-looking pallor on my 100+ year old red rose bush. It's been here for almost as long as the house and it's never been gray.

I'm scared to think that it might be brown canker, though it's not brown? It is still alive and budding as can be seen in the photos. There are indeed some dead parts and it needs to be pruned but I think I can save this bush. It was wonderful and green last summer, with beautiful deep crimson blossoms so fragrant you can smell them all around the house. I don't know if maybe this is frost-related damage or a disease. I need some help from more experienced gardeners... Thanks for your time.

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May 2, 2018 12:15 PM CST
Name: Steve
Prescott, AZ (Zone 7b)
Irises Lilies Roses Region: Southwest Gardening
It is common for the bark on roses to turn from green to brownish gray as a rose accumulates years of growth. One of the methods of keeping a rose young is to prune these away as new, fresh, green canes grow from the base of the rose. And the best time to do this is about two or three weeks before the rose shows the kind of growth it is now showing. Once it puts out strong growth, it has disposed the resources stored in its roots to the canes and pruning severely sets it back a lot.

I think a rose with fewer than three canes is a little handicapped. My inclination is to suggest you prune away any clearly dead wood and wood showing materially weak growth, heavy scarring, and black splotches, but leave in place all the rest for this season. Give the plant some fertilizer this year, mulch around the rose to suppress weeds, and try to make sure it gets watered deeply about once a week through this growing season. Then, in late March or early April of next year, prune away the weakest cane and hope for new growth.

Good luck!
When you dance with nature, try not to step on her toes.
Last edited by Steve812 May 2, 2018 12:20 PM Icon for preview
May 2, 2018 1:14 PM CST
Name: Frank Mosher
Nova Scotia, Canada (Zone 6a)
Birds Region: Canadian Clematis Lilies Peonies Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
Roses Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Photo Contest Winner: 2017
Vicky, as you know, pretty tough to suggest a treatment until we have a diagnosis. Your guess may be very close to the truth! It does certainly look like a canker, and brown canker, the most common in most places, does turn white. The treatment, assuming the diagnosis is correct, is with a sprayable sulphur solution, and there are many on the market. The buds on the canes look great, certainly in my humble opinion, not calling for pruning, certainly if there are only three primary canes from the ground. I would try a sulphur spray as soon as you can, and let's see what happens before doing a hatchet job on your rose. Keep us informed. PS. I think your diagnosis is correct. You could send one of your pictures to Rachael at Palantine Nurseries, with just a short note, they may reply. Cheers!
May 2, 2018 1:32 PM CST
Thread OP
Name: Vicky
Erie, PA (Zone 6b)
I realized my initial photos didn't show the whole bush. I got pricked a few times, but I pulled out and moved enough of the grass and weeds so you can see the majority of the base of the plant. There are at least five living large stems (canes?) growing from the stump. There is at least one young one aside from those, as well.

Steve- tTanks so much for your info, I'll try the sulfur spray asap, I have to look online for some this afternoon. I'm also going to root some sprigs because only good can come from having more of this beauty in my garden. When all you find in store are scentless, it's amazing having the real thing right in your backyard.

fwmosher- Thank you for your analysis, I looked up photos of canker but I read that it turns white so I wasn't sure as I couldn't find any photos of examples that looked like mine. I hope I can save this old thing from death. It's survived worse, I'm sure.

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May 2, 2018 7:40 PM CST
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX (Zone 9a)
Cat Lover Charter ATP Member Keeper of Poultry I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Dog Lover Keeps Horses
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I think all those sprouts popping out all along the canes make it look like a pretty healthy rose.
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