If you prepare your soil and follow good cultivation procedures, growing roses can be a hugely rewarding task. But while you may love your roses to death, there are also some pests that love them too – and if they make a meal of your roses, the roses WILL die!
If you are planting a new rose garden bear in mind that in general, bugs prefer light-colored flowers. Although this doesn’t make a difference in terms of whether pests will attack your roses, there are also certain species that are classified as “disease resistant.” It does mean, though that they are more hardy than other species, and so may be a better choice to plant.
Before we look at some of the most common rose pests we need to get rid of, did you know that there are some insects and ‘garden pests’ that you won’t want to get rid of. These include the praying mantis, ladybugs (or ladybirds) and dragon- and damselflies.
Common rose pests
Rose pests you do want to get rid of range from tiny aphids to large beetles and various worms and spiders. Here are some of them:
Aphids are tiny little green creatures that cluster on the stems and spring buds of roses. They suck the sap from the plant and cause the stems to wilt.
Red spiders are tiny mites that spin their webs under rose leaves and suck the sap like aphids do. But the effect is different: the leaves take on a stippled yellow appearance and they usually fall, causing what is technically called defoliation.
Termites aren’t common in all areas, but where they do occur they can cause severe damage to rose buds, often killing them.
American bollworm hatches from minute creamy-white colored eggs laid by the moths on rose buds. The larvae that hatch from these eggs burrow their way through the calyx (the outer leaves that protect the flower bud), creating pinholes in the newly formed petals.
Cockchafer beetles are more commonly called rose beetles, and they eat holes in the leaves of roses and other garden plants during the summer months. The larvae, which are white worms or grubs, are just as problematic because they live in the soil and feed on the roots of rose plants.
Fruit beetles are black and bright yellow and almost rectangular in shape, and they munch rose petals during the day. If you see them, remove them.
Monkey beetles look a bit like cockchafer beetles, but they are shinier and have longer, hairy black legs. They burrow deep into the flowers during the day, to feed.
Tips on managing rose pests
There are loads of pesticides on the market that you can use to kill troublesome insects in the rose garden.
But instead of using poison, there are also some really non-toxic sprays available, for example those that include natural pyrethrum which is an insecticide made from the dried flowers of a kind of chrysanthemum.
Or you can make your own. There are many different recipes, including one that involves mixing crushed onion and garlic with ground chilies with water. Allow the pulp to steep in water overnight and then strain before spraying the brew over your rose plants.
Companion planting can also be incredibly effective, since certain plants act as natural living repellants. Garlic, chives, oregano and tansy are all good repellant, as well as tomatoes, petunias, lavender and, not surprisingly, chrysanthemums.
Marigolds are another good, old favorite, and they can make a really pretty border around a rose garden or bed planted with roses. Just be sure to buy good, old fashioned species and not the more modern hybrids that don’t work nearly as well when it comes to repelling insects.
Red spider can be a menace in hot, dry weather, so keep your roses well watered in dry weather and be sure to hose the undersides of leaves where the mites weave their nets.
Removing the eggs of bollworm and beetles by hand is a tedious but effective means of controlling rose pests.