What Causes Roses to Wilt? (And How To Save Them)

  • By: SFUAA
  • Date: April 21, 2022
  • Time to read: 6 min.

Roses are widely regarded as both one of the most beautiful and most fragile flowers that grow in nature. Like other plants, roses can grow to be strong, luscious flowers. However, it often requires a lot of work to get them to this stage, causing many to ask: What causes roses to wilt?

Roses wilt most commonly because they aren’t established and aren’t receiving the amount of water they need.  The next most common cause is Verticillium Wilt or Stem Canker disease. If your rose has either of these diseases, it’s time to do some signifcant pruning to remove diseased sections.

Roses, like other plants, require a number of circumstances to be able to grow. Read on to learn more about the different factors that cause roses to wilt and the steps you can take to save them.

Science Behind Wilting

Plants, like all other organisms, are made from a series of cells that allow them to process nutrients and create energy. In plants, these cells are made of a chemical known as cellulose, a fiber that bands together to make the outside wall of the cell. 

Plant cells are unique in that they are made to absorb water and nutrients through their outermost layer to help create the energy they need to function. When these cells do not get the water or nutrients they need, however, they begin to act differently.

Just like when your organs begin to shut down after not receiving enough water or food, plant cells do the same thing. If the cells are not able to produce the energy they need to survive, the cell walls (the actual structure that holds the cell together) will begin to collapse. When these cells collapse in mass clusters, it causes the plant to begin to wilt in that area.

Fortunately, however, the wilting of a plant means that, though it may be in rough shape, it is still very much alive. With these cells dying, it gives more opportunity for the other cells to thrive. Thus, if corrective action is taken quickly enough, these other cells will still survive, and your plant can make a full recovery.

Wilting Because of Disease

Roses are also incredibly susceptible to different diseases that can cause them to wilt. The most common of these diseases among roses are Stem Canker Disease and Verticillium Wilt Disease. 

Stem Canker Disease is a fungal infection caused by spores that grow off of the side of rose stems that suck nutrients and infect the plant, causing it to wilt. Stem Cankers look like little black or brown clumps growing out of the side of your rose.  

Verticillium Wilt Disease is similar in the fact that it is a fungal virus that affects roses, but is different in how it works. This fungal virus grows and spreads within the plant, causing infection in the cells and causing many of the leaves on rose plants to turn yellow or brown. It can also cause roses to begin to wilt, lose petals, and die.

If you suspect that your rose plant has become infected with a disease, unfortunately, there is very little you can do. There are not any major sprays or fertilizers on the market that help a plant fight infection, so the best thing you can do for your roses is to prune the diseased parts of the plant off.

  • Stem Canker Disease can be removed by pruning off the infected area of the plant.
  • Verticillium Wilt can be treated by removing the entire diseased cane and – optionally – treating the soil with a copper drench.

Eventually, either when the plant becomes dormant in winter or after it defeats the infection, the plant will likely return to its original state (or it will die).

Wilting Due to Watering Issues

The most common reason that your rose’s cells are dying and causing it to wilt is that it has a problem with how much water it receives. Most frequently, this issue comes in the form of underwatering. If your rose is not being watered frequently enough, it can’t effectively use the water to break down the nutrients it needs to survive. Roses need a lot of water to do this, especially in the hot months of the summer. 

To prevent wilting from lack of water, be sure that the soil your rose is planted in stays at a nice, moist level. Though you don’t want the soil to be soaked, keeping it moist will help the rose to regenerate and will save the plant from wilting. In the hot and dry months of the summer, make sure to water your rose daily.

Important to note, however, is that roses can also wilt from overwatering. Though this is rarely an issue, it is possible. To prevent wilting from overwatering, make sure that your rose’s soil can drain excess water. Making sure that you have good soil that’s not overly rocky or sandy, will help to maintain the right amount of water for your plant.

Wilting From a Lack or Overabundance of Nutrients

Roses are hungry plants and require a lot of nutrients to grow. It is recommended that when growing roses, you give them healthy amounts of fertilizer to help give them the nutrients they need to grow and develop. 

Though roses can survive without fertilizer, unfertilized roses are often much more susceptible to temperature changes, watering issues, and a lack of nutrients. Providing fertilizer to your rose is almost always the right decision.

However, roses can face serious issues if they have too much fertilizer. Fertilizer is rich in nitrogen, a chemical that helps plants develop the proteins they need to be able to grow. 

If plants, and especially roses, receive too much nitrogen, they begin to face issues. Too much nitrogen can cause excessive plant growth without root development, making the plant too big to sustain itself, making it wilt and die.

Too much nitrogen can also cause roses, in particular, to become incredibly sappy and attract bugs and other pests that might eat your roses. 

If your roses are wilting as a result of too much fertilizer, you should begin to observe your plant regularly, remove some of the excess fertilizer, and water the plant frequently. This may save the plant from further excess exposure to nitrogen. If parts of the plant begin to die, prune them off of the plant to save it for the next year.

Issues Resulting From Temperature Changes

Just like other plants, roses are somewhat picky about the temperature and climate where they grow. If roses are in temperatures that are too hot, they begin to dry out quicker than they absorb water, and if they are in temperatures that are too cold, the water inside of the rose freezes, preventing the plant from creating nutrients.

Roses do best in temperatures above 50 °F (10 °C) and below 90 °F (32 °C). If you find your plant wilting and notice that it has been exposed to temperatures outside of this range, it is likely to have issues regulating itself in the temperature. 

To prevent wilting from hot temperatures, be sure to water your plant regularly and, if feasible, move it into a partly shaded area so that it does not dry out as quickly. In low temperatures, cover the plant or move it indoors to help it stay warm. This will solve wilting and will extend the life of your roses during the season.

Final Thoughts

Though sometimes you can’t take any significant action when your roses begin to wilt, a slight change will often help your roses to regain strength and grow back stronger and more beautiful than they were before. Be sure to take into consideration what is the most likely reason behind your wilting roses to take the best corrective action.

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