Why are my roses drooping and wilting? (and how to save it)

Why are my roses drooping and wilting? (and how to save it)

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Your roses are probably drooping due to watering problems. Most people know that not watering roses enough will lead to them dropping, especially if you grow roses in pots. Potted plants have limited soil to retain moisture, and roses can quickly outgrow pots. Even roses grown in the ground may need watering occasionally, especially during periods of drought or even very hot weather, and newly planted roses need consistent regular watering until established.

Many gardeners don’t realise that too much water is more serious for roses than not enough water. Overwatering, poorly draining soil or no drainage holes in pots can all lead to drooping roses and a more severe disease called root rot.

I have included more information below on water issues. However, I’ve included some other reasons here, including a common fungal disease and a part of nature, for you to research for your plant. Once you’ve discovered your plant’s problem, follow the advice on what to do about it.

Water issues that lead to drooping roses

Drooping rose from poor draining soil

Too much water or lack of water can cause your roses to droop. Even if you’re watering your roses correctly, you may still have one of these problems.

A lack of water could be that you’re under-watering your plant. But maybe your soil is too porous, and the water just drains through it. Or perhaps you have too many drainage holes in the bottom of the pot the rose tree is in if you planted it in a container. You can usually tell if they’re not getting enough water as the leaves become crispy and dry.

As for too much water, maybe there are not enough drainage holes in the pot, or you have not covered the holes with crockery to stop them from getting blocked by soil. Or perhaps the soil is mostly clay and clumpy, and the water stays in it rather than draining away. Or perhaps you are giving your rose too much water, I made this mistake when I first set up a new watering system. Unlike underwatering, where the leaves become crispy, with overwatering, the leaves become soft and limb and not crispy.

What to do

Check the moistness of the soil around your rose. Is it dry? Mix some compost into the soil to encourage the soil to hold together and to retain some water. Perhaps the soil is wet. Mix in some horticultural grit with the soil to break it up and encourage drainage of water through it.

Using a watering stem to keep roses hydrated using drip systems to help reduce wasted water

If your rose is in a container, check the drainage holes. Add some to encourage excess water to drain if your soil is water-logged. Make sure you have crockery or stone in the bottom of the pot to cover the holes.

And speaking of water-logged soil, if this is the case for your rose, check that your plant hasn’t succumbed to root rot. This is a fungal disease that’s potentially fatal for most plants, including roses. For details about how to do this and what to do to save your plant if you find the disease in it, read Phytophthora Root Rot – prevention and treatment.

Drought stress on roses

Drought stress fits in with the idea of watering your rose tree incorrectly. This happens when you let the soil around the rose dry out, then give it lots of water, then let it dry out again, and so on.

The stress on the rose bush causes quite a few things to happen to it as it tries to conserve water in drought times. These include the leaves yellowing and maybe falling off and the roses wilting and drooping.

What to do

Keep the soil around the rose moist during periods of drought but try to be consistent in not letting the soil dry out. Avoid water-logging the soil when you water the plant. It may be worth rigging up an automatic watering system with drippers during a draught to keep your plants watered. By using drippers you will not waste water by controlling how much water they get and directly where it’s needed.

Drooping rose caused by disease and watering issues

Excessive heat

Being too hot can cause roses to droop, especially when coupled with a lack of water. The heat can be because of too much direct sunlight. But it can also be radiant heat that comes from something of a dark colour in the plant’s surroundings, perhaps some dark rocks such as mulch or the side of a garden shed.

What to do

If the rose is in a container, move it to a more shaded position, if only for the midday hours. If planted in your garden, rig up a temporary shade to protect it from the sun. Alternatively, replace the dark colour elements in the rose’s surroundings, if possible, with something of a lighter colour. Or, rig up a light-coloured screen to place between the rose and the dark item. Excessive heat is usually temporary and roses usually recover once the heat wave ends.

Transplant shock

Planting a new bare root roses
Planting a new bare root roses

If you’ve recently planted a rose bush and the roses are drooping, don’t worry. It’s probably transplant shock. This occurs when a rose tree moves to a different environment – different soil; different amounts of sunlight and heat; different humidity in the air; etc.

The plant puts all its energy into strengthening its root system so it can support the whole rose tree by sending around water and nutrients. If you buy roses in spring and most of the soil falls away from the roots when planted, this can also cause the rose to droop, they usually recover quickly, but it’s common with newly planted roses that were only themselves potted into new pots in spring from bare root roses.

What to do

Nothing, this is natural. Wait until the rose tree recovers from the transplant shock. In the meantime, make sure you’re giving it the best care and attention, as detailed in my article How to grow and care for roses.

Botrytis blight

Botrytis blight
Botrytis blight

Botrytis blight is a fungal disease that flourishes in cool, wet weather. It moves into the flowers of the rose, especially the buds, that turn brown and become dry and crisp. They droop and often fall off the plant.

What to do

I cover the botrytis blight disease and what to do about it in Grey Mould Control: Identifying and treating Botrytis Blight guide. Head over to this guide for all the information on this disease.

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