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May 5, 2018


I have a fairly large rose garden that came with my home - over time I notice more and more bushes doing what I call going wild (they have a nice, old fashioned bloom once a year, then otherwise they just grow and are often spindly.)  My guess is that they have lost their hybrid (if that is what they were) and once this happens, there is nothing that I can do except choose to accept, or remove and replace?  An additional question is whether there is anything that I'm doing wrong, or should do different?  I'm fairly good at caning and dead heading, but otherwise I probably don't do enough


Many roses are grafted plants—a desirable variety is grafted on to a wild rose root stock.  This gives the plants more vigor with pretty blooms. If something happens and the top grafted variety dies, or you prune beneath the graft union, then the wild rose root stock is given free rein to grow.  They typically have small, non-showy flowers.  I would suggest doing a revamp of your rose garden, adding some new varieties and some that are grown on their own root stocks and don’t need as much care as hybrid tea roses.


January 27, 2018


This winter weather confuses me about when to trim my roses.  Mine are about 7 feet tall.  I want them to be about 4 feet tall.  When can I do it?


Regardless of the type of winter we have--warm or cold, hot or dry, we still need to wait until late February.  Waiting until the bulk of winter is passed is best before you begin pruning.  In milder winters, they may be growing by now which prompts people to want to prune early. This can open them up to potential winter damage.  The reason we like to wait until late February is to make sure any potential winter weather is over.  This year we have had much colder temperatures than we are used to, and there may be some damage to the plants.  Leaving it on will serve as a buffer for any more potential winter weather damage.  It is recommended that you prune bush roses back to within 8 to 18 inches each year.  If you only want mature roses at 4 feet, I would consider pruning them back to 8 inches to allow plenty of room for them to grow this next season.


June 1, 2017

QuestionI just started to grow the roses last year. I was told to remove leaves with black spots or it would kill my roses.  I would like to know where the black spots comes from and how I could prevent black spots from appearing on the rose leaves over and over?n.



If you have a rose variety that is highly susceptible to black spot disease, handpicking off the damaged leaves is going to leave a leafless stalk. Hybrid tea roses are the most susceptible to the black spot disease, but other varieties can get it as well.  Black spot disease is the most common fungus disease on roses.  The leaves begin to develop black spots on them in late spring, and eventually the leaf will yellow and fall off as the disease progresses.  By mid-summer, the plants are often disfigured.  Rarely will this disease kill a plant even in the first two or three years, but it makes them so ugly, that many people pull them up.  To combat the disease, weekly preventative sprays are needed from April through September.  There are a wide range of fungicides labeled for roses.  If you have a susceptible variety, the key is to start spraying before you see the disease—once the leaves begin to appear and weekly throughout the growing season.  If you are not inclined to spray, consider some of the disease resistant varieties or old fashioned roses. 


February 25, 2017


Attached is a picture of one of my hybrid rose bushes. I purchased it in NC 4 years ago.  While in the pot, it produced a few white long-stemmed roses. Once planted in the ground, the bush sent out two different types of stems; one produces small red blooms once a season.  The other side has leaves, but does not bloom.  Apparently, the hybrid root-ball has separated. The leaves on each side are quite different. The bloom-less side has a bark like growth as shown in the picture.  I have cut this side to the ground twice.  It regrows again and by mid-season the bark reappears.  Do you know what causes this bark to grow?  How do I stop it?  Although I am not a big fan of roses, the red side is very nice when in bloom and I would like to continue to have it in my garden.



I think you have a few things going on.  First, I think your white rose bush was grafted on to a more wild type of red rose bush.  I believe your graft union either died or the wild root stalk came up and took over.  In addition you actually have a winged elm tree growing in the midst of your rose bush.  That corky ridge or extra growth along the stem is a characteristic of that plant, thus the common name including “winged”.  I would definitely try to prune out the tree, or it will overtake your rose bush and shade it out. 

June 1, 2016

QuestionMy roses get black spot every year.  This year I decided I was going to really keep up with the spray schedule and keep the dreaded disease away.  I have been spraying with a fungicide, an insecticide and a miticide, weekly.  I still have a little black spot, but not nearly as much as I usually do, but the tips of the leaves are burned and the white flowered varieties have blotchy blooms.  What problem do I now have?  I figured no insects would dare attack with my spraying.


AnswerIt sounds like a bit of overkill.  Preventative sprays are necessary for the black spot fungus, but weekly sprays with insecticides and miticides aren’t necessary.  The tip burn is more than likely a chemical burn.  White or light colored flowers often can be discolored from pesticides.  Cut back on your spray schedule, just use the fungicide. Spray if insects are detected, but you don’t have to use preventative sprays.  Be sure your plants have ample moisture levels before spraying or the plants may take up too much pesticide and get burned.  



April 30, 2016


 I am trying to find a rose bush that had been in my family for generations.  Unfortunately I was the last one in the family that had one and I had to move because of sickness in the family and could not take it with me. It was called the yellow rose of Texas and it was a climbing rose that spread quickly and had very thick and large thorns. Could you please tell me if there is any where that I could possibly be able to purchase a start of this bush?   


AnswerI don't think I will be able to help you. The plant commonly called yellow rose of Texas today is Kerria japonica --not a true rose, and no thorns, but it is covered in yellow blooms on a bush in the shade. There is another old fashioned vigorous small yellow rose that is prolific, called Lady Banks rose, but it is a thorn less rose.  You might try the Antique Rose Emporium in Texas or Petals from the Past in Alabama who specializes in old roses.


February 1, 2016

QuestionOne year in one of your columns you stated that there is a spring, yearly, soil additive (fungicide?) to sprinkle around roses at this time of year, to their drip-line, to control black spot etc. for the entire growing season.   What was it?


AnswerI wish we had such a product.  There are several products that can last for two to three weeks per treatment for roses, such as Bayer Advanced All in One Rose care, but it has a fungicide, insecticide and fertilizer combo. If you don’t have insect issues, you are wasting that application.  I think you are thinking of an imidacloprid product that we use once a year on azaleas for insects or crape myrtles for scale, but there is no one shot product for black spot on roses.


November 28, 2015


You recently had a question about confederate rose and you said to take cuttings now.  Cuttings as in cut a branch off and put that in water?  My "bush “looks like a tree & it has so many blooms I had to prop it up with a garden rake. 



Make sure you take the cuttings before a killing frost or immediately after, before the top gets totally killed back.  I would take cuttings in one foot sections.  Put them in a bucket of water in the garage and let them root—making sure they don’t freeze.  Then next spring, plant them and you have more confederate rose or Hibiscus mutabilis plants. 


(November 2012)

QuestionI need some information regarding the planting of Carolina jasmine and roses. First Is now the time to plant Carolina Jasmine and roses?

AnswerThe best time to plant Carolina jasmine would be spring through early summer, and roses can be planted year-round, but best selection is usually in late February as nurseries begin to get them in.

(September 2012)

QuestionMy Knock out rose bushes have only bloomed once so far this season. Can you please advise me what the problem is?

AnswerThe intense summer we had has impacted many flowering plants. Whether it is roses, crape myrtles and even some annuals, they slowed down or stopped blooming just to stay alive. Now that we have gotten some rain, the temperatures are cooling off, hopefully they will rebound and bloom through fall.

(December 2011)

QuestionMy Knock out roses are in their third year and have never been pruned. When is the best time to do so, and how do I prune them?

AnswerKnockout roses are considered shrub roses, so do not require the severe pruning of hybrid tea roses, but they still should be pruned every year in late February. I would imagine yours got a bit gangly going three years without being pruned. Take them back by 1/3 – ½, making selective cuts in the bush—don’t shear them into a ball with a hedge trimmer. You want them looking natural after being cut back. Knockout roses bloom on the new growth, so you want to encourage a full plant, with plenty of growth, so you get more blooms.

(March 2010)

QuestionWe have one double pink Knock-out rose growing in a container. It grew rather large and is somewhat misshapen, and new leaves are starting to bud. Is it time to trim it? Do standard rose-pruning techniques apply?

AnswerMany of the Knock-out Roses grew quite dramatically this past growing season with all the rain. You do want to do some pruning annually on these shrub roses, but not as severely as we do on hybrid teas. Selectively prune back by one third, pruning to buds or small sprouts that are growing in the direction you want the plant to grow. Don’t cut all the branches at the same height, do so with staggered cuts to get a fuller plant and more flowers. Prune annually like with other shrub roses in late February through early March. Most roses are sprouted and growing by now every year when we have mild winter weather—they are actually slower this season due to the colder temperatures.

(March 2010)

QuestionMy husband & I bought a couple of rose bushes to plant this spring. When would be the best time to plant them without fear of frost damage?

AnswerPlant them now. Many roses come in those small plastic sleeves and are called ‘bare root’ plants. The plastic sleeve has some fill in it to keep the roots moist, but there is nothing to sustain active growth. Bare root plants are shipped dormant and meant to be planted dormant. So don’t delay. If you bought a containerized rose bush it has also been outside at the nursery and should be totally hardened off. Get it in the ground, mulch it and water. Tip: For those who have established roses, the roses have begun growing statewide, so if you haven’t pruned yet, do so immediately or it can delay the onset of the first blooms.

(November/December 2009)

QuestionI recently moved to northwest Arkansas from Minnesota. In Minnesota, we grew roses but had to lay them down during the winter for protection. I am currently growing roses in Arkansas but not sure what type of winter care they need. By now they would be underground in Minnesota, but here I still have green leaves and even a few flowers. When do I prune them and how far? Any pointers would be greatly appreciated.

AnswerRoses are quite hardy in all parts of Arkansas, and it is not unusual for them to be semi-evergreen most winters. While they do shed a preponderance of their leaves, they retain some most years. It depends on what type of roses you are growing as to how much and when to prune. In general, most rose bushes should be pruned in late February. Hybrid teas require a more rigorous pruning—cutting them back 8 – 18 inches from the ground each year. Shrub roses—whether they are antiques or new “earth kind” roses should be pruned more selectively—like a shrub. Again, do this before growth begins in the spring—usually late February. You do need to prune all roses every year since they bloom on the new growth. If you are growing climbing roses, we usually allow them to have their first flush of flowers in the spring before blooming.

(July 2005)

QuestionThere is a rose bush in my front yard beneath the window that was here when we moved into this house in 1971. It blooms beautiful pink flowers. I have never pruned it because I don't know when to because it blooms pretty roses summer & winter. It is growing out of control now and we need to cut it back and shape it. What kind of rose bush would this be and when should I prune it.

AnswerThere are so many rose bushes, I cannot tell you what variety it is simply by being pink. However, if it blooms all season long and is a bush, pruning should be done in late February. Climbing roses we allow to bloom with a first flush of flowers, but hybrid tea rose bushes are pruned back 8-18 inches from the ground every year. Old-fashioned shrub roses can simply be sheared as needed—treated more like a shrub than a hybrid tea rose. If it blooms all season, that means it is setting flower buds on the current seasons growth. Pruning it now will delay more immediate blooms, but may be acceptable to you if it is really out of control. You might simply get it to a more manageable size now, and do your heavy pruning next February. If you want to try and get it identified, you may want to take some roses to a Rose Society Meeting, or email digital images to a rosarian.

(April 2010)

QuestionWe purchased a Lady Banks Rose in Louisiana last year. We kept it inside this winter and put it back outside this spring. It is doing well but no flowers. They told us it is not rated for our zone 7 in central Arkansas. Will it prosper if we leave it out all year?

AnswerLady Banks Rose (Rosa banksiae) is a wonderful thornless rose that only blooms once a year in the spring. There are many beautiful specimens of this plant all over central Arkansas—one of the largest near the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion. The flower color is either a pale yellow or off white. There is little to no fragrance to the rose, but it makes quite a statement when it is in bloom, and the plant is disease free, with no spraying! The vines are quite vigorous so give it room to grow or a trellis to grow on. If pruning is needed, do so after it blooms. The flowers are small but quite numerous when in bloom. It would be much happier in the ground than inside during the winter. Plant it in full sun to partial shade in rich soil and let it grow. Central Arkansas would be considered its northern range of hardiness, and occasionally a late freeze may zap it back a bit, but we haven’t seen that problem in quite a few years.

(October 2007)

QuestionMy rose bush has black spots on the leaves and they turn yellow and fall off. I have sprayed it with disease spray from the gardening center but it hasn't helped. Now it has almost no leaves and looks like it could die. It usually blooms a lot in the spring and summer, but this year it only bloomed in the spring and has been pitiful ever since. I have had it for about 10 years and don’t want to lose it. What can I do? Also there was an ant bed underneath it (small black ants and we sprayed them, could they have damaged the plant?

AnswerYour rose bush has the classic rose fungus disease called black spot. This was a great season for diseases of all types, but if you have a susceptible variety, you typically have the disease every year in Arkansas. Spraying after you see the disease is usually a futile attempt at control. The key is to start your spray schedule in advance of the disease—soon after the plant kicks into growth in the spring. Sprays every week to three weeks—depending on what product you use, will be necessary throughout the season. Black spot can weaken a rose bush, and if it occurs year after year, it can weaken it enough for it to die, but it should come back strong next spring with proper pruning, spraying and fertilization. I don’t think the ant spray had any effect.

(June 2009)

QuestionI have 7 climbing roses. They have bloomed all summer long every summer until this year. They were beautiful for a month or so and then quit blooming. I have been putting banana peelings around them for the last two years because I heard they need potassium. Am I giving them too much potassium? We use a lot of bananas. What can I do to make them bloom again? I am old and unable to do much in the yard but I want to save my roses. Thanks for any help you can give.

AnswerI do not believe you are overdosing the plants with banana peels, nor do I think that is what is making them stop blooming. There are many folks who swear by banana peels as an amendment to their fertilization regime. I would probably limit how many you use annually, more for the buildup of decaying banana peels around the base than anything else. I would not rely solely on banana peels as your only fertilizer. I would use a general fertilizer or to complement the phosphorous in the banana peels, a slow release high nitrogen fertilizer would be great. Also be aware that many climbers have one of their best floral displays early and then recover and begin to bloom again later in the season. Some climbers only bloom once a year, but since you have had them all season in the past, give them time to set more buds and see if you don’t have blooms again. I am assuming they are in full sun and that they are healthy and not prone to black spot disease.

(Dec. 2009)

QuestionLast May I bought a mini-rose bush, and set it in a pot outdoors. The reason I didn't put it in the ground is because the ground is so rocky here in Bella Vista that I didn't feel I had the strength to dig the hole. The bush bloomed beautifully, and I have had much pleasure from it. I think it might freeze and die if I leave it in the pot outdoors all winter. Can I successfully bring it indoors now?

AnswerThe miniature rose should do fine outside all winter as long as you give it a little extra protection. Going indoors into a heated house will be quite a shock now, since it has gotten used to the cold. You could also store it in a garage or storage building. The roots are what you need to protect, since the soil will get colder in the elevated container. If it is a large pot you are probably fine. For added protection if it gets really cold, wrap the pot with burlap or a sheet or place in behind some of your shrubs, next to the house. It would be much happier outside than inside, especially since it has been outside up through a frost. If you leave it outside all winter and it gets dry, don’t forget to water, especially prior to a heavy freeze.

(March 2010)

QuestionI have a question about spots on the stems of knock out roses. Is this a disease? I thought knockouts were supposed to be disease resistant. Do they need to be sprayed like other roses? The plants in question are in our church courtyard and only get drip irrigation.

AnswerKnock out roses are very disease resistant and I would not spray them. We did see a few signs of blackspot last season, due to all that rain. That was pretty atypical as far as our growing seasons go, so I am not judging the disease resistance on this past year. Prune your knock outs as you would any shrub rose now, removing up to 1/3 of the old growth. Watch the plants this spring and if you see any problems, let me know. I think the Knock-out series are outstanding shrubs with almost constant bloom from late spring through frost and they are low maintenance to boot!

(September 2006)

QuestionI would appreciate any advice in regards to insects, fertilizing, and watering of my outdoor plants. I live in the country and have 8 acres. About two of those acres I maintain. I have Crepe Myrtles, Carolina Jasmine, Ivy, Pampas Grass, Junipers, numerous Holly bushes, Roses (climbing and for cutting), Wisteria vines on a tree and on a chain-link fence, Apple, Pear and plum trees and Azaleas. Each plant seems to have different requirements. I find myself watering all the above every other day. I fertilize at the appropriate times and spray for insects (preventive, systemic), and diseases. My Apple tree didn't flower this year. Instead, it developed rust spots. My plum tree had one flower on it and the pear tree had about 10 fruit. These 3 trees are about 2-3 years old. I find that my Roses require lots of attention due to problems with insects, diseases (rust, black spot, mites, etc.). It is wearing me out! I give all the above plants as much attention and care with the products available. It seems as if I am the only one in my area doing such. I marvel at other yards with the same plants and wonder what they are doing or not doing to maintain those plants. I never see anyone outside watering like I do. My soil is a mixture of dirt, sand and clay. I amend the soil each time I plant something new. I guess what I'm asking is: Once a plant is established, is it necessary to water like I'm watering? If I don't, the plants appear to stress. Also, how do I control my insect problem. I fear that this year I may have over used some products and killed the good insects and left the plants prey to opportunistic insects and diseases. Help, please.

AnswerOne thing to be aware of is that frequent watering makes plants demand more, because it encourages shallow roots. Infrequent, deep watering encourages a deep root zone. However, every yard is different. Rocky soils, those with steep slopes and in full sun require more water than level yards with great soil. You have also picked some pretty needy plants. Fruit trees require quite a bit of maintenance, including spray schedules and watering. They also often don’t begin to bear fruit well until they are 5-8 years of age. Hybrid tea roses also require constant care. Many folks are opting for low-input plants which require less care—if you want roses, try the new environmentally friendly roses, like Knockout, or the antique roses. Mulching is also something that I would strongly encourage. It helps to retain moisture and moderates the soil temperature. The azaleas you have also need water. Grasses, junipers, Carolina jasmine, hollies and wisteria should be much lower maintenance. Gradually wean them from their daily water needs by applying more water when you do water, and applying it less often. It isn't something you can reverse overnight. Many people with automatic sprinkler systems make this mistake. Monitor for insects and diseases and spray as needed. For the fruit trees and roses, preventative sprays are often best.

(April 2005)

QuestionI have a Lady Banks rose draped across my brick mailbox. It is about four years old and has bloomed beautifully in the past. I have had to trim it each year - rather severely. It is beginning to bloom now, but some of the leaves have black spots and it does not look as full as it did in the years past. Want to know if it is alright to fertilize now and what should I use. If not, when should it be fertilized? I live in Monticello.

AnswerLady Banks rose is one of those wonderful old-fashioned roses that seem to only get better with age. I have never heard of it being plagued with disease--in particular blackspot. Maybe you should move it to a location where you don't have to prune as severely, and let it prosper. In Monticello, you could have an amazing bush if you didn't prune. This thornless rose only blooms in the spring, but the larger it grows, the more impressive its bloom season. Fertilize after bloom.

(March 2005)

QuestionWe have a beautiful antique climbing rose in our yard. It is a Cecile Brunner. It has grown to epic proportions. It is now up high into an oak tree nearby. Naturally, it is quite lovely when it blooms. However, we were ignorant to the fact that we should prune out the dead canes right away and have consequently let it become overgrown. How do we prune it now? Do we cut it down to a manageable height and start over? Please advise.

AnswerMost Cecile Brunner roses only bloom once in the spring, so enjoy your spring floral display before you begin to reshape. Then you can take it back as far as you want to. They can be prolific growers, and if space is not an issue, you can let them grow. Thinning out older, woodier canes annually after flowering, will keep them more manageable.

(April 2005)

QuestionI have a lady banks rose draped across my brick mailbox. It is about four years old and has bloomed beautifully in the past. I have had to trim it each year - rather severely. It is beginning to bloom now, but some of the leaves have black spots and it does not look as full as it did in the years past. Want to know if it is alright to fertilize now and what should I use. If not, when should it be fertilized? I live in Monticello

AnswerLady banks rose is one of those wonderful old-fashioned roses that seem to only get better with age. I have never heard of it being plagued with disease--in particular blackspot. Maybe you should move it to a location where you don't have to prune as severely, and let it prosper. In Monticello, you could have an amazing bush if you didn't prune. This thornless rose only blooms in the spring, but the larger it grows, the more impressive its bloom season. Fertilize after bloom.


QuestionHow do you prune a shrub Knock Out rose? Mine are three feet tall and seem awfully spindly. They are only one year old.

AnswerKnock Out™ Rose is one of the “environmentally friendly” roses that have hit the market in recent years. It is a compact shrub rose, resistant to black spot disease. It does not need the yearly rigorous pruning of hybrid teas, but can be shaped and pruned as needed. Since yours is spindly, you can cut it back to within 8-18 inches of the ground. Prune it to individual buds that go in directions you want the plant to grow. Even though many roses are already leafing out, and some have said they even had a rose bud, wait until late February to prune. This will protect the plants if we should have any real winter weather.

(April 2005)

QuestionWe purchased a Lady Banks Rose in Louisiana last year. We kept it inside this winter and put it back outside this spring. It is doing well but no flowers. They told us it is not rated for our zone. We live on the mountain just past the Maumelle exit on I40. Will it prosper if we leave it out all year?

AnswerLady Banks rose should do fine in NLR. I would not think it was happy being indoors for the winter. Plant it outdoors in a sunny location. I have seen some huge plants all around central Arkansas, and they were spectacular this year. Further north of central Arkansas, they may get nipped back--in the 80's we had some winter damage on them even in central Arkansas, but not lately. Plant them now, make sure the drainage is good, and you should have a great blooming plant next spring.


QuestionLast week you talked about pruning Knock Out Roses. I don't know what they are. I have two bushes I planted last year. They have come through the winter just fine but are pretty rank....tall & skinny. They are climbers -- one is called Golden Showers and the other is a C.L. Pearly Gates pat # 10,640. I was thinking I needed to prune these. Are they "Knock Out" roses and should I go ahead and prune them.

AnswerKnock OutTM Roses are a variety of roses, and considered one of the new "environmentally friendly" roses that are easier to grow, requiring less sunlight, spray programs and fertilization. There are now red, pink and yellow Knock Out™ Roses. They would be labeled as such. They are not given other names. Yours are not Knock OutTM Roses. Climbers should be pruned every year, but not until after the first flush of flowers. Some climbers only bloom once a year, while others bloom all summer. Let them flower, then remove one or two of the older, longer canes. Prune to a new bud within a foot from the ground.

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