Ahh! The rose. No other flower is so associated with love, elegance and beauty.

They come in a multitude of colors and many fragrances besides the classic — everything from citrus to myrrh. Unscented varieties are grown just for eye-appeal.

There are vining roses, shrub roses, rambling roses, dwarf roses and miniature roses in all shapes, sizes and colors, more than 1,000 varieties — from species roses to all manner of hybrids.

Roses require regular attention. But just like love, the input is worth the results.

As spring comes into town, it is time to start paying a little more attention to our roses. The flush of new growth will be inviting to insects and fungi alike.

Never allow plant litter to accumulate under roses, as this will be a source of problems. Begin a spray program using copper, sulfur or neem oil if you want to go organic or chemical fungicides containing one of the following active ingredients: captan, chlorothalonil, mancozeb, maneb, triforine, thiophanate-methyl or ziram.

All treatments are preventive and not curative, and they need to be applied every 7 to 14 days (follow the label directions). The omnipresent black spot disease fungus (Diplocarpon rosae) is lurking, and the best control is prevention. Other diseases may attack roses, but black spot is the most common, and by treating for it, you can prevent many of the other diseases.

Aphids, whiteflies, thrips and mites are also standing in line to get a nibble of your rose. Check your plants for signs of these tiny insects every time you spray for black spot.

Leaf deformation is a very common symptom of all of these. Insecticidal soaps, light horticultural oils and neem oil are great options if you catch them early and don’t let the population explode. Spinosad, carbaryl, pyrethrins and malathion are often recommended for heavy infestations.

Because roses are so popular, multi-purpose products have been formulated to fertilize and protect against insects and disease. There are also excellent specialty products (often labeled 3-in-1 or All-in-One) for controlling insects, diseases and mites. 

Keeping roses healthy goes a long way toward preventing problems and encouraging abundant flowers. If you haven’t fertilized yet, now is the time. You’ll want to fertilize again in about six weeks or sometime in May.

Never water roses from overhead. Either apply water directly to the soil in the root zone or use drip irrigation. Many disease-causing organisms need moisture for at least two hours to infect, so keep the leaves as dry as possible. Properly pruning roses to open up the canopy and allow for good air circulation will also help to prevent disease.

If you are looking to add to your rose collection or replace some that you lost, check out the plant sale Saturday, March 16 at Pelican Greenhouse in City Park.

The sale begins at 9 a.m. In addition to other plants, more than 800 roses will be for sale, representing more than 100 varieties. Most of our local garden centers also have in fresh shipments of container roses waiting for a new home.

Roses are wonderful, but just like love and friendship, they need attention to thrive.

For a free subscription to the GNOGardening newsletter email GNOGardening@agcenter.lsu.edu. It is packed full of timely articles of local interest and information on planting times, monthly chore list and local aggie happenings. You can also visit the LSU AgCenter website for loads of other free information. Send your gardening questions to GNOGardening@AgCenter.LSU.edu.

Q: My lawn is starting to grow and actually is in need of mowing. When should I begin fertilizing and mowing my lawn?  Roger

A: In our area, you can begin fertilizing any of the turfgrasses in late March/early April, so now is the time. If your lawn is growing, then go ahead and start mowing. Though most lawns probably aren’t in need of it yet, you don’t want to allow your lawn to get tall before mowing. This will stress your turf and could cause damage. Check out “Louisiana Lawns Best Management Practices” on the LSUAgCenter website for more specific information.


Joe Willis and Anna Timmerman are LSU AgCenter agents. Email gnogardening@agcenter.lsu.edu with questions or to receive the GNO Gardening Newsletter. For more information, visit lsuagcenter.com.