How to Revive a Dying Potted Rose


Revive a dying potted rose

The reason for potted roses dying is often because of pots that are too small, or pots without drainage holes in the base. Small pots dry out much quicker which results in a wilting and dying rose. Pots without drainage holes cause the soil to be too damp and the rose dies from root rot.

Potted roses require full sun, frequent watering (one good soak per week) and ideally to be placed outdoors in an area with good airflow to prevent fungal disease.

The reason for indoor potted roses dying is because of a lack of direct sunlight and fluctuating indoor temperatures which cause the rose to drop its leave as a sign of stress.

If your rose is dropping leaves, wilting, not growing or flowering or has black spot then there is a good chance it can be revived back to health so it grows and flowers the following year.

Keep reading for more on why your potted rose is dying and how to solve it

Potted Rose Dying (Pot is Too Small)

One of the most common reasons for potted roses dying is because the pot is too small. If the pot is too small for the rose then it can cause the rose to die because…

  • A small pot means that the roots can quickly become pot bound rather then establish and grow into soil to access nutrients and moisture. A rose with pot bound roots displays signs of stress such as a yellowing of the leaves, leaf drop and fewer flowers on display.
  • In small pots there is less capacity for the soil and therefore less capacity for moisture. Roses require the soil to be consistently moist at the roots during Spring and Summer. The potting soil (or multipurpose compost) should absorb and hold moisture (yet retain a structure then allows excess water to drain away) so that the roots can access the moisture when required being saturated. If the pot is too small the roots can exhaust the supply of moisture and suffer from drought.
  • Less soil also means less nutrients available to the roses roots which can cause poor growth and fewer flowers.
  • Smaller pots also heat up much quicker. Roses grow best in full sun which can cause more evaporation from the soil in a smaller pot compared with a more substantial pot.

How to Revive a Rose in Small Pots or Containers

The way to revive a potted rose which looks to be dying is to transplant it to a larger pot.

If your pot is less then 10 inches across then it is likely too small for growing roses.

Ideally your pot should be at least 12 inches across with a similar proportional depth for your rose to thrive.

  • Replant your rose in a larger pot that has good drainage in the base.
  • Discard the potting soil from the small pot and use good quality multi purpose compost when re-potting your rose. Compost is the optimal growing medium for growing roses as it has the a porous structure to allow for root respiration and to allow excess water to escape so that it does not become boggy around the roots which encourages root rot.
  • New compost also has more nutrients available as your rose may have exhausted all the nutrients in the smaller pot which could have contributed to its dying appearance.
  • Water the rose thoroughly when replanted to help it establish and mitigate transplant shock.
  • It is a good idea to add some fertilizer to help revive the rose after planting. Personally I use miracle-gro granulated fertilizer to feed my roses as it is specifically formulated for roses and contains the right balance of nutrients at the optimal concentration for roses to thrive.
Rose and shrub

When you have transplanted your dying rose to a larger pot, place it in full sun and water it generously twice a week for the first 3 months to help it establish (scale watering back to once a week three months after planting).

Follow these steps and you can give your potted rose the best chance of recovery.

(If your rose is not flowering read my article for the solution, why is my rose not flowering?)

Rose Dying in Pots Due to Poor Drainage

Another cause of dying roses that is specific to pots is root rot due to:

  • Pots or containers without drainage holes in the base.
  • The use of trays underneath pots that prevent excess water from draining away from the roots.

Roses require soil that holds moisture yet allows excess water to drain away to prevent the soil becoming saturated. In boggy soil the potted rose is vulnerable to the fungal disease root rot.

Therefore it is essential that you plant your rose in a pot that has several drainage holes in the base so that excess water can drain out the base of the pot.

Do not use drip trays or place anything underneath the pot as this collects water and the soil stays boggy which inevitably causes root rot and causes the rose to die.

If your rose has a dying appearance with stunted growth, and the leaves are turning yellow or brown during Spring or Summer then this is almost certainly as a result of root rot.

If the roots of your rose are severely infected then it can be very difficult to revive the rose and often it is better to discard the rose and the potting soil (as the soil can still host the infection), wash the pot and buy a new rose.

However if you replant the rose in a new pot (with drainage holes in the base) with different potting soil and cut back any dying branches then there is a chance that the rose can recover.

Potted Rose Dying After Winter

If a potted rose is dying after Winter then this is usually because of two reasons:

  1. Rose roots are more sensitive to the cold then any part of the plant. When roses are planted in garden boarders, the soil acts as insulation from frost and protects the roots. However pots are more exposed to the cold, therefore the roses root system is potentially more vulnerable to frost damage which can harm or kill the rose.
  2. Root rot is more prevalent in Winter due to the lower rates of evaporation. Cold, damp soil promotes the conditions for fungal disease which can be the cause of a dying rose.

If the pot or container is on the small side (less then 10 inches across) then they pot may not have the capacity for enough soil to act as insulation for the roses roots.

Frost damage may not kill the rose entirely so there is often achance of reviving the plant.

The best course of action is to wait until the Spring to see if there is any new growth emerging from your rose.

If there are definite signs of life with emerging green leaves and the temperature is more consistently above freezing, then transplant the rose to a larger pot of at least 12 inches across to allow the rose more space for roots to develop.

Cut away any dead or damaged branches with a pair of pruners (use protective gloves) back to healthy growth. This will help stimulate new growth and increase air flow.

The rose should be able to recover over the Spring and Summer, however if there is no significant new growth then the roots are too damaged for the rose to revive.

Prevention is better then cure with root rot as it is very difficult to revive a plant the is badly infected. To prevent root rot during Winter:

  • Plant roses in a well draining potting mix.
  • Ensure the pot or container has several drainage holes in the base for excess water to escape.
  • Scale back any watering during Winter. It is likely the rose can attain all the moisture it requires in Winter from rainfall. If you live in a climate with a dry Winter, water the rose once every 4 weeks so the soil does not dry out completely.

The symptoms of root rot are yellow or brown drooping foliage poor growth and the roots look dark brown.

If your rose is not growing after Winter due to root rot it is better to burn or discard the rose and dispose of the potting soil as this can host the fungal pathogen that is responsible for root rot.

Wash the pot or container thoroughly before planting any more plants to prevent spreading the fungal disease.

Potted Rose Dying due to Under Watering

Potted roses require watering around once every week with enough water so that a trickle emerges form the base of the pot.

This should ensure that your potted rose is hydrated and encourage the roots to establish.

If you are only watering your rose lightly then only the top few inches of the potting soil are moist and the roots cannot draw upon the water leading to wilting leaves and stunted growth.

Consistently light watering can also encourage the roots to grow near the surface to find moisture which cause the rose to be more vulnerable to drought.

However it should be noted that watering once per week may not be enough in hot and dry climates or during a heat wave.

Roses prefer when the soil is consistently moist at the roots (but not saturated) and can duffer from drought if the pot dries out too quickly.

(For the full guide on how often to water roses in different conditions read my article on how to water roses properly).

The best practices to prevent your potted rose from suffering with the effects of drought is to:

  • Plant your rose in a large pot. Larger pots contain more soil and can retain more moisture.
  • Ensure that you plant the rose in good quality compost as this helps to hold moisture and also has the structure to allow excess water to drain out of the base of the pot which creates the optimal moisture balance for growing roses.
  • Water your potted rose as frequently as required to ensure that the soil is consistently moist. Typically the advice is to water roses once per week but increase watering frequency in a drought or heat wave as pots dry out quicker then garden boarders.

It is also best practice to grow roses in terracotta, clay or ceramic pots rather then a metal or plastic pot or container as metal and plastic conduct heat more efficiently which dries out the soil much quicker.

If the rose is watered frequently then it can recover from drought and the leaves should perk up. Watering should also positively impact the display of flowers.

(Read my article, choosing the best pots for roses).

Lack of Sun (Potted Roses Require 6 Hours of Direct Light)

All roses require full sun (at least 6 hours) to thrive whether they are planted in full sun or in garden boarders.

The amount of sunlight is directly correlated with the number of flowers a rose displays so if your potted rose is not flowering particularly well then move it to a sunnier location as soon as possible.

A lack of sun is also associated with poor overall growth and the leaves of your potted rose may also turn brown or yellow and begin to drop.

There is no rose variety that grows well in the shade so if you want your potted rose to thrive locate in a nice sunny spot as a matter of urgency and it should start to show signs of reviving within a couple of weeks with new green growth emerging.

Potted Rose with Black spot

There are a host of fungal diseases that affect roses but by far the most common is black spot.

Rose black spot
Black spot on the leaves of a rose.

Black spot is a type of fungus that affects the leaves of your rose with black or brown blotches that can turn the rest of the leaf yellow.

Black spot causes leaf drop reduces flowering and results in the rose generally looks unwell.

Black spot affects all roses but can particualrly be a problem for potted roses if they are crowded with other potted plants or in an area with little airflow around the foliage.

The risk of black spot is increased if you water the rose overhead onto the foliage so ensure that you water your potted rose at the base of the plant.

Whilst an increase in airflow around the foliage can help to mitigate black spot and other fungal diseases that affect roses, it can still be a difficult problem to control as certain weather patterns promote the conditions for fungal disease.

Revive a Potted Rose with Black Spot

Whilst black spot is a common disease for rose growers it can be treated and should not necessarily kill your rose.

Collect any affected leaves of the rose that have fallen due to black spot and burn or discard them.

The spores of the black spot is a fungus spread easier in wet or windy conditions so it is advisable to avoid tending to a diseased rose in damp conditions as it the spores can easily be spread on a pair of gloves or pruners.

Always sterilise pruners after use with disinfectant or alcohol gel to prevent spreading any disease to otherwise healthy plants.

A fungicide spray made specifically for roses from the garden center (or online) is a very effective way of treating black spot.

Generally it can take several applications over the course of a few weeks to treat the fungus but with enough time the rose should revive for the follow years flowering (always follow the manufactures instructions).

Indoor Potted Rose Dying

Indoor miniature roses

Indoor potted roses are very difficult to keep alive for a long simply because roses are a plant that thrives outdoors and at best endures indoor conditions but more often dies.

There are several reasons why your indoor potted rose could be dying:

  • Not enough light. Roses of all species require at least 6 hours of direct light to flower and thrive. If they are in the shade then they tend to drop leaves, flower poorly and eventually die. Bright, indirect light is not a good enough compromise when growing roses as they really do require direct sun.
  • Air circulation. Roses are susceptible to several fungal diseases in areas with poor circulation with black spot being the most common. Even when potted roses are outdoors they benefit from being located 3 feet away from other potted plants to encourage air to circulate around the leaves to avoid fungal disease.
  • Fluctuating temperatures. Roses are specifically adapted to coping with seasonal change and differences in temperatures, sunlight etc. throughout the year. Indoors the temperature can fluctuate drastically in an unnatural way. Roses are accustomed to a cooler evening whereas indoors at night the temperature can increase significantly, particularly if the rose is near a source of heat. This drastic contrast in temperatures can cause leaf drop and is often the cause of a dying indoor rose.

These problems are emphasised when growing potted roses indoors but other factors could also contribute to a dying rose such as under or over watering and root rot due to the use of a tray under the pot which prevents excess water escaping.

How to Revive Indoor Potted Roses

The only way to properly revive indoor potted roses is to move or plant them outdoors which is contrary to their purpose, however roses generally do not thrive when indoors and almost always die.

You can either plant them in the ground in well draing soil rich in organic content or replant the roses in a bigger pot to give them a good chance of reviving.

Usually indoor potted roses do recover when placed back outdoors if they are placed in full sun (more then 6 hours of direct sunlight) watered generously once a week (water potted roses 2 or 3 times a week in hot and dry conditions) and in an are with good circulation to prevent black spot.

A larger pot (at least 12 inches across) provides the rose with enough soil and space for the roots to establish and prevents the soil drying out too quickly.

Trim away any drooping flower heads that are not opening or turning brown so the rose can redirect its energy to new healthy growth.

When placed back outdoors the potted rose should show signs of recover within a week or so.

(Read my article, why is my rose drooping?)

Key Takeaways:

  • A dying potted rose is usually because that pot is too small which causes the soil dry out too quickly causing the leaves to wilt or because there are no drainage holes in the base of the pot, causing the rose to die from root rot.
  • To revive dying potted roses, plant them in a larger pot which has a greater capacity for soil and therefore for moisture and nutrients.
  • Ensure that the pot has several drainage holes in the base and remove any trays underneath the pot as this stops excess water escaping can cause root rot which is the cause for the dying rose.
  • Potted roses require full sun and watering at least once per week.
  • Place indoor potted roses outdoors as they require direct sun and air flow. Potted indoor roses often die because of fluctuating indoor temperatures and less direct light.

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