Why is My Rose Bush Drooping? (How to Save it)


Why is my rose drooping

Roses require the soil to be consistently moist, so the reason your rose is drooping is a likely a sign of drought stress due to underwatering, high temperatures or sandy soils that drain too quickly. A drooping rose could also be a sign of using too much fertilizer or root rot due to boggy soil.

Causes:Reason Rose Bush is Drooping:
Soil is to dry:High temperatures, sandy soils, underwatering and roots systems from nearby plants competeing for water can all contribute to the rose drooping or wilting because of drought stress.
Fertilizer used too frequently or in too high concentration:Too much fertilizer causes excessive foliage growth with fewer flowers and drooping stems and leaves.
Potted rose drooping:Roses droop or wilt in small pots particularly if they are plastic or metal pots as they can dry out much quicker
Rose drooping after planting:Roses can droop as a result of transplant shock or because their roots are not established in new soil and are not uptaking enough water.
Overwatering, slow draining soil and pots without drainage holes in the base:Roses require soil that retains moisture yet has a porous structure that allows excess water to drain away from the roots. Too much water around the roots can cause root rot and cause your rose to have a drooping appearance with yellow leaves.

Keep reading to learn the reason why your rose is drooping and how to implement the solutions to save your drooping or wilting rose bush…

Most Common Reasons for Roses Drooping

Roses most frequently droop because of dry soil as they require the soil to be consistently moist but not saturated to prevent drooping or wilting. However the lack of soil moisture can be for a few different reasons:

  1. Scorching sun and high temperatures at the height of Summer can increase evaporation from the soil and transpiration from the leaves causing the rose to droop or wilt in appearance.
  2. The soil is too dry because it is too sandy or stony which increase soil drainage and can dry the soil out.
  3. Root systems from nearby trees or plants can compete with your rose for water and nutrients causing leaves and flowers to droop or wilt.

Roses are generally regarded as a plant that prefers full sun (6 hours of sun or more) to grow and flower their best and in cooler northern climates the rose can thrive in full sun without wilting or drooping due to prevalence of overcast days, cooler temperatures and less intense sun.

However in hot climates roses grow much better in morning sun followed by afternoon shade which protects them from the hottest part of the day to prevent drought stress and the associated drooping appearance.

How to Revive a Drooping Rose

To prevent roses from drooping or wilting in the first place, good soil preparation is key to providing the optimal conditions for roses to stay healthy and hydrated with lots of compost, leaf mold or well rotted manure mixed into the soil when planting and immediately around the rose to increase the soil’s ability to retain moisture and improve the nutrient profile.

However roses that are already planted in the ground can also be revived from drooping by giving the soil around the rose a really generous and thorough soaking with a hose for around 10 minutes and then applying a 2 or 3 inch layer of mulch to the soil surrounding your rose.

The best materials for mulching around roses are compost, leaf mold or well rotted manure as each of these materials have an exceptional capacity to hold moisture and they help to conserve the soils moisture after you have given the rose its generous soak.

Mulch also contributes nutrients to the soil and helps to improve the soil so that it retains moisture yet also has a well draining porous structure which is favorable for growing roses.

With a thorough watering and an application of moisture retaining mulch around the rose the leaves, stems and flowers should perk up again in a few days.

If you apply mulch around your rose, twice a year (once at the start of spring to conserve moisture and once at the end of Fall to insulate the roots before Winter) then the soils profile improves so that it can hold enough moisture to mitigate competition from nearby trees or because the soil is naturally sandy.

With constant moisture at the roots of the rose the leaves shouldn’t droop or wilt but bear in mind you may have to water your roses at the hottest times of year to prevent drooping.

Always water with a generous soak as this encourages the roots to grow down to a depth of up to 18 inches and really establish which means that the roots can reach moisture reserves far bellow the surface and increases the roses resistance to drought.

New Growth of Roses Wilting or Drooping (Too Much Fertilizer)

A very common problem for rose growers is that the new growth of their roses or perhaps the rose bush overall is drooping because of too much nitrogen fertilizer.

There are a few key distinctions between roses that are drooping due to excess fertilizer, rather then wilting because of dry soil:

  • If the rose has lots of new foliage growth with green leaves (that may look generally quite healthy) but there is a drooping appearance of leaves and stems rather then a wilted appearance with shriveled leaves.
  • The flower heads may look as though they are drooping under their own weight or growing sideways.
  • The rose has lots of green leaves but no flowers buds developing or it is display far fewer flowers then normal.

Roses are relatively heavy feeders and they do benefit from applications of fertilizer however if you apply the fertilizer too often, in too high concentration or lawn fertilizer becomes diluted and runs off in the rain on to the rose boarders then the rose droops due to excess nitrogen and displays fewer flowers.

Nitrogen is the nutrient that all roses (and all plants) need to grow lush green attractive foliage, however too much nitrogen makes the leaves and stems grow sappy and weak which causes the rose to droop and increases the risk of insect infestation in the form of aphids and increases the risk of fungal disease such as black spot.

Once the rose has had too much nitrogen fertilizer there is not much you can do to revive it from drooping other then diligently checking to see if there are any aphids trying to attack the rose and treating it if necessary and to just scale back any use of fertilizer until the follower year when the rose can be pruned properly to stimulate newer healthy growth.

To avoid the problem I always recommend using a fertilizer that is specifically formulated for roses such as miracle-gro rose feed.

This has all the nutrients at the right concentrations to feed your rose and promote blooms without risking using too much and causing the rose to droop.

Always follow the manufactures instructions when it comes to using fertilizer and I must emphasize there is absolutely no benefit to using more fertilizer then stated in the instructions as it does not yield better result and causes roses to droop.

(Read my article, why are my roses not blooming?)

Potted Rose Wilting or Drooping

Potted hydrangeas can wilt due to a small pot or container with less capacity for soil and moisture.

The most common reason for potted roses wilting or drooping is because the rose is planted in a pot that is too small.

Smaller pots and containers have less capacity for soil and therefore less capacity for moisture for the roses roots to draw upon which causes the leaves to droop and wilt in appearance.

Roses grow best in full sun, so when the rose is in a small pot in full sun, the soil heats up very quickly causing moisture to evaporate from the soil before the roots have a chance to uptake the water.

Also certain types of pots such as plastic or metal pots absorb heat more so then clay, ceramic or terracotta pots which also increase the rate at which the soil dries.

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

How to Revive Drooping Potted Roses

  • Roses should be planted in pots that are at least 12 inches across to ensure the pot has enough capacity for soil and therefore cold hold enough moisture for the rose to prevent it from wilting.
  • Plant roses in clay, terracotta or ceramic pots as they do not heat up as quickly as other types of pots which helps to keep the roots cool and reduces stress from high temperatures.
  • Give your rose a generous soak so that water trickles from the drainage holes in the base of the pot. This ensures that the water has reached the roots and that the soil is evenly moist. Water too lightly only moistens the surface of the soil and does not encourage the development of roots which can cause your rose to been even more vulnerable to drought.
  • Whilst the rose is recovering from drooping or wilting, move the pot to an area of morning sun followed by shade in the afternoon to protect the rose from more sun and heat so you do not further exacerbate the drought stress.
  • Water potted roses as often as required so that the soil is consistently moist. Exactly how often to water your potted rose depends on many factors such as climate and time of year. The best way to tell whether your rose needs watering is to feel the soil to a fingers depth. If you can detect good levels of moisture then your rose is okay for a few days but if you the soil feels as though it is beginning to dry out give the soil a really good soak. Typically watering once per week is all that is required however you may need to water every other day at the hottest times of year.
  • Always ensure that you pot has drainage holes in the base. Whilst roses usually droop due to dry soil, they also droop if the soil is completely saturated, so drainage holes in the bottom of pots is very important to allow excess water to escape to prevent root rot. If your rose is drooping and your soil is saturated then read my article, how to revive a dying potted rose for the solution.

Why is my Rose Drooping After Planting?

Roses often wilt or droop in appearance after planting because of transplant shock due to a contrast in growing conditions from the garden center or nursery where they were originally cultivated and the conditions of your garden.

Roses are often grown in greenhouse conditions where temperature, sunlight, air flow, watering and soil conditions are all carefully controlled. The difference between these conditions and your garden can cause roses to temporarily droop as a sign of stress as it adjusts to its new environment.

The roots of roses can also take some time to establish in the soil before they can uptake water and nutrients effectively, during which time the rose is more vulnerable to drought as it often loses more water through the leaves then it can draw up at the roots.

How to Revive a Drooping Rose After Planting

  • Protect newly planted roses from too much sun.
  • Water more frequently with a thorough watering.
  • Use a compost, leaf mold or well rotted manure to mulch around the rose to conserve moisture at the roots.

Spring or Fall is usually the best time to plant roses as the rose has time to establish before it has to contend with the hot and dry Summer weather.

Therefore it may be necessary to protect your rose by shading it if the sunshine is particularly intense and the temperature is high, without any rainfall.

Whilst sunlight is beneficial for promoting flowers, at this stage of the rose’s planting, it is likely to exacerbate the soil and leaves drying out causing the plant to wilt.

If possible provide temporary shade in the afternoons for your newly planted rose with a wind break to protect it from the sun and keep it cooler during the hotter part of the day.

Give the rose a really good soak to ensure that the soil is evenly moist, to help mitigate the risk of drought stress whilst the roots are adjusting to the soil.

Apply a 2 or 3 inch layer of mulch (made from compost, leaf mold or well rotted manure) around the base of your rose to help conserve moisture to to prevent the sun, shining directly onto the soil which causes it to dry out too quickly.

Water as frequently as required to keep the soil around your newly planted rose moist, but ensure that the soil does not become boggy (a problem with clay soils) as this can cause problems such as root rot.

After about 3 weeks your rose should be start to become established and recover from its drooping appearance, but keep watering it with a good soak at least once a week for the first year to encourage the roots to develop and adjust to the new soil conditions so that they can draw up moisture and become more resistant to drought stress.

Slow Draining Soils and Overwatering can Cause Drooping Roses

Whilst roses require consistently moist soil to stay healthy and prevent drooping, too much water around can also cause your roses to droop.

If your rose is in saturated soil then there is not enough oxygen in the soil for the roots to respire which prevents the roots transporting moisture and nutrients around the plant and causes the rose to droop and the leaves to turn yellow as a sign of stress.

Rose Leaves turning yellow and drooping.
Rose Leaves turning yellow and drooping.

Roots need to grow in soil that is porous and aerated which is easily achieved by amending the soil with organic matter such as compost of leaf mold before planting your rose as these materials maintain the optimal soil structure and moisture balance for roses to thrive rather then droop or wilt.

However if the rose is in heavy clay (or pots without drainage holes in the base) then excess water does not drain away from the roots effectively and the soil becomes waterlogged which effectively suffocates the roots as they need to respire and therefore need oxygen in the porous soil.

If the rose is in water logged soil for a long time then it can potentially develop root rot (for more information on roses with root rot read my article, why are my rose leaves turning yellow?)

If your rose is drooping and you notice the soil is draining slowly then it is imperative that you scale back any watering and try to let the soil drain.

Roses can grow in clay soils but it has be significantly amended before hand to ensure the soil is well draining for the rose to avoid root rot.

This can be done by digging out a hole of 18 inches across with the same proportional depth and using lots of compost, leaf mold or well rotted manure to plant the rose to provide the right balance of moisture retaining soil profile that also is well draining to prevent drooping and root rot.

Key Takeaways:

  • Roses require consistently moist soil to prevent drooping so the reason for a drooping rose is often because the soil is too dry from underwatering, sandy soils or high temperatures and blazing sunshine. Roses should be watered frequently in the Summer to stop them drooping or wilting.
  • Drooping roses is often because of using fertilizer too often or in too high concentration which causes the rose to grow lots of leaves but with fewer flowers, resulting in the rose’s leaves and stems drooping.
  • Roses in pots often droop or wilt because the pot is too small and heats up quickly in the sun, which dries out the soil and causes the roses leaves and stems to wilt. Potted roses require frequent watering in summer to prevent a drooping appearance.
  • If your rose is drooping after planting, this is because of transplant shock. It can take time for the roses roots to adjust to the new soil conditions which means the rose is vulnerable to drought stress after planting which causes the rose to droop.
  • Roses droop and their leaves turn yellow when there is too much moisture around the roots of the rose. Boggy soil excludes oxygen from the soil and prevents root respiration and interferes with the roots ability to draw up moisture and nutrients cause the rose to droop and turn yellow.

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