Why is My Rose Wilting? (Revive Wilting Roses)

Why is my rose wilting?

Are your highly prized roses wilting, and you are not sure why? I have seen this problem many times, and I can tell you there are quite a few different causes that you need to be aware of. From my experience as a landscape gardener, I can identify the reasons why roses wilt, but more importantly, I have learned how to solve it through several of my tried-and-tested methods.

In this post, I share with you everything I have learned as a rose gardener so you can save your wilting roses…

The most common reason roses wilt is that the soil is too dry due to underwatering or the soil drains too quickly and does not retain enough moisture. Roses require the soil to be consistently moist around the roots in the growing season to uptake enough moisture to prevent wilting leaves.

I have summarized the most common reason for wilting roses that I encounter in this table:

Causes of Wilting:Reason for Roses Wilting:
Roses Wilting After Planting or Transplanting:Rose roots take time to establish so they can uptake water after planting. Rose leaves wilt to reduce water loss whilst the roots are established in the soil.
Roses in Small Pots:Pots smaller than 12 inches across dry out too quickly in full sun causing the rose leaves to wilt because of drought.
Soil is Too Dry:If the soil is sandy then it can drain too fast for rose roots to uptake the water or if the rose is underwatered then this results in leaves wilting.
Too Much Fertilizer:If fertilizer is applied too often or in too high a concentration, this can cause the rose leaves, stems, and flowers to wilt.
Overwatering and Saturated Soil:Roses require soil that is moist yet well-draining. If the soil is saturated this excludes oxygen from the soil which interferes with the rose’s ability to uptake water and nutrients causing the rose to wilt and turn yellow.

Keep reading to learn why your rose is wilting and how to implement the solutions to revive it…

Why Are My Roses Wilting After Transplanting or Planting?

As I’m sure you can imagine, roses are most vulnerable to wilting straight after they have been planted in the ground…

Roses often wilt after planting or transplanting as it takes time for the root system to reestablish itself in the soil so that the roots can effectively uptake water. Wilting occurs when the rose loses more water from the leaves than it can uptake from the soil.

I think it is actually quite a clever survival strategy. The rose wilts because wilted leaves have a smaller surface area which reduces the level of water loss through transpiration.

As I’m sure you have observed, the wilting is often exacerbated by high temperatures and too much airflow, which can sap moisture from the leaves, causing the rose to wilt as a sign of stress.

Wilting rose leaves are particularly common if the rose is planted or transplanted at the height of Summer (This is a classic mistake!). What we have to consider is that the rose has to establish its root system in the new soil while contending with blazing sunshine and higher temperatures.

For this reason, the best time to plant roses is in the Spring or Fall as the ground is still warm (which helps the roots establish) and the temperatures are less extreme.

But do not worry! I have all the steps to help revive a wilting, planted, or transplanted rose to help keep it hydrated until the roots can be relied upon to draw up water effectively.

My Tips for Reviving a Wilted Rose after Planting or Transplanting

  • The most important step to prevent roses from wilting after planting is to prepare the soil properly before planting. Every veteran rose grower can tell you that roses grow best in soil with a higher organic matter content, such as compost, leaf mold, and well-rotted manure. These materials retain lots of moisture yet have a porous structure that allows excess water to drain effectively, which is the perfect moisture balance for roses.
  • If your rose is planted in sandy soil or fast-draining soil then I recommend taking the rose out and amending the planting area up to 18 inches across and deep (to accommodate the rose’s root system at maturity) with lots of compost to create the optimal balance of moisture for roses and the perfect soil structure to prevent the rose from wilting.
  • Give the rose a really thorough watering, ideally with a hose pipe or soaker hose ensuring the roses get a good drink before applying a layer of mulch to conserve the moisture. I must emphasize that it is crucial to soak the soil BEFORE mulch is added to it.
  • Apply a 2-inch layer of mulch to the soil around the rose. A layer of compost, leaf mold, or well-rotted manure helps to conserve the moisture that is already in the soil after you watered the rose thoroughly and prevents it from drying out too quickly. Mulch also helps to retain moisture like a porous sponge around the rose and prevents the sun from drying out the soil on hot days.
  • I recommend watering your rose regularly for the first year after planting. I always water generously as this encourages the rose roots to grow deep in the soil to access the moisture, which increases the rose’s resistance to drought once established. I must caution against watering little, as it often causes the rose’s roots to grow too near the surface, which results in a wilting rose.
  • Water your rose as often as required to keep the soil moist whilst it is still wilting. The exact watering schedule depends on your climate and the time of year so adjust how often you water the roses ensuring that the soil is moist but not completely saturated.

My favorite tip here that in my experience, always makes the biggest difference is to add a layer of mulch as not only does it lock in the moisture, it keeps the roses roots cool and actually adds nutrients to the soil.

I do this everytime I plant a new rose and every spring to help keep the ground cool and moist for the summer ahead.

When I apply these steps I usually see the wilting rose start to revive in the following weeks. Often, I see the rose perk up in the evening when temperatures are cooler, or if you are have a heat wave then keep the ground moist and your rose should recover from its wilted appearance once the temperature have cooled.

Why is My Potted Rose Wilting?

We need to be aware that some conditions unique to growing roses in pots can make our roses more likely to wilt.

The most common reason for roses wilting in pots is because pots that are too small and dry out too quickly in full sun, causing the rose to wilt as a sign of stress. Roses can also wilt in pots without drainage holes in the base, causing root rot.

Your roses require full sun (6 hours or more), so I always plant potted roses in a really large pot to prevent them from drying out too quickly.

What I find happens is small pots dry out too quickly, causing the soil to bake hard so that the soil deflects water off the surface and runs down the side of the pot without actually reaching the roots.

This is particularly common when the rose is planted in a peat-based compost which tends to repel water off the surface when it is dry rather than infiltrate the soil to reach the rose roots. (I really don’t like peat based compost because it is hydrophobic and would encourage you to use homemade garden compost instead).

We need to water our potted roses more often to prevent wilting (water roses at least once a week to prevent wilting) as pots inevitably dry out when in full sun in Summer.

A mistake I see people make is watering roses too lightly. This causes only the top inch or so of the potting soil to become moist, which encourages the roots to grow near the surface, increasing the rose’s risk of drought stress.

How I Revive Wilting Potted Roses

  • I cannot emphasize enough the importance of planting roses in pots that are at least 12 inches across with the same proportional depth. Find yourself a nice large pot as it has a greater capacity for soil which can retain more moisture around the rose’s roots and prevent wilting.
  • Plant roses in a peat-free potting medium, as the surface of the peat repels moisture if it dries out. Potting soils for roses should allow water to infiltrate easily, even when dry, to reach the roots where the moisture is required. Use a multi-purpose compost, potting soil or better yet garden compost to plant roses in pots for the best soil structure and the optimal balance of moisture.
  • Always thoroughly water roses so excess water trickles from the pot’s base. This ensures that the water has infiltrated the soil and reached the roots.
  • Water potted roses as often as required to keep the potting soil moist but not saturated. I cannot give you universal advice for how often to water your potted rose as it depends on climate and conditions. However, I find a good soaking once or twice a week in the Summer is usually appropriate. Increase watering frequency in dry weather or heat waves to prevent wilting.
  • Plant roses in pots with drainage holes in the base and avoid using saucers or trays underneath the pots. We need to remember that roses require moist soil rather than saturated soil. If there are no drainage holes in the base of the pot, the water just pools around the roots of the rose which prevents the roots from respiring and causes the leaves to wilt and turn yellow.

Pro tip: What I like to do is place my potted roses on feet (I use bricks or decorative stone s form around the garden) to ensure water can drain freely from the base of the pot. This prevents water from pooling underneath the pot, particularly if the pot is on a patio, and helps to maintain the optimal balance of moisture.

By planting your potted rose in a larger pot, water thoroughly, and using the correct potting soil creates the environmental conditions for your rose to recover from a wilting appearance in the following few weeks.

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

(To learn more about why your potted rose is dying how to revive a dying potted rose to learn how to implement the solutions and save your rose).

Roses Wilting Due to Drought Stress

Roses leaves wilting is a sign of stress due to underwatering and fast-draining soils. Roses require consistently moist soils to stay hydrated. If your rose is wilting, water it more often and water it with a generous soak. Apply mulch to conserve moisture to help revive wilting leaves.

Roses are thirsty plants and can require additional watering in the hotter Summer months. However, soil conditions play a significant role as to whether your rose wilts due to heat and lack of rainfall.

My method for growing drought-resistant roses is to prepare the soil with lots of organic matter (such as compost, which retains moisture around the rose’s roots effectively so the roots can draw upon the moisture when required.

If the soil is stony or sandy then it retains less moisture and your rose is more vulnerable to the drought stress that causes wilting.

Roses can also have a wilting appearance if their roots are competing with other plants or trees that are nearby.

Whilst roses prefer full sun to grow and display the best blooms, they prefer to keep their roots nice and cool and can show signs of stress such as wilting when their roots are too hot.

Rose roots tend to get too hot when they have only been lightly watered (which causes the roots to grow near the surface) and when they are in open areas the blazing sun can shine directly on the soil on a hot summer’s day.

My Tips for Reviving Wilting Roses Due to Drought Stress

  • Water any wilting roses with a generous soak to ensure the soil is evenly moist. How often you should water a rose depends on climate and weather, but you should water often so that the soil is consistently moist in the Spring and Summer. Typically, this means watering once a week, but you may have to water every 3 days during a heat wave to prevent wilting.
  • Ideally, roses should be grown in soil that has been prepared before planting with lots of organic matter to help retain moisture around the roots and prevent the leaves from wilting. If your soil drains too quickly you can transplant the rose or temporarily dig it out and amend the planting area to a width and depth of 18 inches with compost to create more favorable conditions, or apply a mulch and water more often.
  • Apply a 2-inch layer of mulch to the soil around the rose (leave a 6-inch circumference of soil between the mulch and the rose stem to prevent the stem rotting). Compost, leaf mold, and well-rotted manure are excellent mulch materials that help to conserve moisture in the soil. Soak the soil surrounding the rose before applying the mulch to help maintain the optimal balance of moisture.
  • The mulch also helps to keep your rose roots cool as the sun shines directly onto the 2-inch layer of mulch rather than onto the soil so the roots do not heat up to the same extent, particularly if the roots have access to cool, moist soil after watering.
  • If possible, I recommend planting your roses around three feet apart. I spoke to a specialist rose grower who assured me this is the optimal distance to space your roses. This allows the rose enough space for airflow around the leaves to reduce the risk of fungal disease, and it means that the rose does not have to compete as much with nearby plants for moisture and nutrients.

Pro tip: I have experimented with lots of different types of mulch for roses over the years, and I can say with certainty that leaf mould is the best mulch to prevent wilting roses as it can hold a lot more moisture then other types of mulch can. It is my go to solution for wilting roses and its free!

The best practice for rose growing is to apply mulch at the start of Spring to retain moisture and again before Winter to help insulate the roots from cold weather.

Creating soil conditions that retain more moisture and watering more often ensures the rose has the moisture it requires at the roots to prevent the leaves from wilting and your rose should revive in the following weeks.

Too Much Fertilizer Causes Wilting

Are you looking to increase the number of flowers by adding fertilizer? This could be what is causing your roses to wilt.

Too much nitrogen fertilizer can cause rose leaves, stems, and flowers to have a wilting appearance. Roses require fertilizer to grow their best but if it is applied too often or in too high a concentration the the roses grow lots of sappy and weak foliage and stems that wilt and droop.

Roses are relatively heavy feeders and grow and I always have best results using fertilizer, however too much nitrogen can cause the rose to grow excess weak foliage and display fewer flowers.

When rose leaves and stems are weak, sappy, and wilting, they are also more susceptible to aphid infestation and disease.

I have seen a garden where lawn fertilizer had run off the lawn after a bout of heavy rainfall, and the diluted nitrogen reached the rose border, causing it to droop.

I’m afraid that once the rose has been affected by excess nitrogen from too much fertilizer, there is not much you can immediately do to resolve the problem.

However, you should check the rose for aphids and disease and treat it as necessary, and prune back the weak sappy growth the following Spring.

The best time to prune roses to maintain shape and promote healthy growth and flowers is in early spring, so what I do in this scenario is cut back all the surplus drooping growth and revive the rose.

I should emphasize the importance of using fertilizer specifically made for roses, such as Miracle-gro rose and shrub feed.

This fertilizer has all the nutrients at the right concentration that a rose needs to grow and flower its best. The granular form also releases the nutrients more gradually, which mitigates the risk of using too much fertilizer.

Specially formulated fertilizer for roses ensures roses have the right balance of nutrients at the right concentration.
This is a photo of the fertilizer that I use on my roses. It is a specially formulated fertilizer for roses that ensures they have the right balance of nutrients at the right concentration.

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

Roses Wilting: Overwatering

We need to remember that our roses require moist but not saturated soil. If the rose is overwatered, this excludes oxygen from the soil around the rose’s roots, which prevents root respiration and interferes with the root’s ability to uptake moisture and nutrients, causing the rose leaves to wilt and turn yellow.

Rose leaves turning yellow
This is a rose that I saw that was sat in boggy ground. The leaves have turned yellow and they were drooping due to poor drainage.

The soil around the rose’s roots can be too damp because the soil drains slowly or because the rose is in a pot without drainage holes in the base which causes water to pool around the roots.

As I described previously, the optimal soil structure and balance of moisture for roses is a porous soil composed of organic matter that retains moisture yet allows excess water to drain away without saturating the area around the rose’s roots.

My Tips for Reviving Wilting Roses Due to Overwatering

  • To achieve the optimal soil structure for roses and to prevent wilting, amend the rose’s planting area with lots of compost, leaf mold, and well-rotted manure, particularly if your garden has heavy clay soil that drains slowly.
  • But if I am being honest with you, If your garden soil is naturally boggy then I recommend growing roses in a pot as it can be difficult to amend the soil effectively enough to ensure it drains sufficiently to prevent your rose leaves from turning yellow and wilting.
  • Water your roses as often as required to keep the soil moist, but it should not be saturated. Some established roses in climates of high rainfall often do not require any watering unless there is an occasional summer heat wave. I do not water my roses apart from once or twice in the Summer if they have been established for more than 2 years.
  • If the soil is saturated, then scale back the watering and wait for the top inch to dry out before watering again to help revive the rose. I recommend feeling the soil with your finger if you are unsure whether it is dry or not, as I find this method is more accurate then using a water gauge.
  • Always plant roses in pots with drainage holes in the base to allow excess water to escape freely after watering. Place potted roses on ‘feet’ to elevate them an inch off the ground to ensure the water can drain without pooling underneath the pot, which can cause the soil to stay boggy.

However, if the rose has been in saturated soil for a long time then this promotes the conditions for fungal diseases such as Phytophthora root rot and it is difficult to save the rose.

(For more information on roses with root rot, read my article, why are my rose leaves turning yellow?)

This emphasizes the importance of creating the right, well-draining soil conditions for roses to ensure the optimal balance of moisture.

Key Takeaways:

  • A wilting rose is usually because the soil is too dry from underwatering or fast-draining sandy soils. Roses require soils with a high content of organic matter that retains moisture around the roots, and regular watering is required so the rose roots can uptake the moisture they need to prevent wilting leaves.
  • Roses wilting after transplanting is because the roots need time to establish before they can draw up water effectively. The rose’s leaves wilt when the leaves lose more water than the rose’s roots can uptake from the soil. The leaves wilt to reduce surface area and mitigate water loss.
  • Potted roses wilt if the pot or container is too small and dries out too quickly. Roses should be planted in larger pots that are at least 12 inches across. A pot this size has the capacity for more soil to retain moisture for the rose’s roots to uptake the water they need to prevent wilting.
  • Too much fertilizer applied too often or in too high a concentration can cause the rose to grow excess foliage with a wilting appearance. Roses require a well-balanced fertilizer, and excess nitrogen can cause the rose to grow weak and sappy, causing it to wilt and droop.
  • Roses require moist yet well-draining soil. If the soil is saturated, it prevents the roots from respiring and interferes with their ability to uptake moisture and nutrients, causing the leaves to turn yellow and wilt.

One thought on “Why is My Rose Wilting? (Revive Wilting Roses)

  1. I water my rose weekly giving it a good drenching. I also apply tomotoe feed weekly. What am I doing wrong because a number of leaves keep yellowing. My pot is 14” in diameter. I regularly pinch off the yellow leaves and any that have black spot. What am I doing wrong?


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