The most common reason for roses wilting is because 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.
However, there are several reasons for roses wilting:
|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…
Rose Wilting After Transplanting or Planting
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.
The reason the rose wilts is because wilted leaves have a smaller surface area which reduces the level of water loss through transpiration.
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.
Rose leaves wilting is particularly common if the rose is planted or transplanted at the height of Summer as the rose has to establish its root system in the new soil whilst 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.
There are a few steps you can take 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.
How to Revive 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. Roses grow best when planted in soil that has a higher content of organic matter such as compost, leaf mold, and well-rotted manure. These materials retain lots of moisture yet have a porous stricture that allows excess water to drain effectively which is the perfect balance of moisture 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.
- 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.
- Keep watering your rose regularly for the first year after planting. 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. Watering little and 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.
The wilting rose should start to revive once you made the conditions more favorable and watered the rose thoroughly. Often the rose perks up in the evening when temperatures are cooler. Keep the soil moist and the rose should recover from its wilted appearance in the following week.
Potted Rose Wilting
There are some conditions unique to growing roses in pots that can make it more likely for them 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.
Roses require full sun (6 hours or more) so they have to be planted in a large pot to prevent them from drying out too quickly.
Small pots out too quickly and cause the soil to bake hard so that the soil deflects water off the surface and the soil 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.
It is also important to water 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.
Watering roses too lightly causes only the top inch or so of the potting soil to become moist which encourages the roots to grow near to the surface which increases the rose’s risk of drought stress.
How to Revive Wilting Potted Roses
- Plant roses in pots that are at least 12 inches across with the same proportional depth. A larger pot 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 or potting soil to plant roses in pots for the best soil structure and the optimal balance of moisture.
- Always water roses with a thorough watering so that excess water trickles from the base of the pot. 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. There is no universal advice for how often to water your potted rose as it depends on climate and conditions. However a good soaking once or twice a week in the Summer is usually appropriate. Increase the frequency of watering 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. 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.
- Place your potted rose on your feet 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.
To grow drought-resistant roses it is important 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.
How to Revive 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 plant your roses around three feet apart. 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.
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
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 flower to their best with 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.
Too much nitrogen in the soil can also be because of runoff from lawn fertilizer which dilutes in the rain and can affect roses in garden boarders.
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 for maintaining shape, and promoting healthy growth and flowers is in early Spring, so you can cut back all the surplus drooping growth and revive the rose.
I should emphasize the importance of using the fertilizer that is 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 reduces the nutrients more gradually which mitigates the risk of using too much fertilizer.
(Read my article, why are my roses not blooming?)
Roses Wilting: Overwatering
Roses require the soil to be moist but not saturated. 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.
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.
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.
How to Revive 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.
- 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.
- If the soil is saturated then scale back the watering and wait for the top inch to dry out before watering again to help the rose revive.
- 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.
- 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 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 which has 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 the soil to be moist yet well-draining. If the soil is saturated this prevents the roots from respiring and interferes with the root’s ability to uptake moisture and nutrients which causes the leaves to turn yellow with a wilting appearance.