Rose Leaves Turning Yellow: Why & How to Fix

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Everyone thinks of the rose bush as a gorgeous, always flourishing, and invincible plant.

But it is actually pretty fragile despite its rough-looking pricks. 

For example, are your rose leaves turning yellow? Many things could be happening. 

A small change in its environment, unwanted contact with other beings, or even a season change can take it from beautiful to barely noticeable in your garden. 

While reasons abound, it gets tricky when you genuinely have no idea. Luckily, you don’t have to guess. 

We discovered every reason why this happens, the cues to identifying the problem, and how to fix it. Check all these causes and fixes below!

Why Are Rose Leaves Turning Yellow? 

1. Overwatering


Probably the most common reason a rose plant starts to yellow away is when there’s too much humidity. This is also called saturation. 

Saturated soil will cause the roots to drown. When oxygen can’t reach the roots because there’s way too much water around, your plant will slowly weaken.

How to Check for an Overwatered Rose:

  • First, check how moist the soil is. If it feels soggy or muddy, then there’s a chance your plant is saturated.
  • The soil on top looks dry in some cases, but the soil below (where the roots are) is not. You need to dig a bit to check whether that’s happening.
  • In other cases, this happens because it rains too much or you’re irrigating too much. A rose survives with one watering a week. 
  • And lastly, it could also be happening because the soil holds too much water for the rose or insufficient drainage. 

How to Fix an Overwatered Rose: 

  • The best solution for an overwatered rose is to transplant it. Garden beds with clay-less soils often work best. 
  • For roses growing in plastic containers, you can open holes in the container to ensure the water drains. 
  • If your rose is receiving way too much water from rains, you can take it indoors or under a roof. 
  • You could also be overwatering. To fix that, only water the rose once a week (especially in winter or humid areas). 

In case of improvement, you should see results within a month. Be aware that overwatering may cause rotting (this is more difficult to fix). 

2. Underwatering


While overwatering your rose causes the roots to drown, not watering enough will make them starve. 

When a plant is starving, the first sign is yellowing on the leaves and stem. Given the lack of nutrients being absorbed through the roots, the plant weakens.  

How to Check for an Underwatered Rose:

  • Check the soil and see whether it feels sandy or too rigid. That would mean it is not retaining enough moisture.
  • The amount of soil is also essential. Roses growing with too little soil (and thus too few nutrients) tend to weaken (especially in warm climates).
  • Scorching sunlight may also dry up the soil faster by evaporating humidity and not letting roots absorb nutrients.
  • Little rainfall or insufficient watering could also be the culprits. You should be watering your rose no less than once a week. 

How to Fix an Underwatered Rose: 

  • Adding a moisture-retaining material to the soil could be an excellent fix. Mulch, compost, and clay, for example, may help to increase moisture retention.
  • Make sure the rose has enough soil. If the roots are showing or the plant looks too big for the container/space, then transplant to a richer soil or larger container.
  • Adding an automatic sprinkler or soaker hose system could help you water the plant without any output. Just be sure this happens once a week at least.

This process may take up to a week or two to show signs of improvement. 

3. Too Much Fertilizer

Plants love nutrient-rich environments. But they may also suffer when nutrients are way more than they can chew.

The reason is typically excess of a nutrient. In most cases, it is an excess of iron or nitrogen that causes the issue. 

How to Know If You’re Overfeeding a Rose:

  • If you fertilized the rose recently, check the fertilizer package. Some general-use fertilizers contain way too much nitrogen and iron for roses, which could be causing the rose to burn.
  • Compost and other soil add-ons may also cause issues. If you mixed some of those recently, that could also be the culprit.

How to Fix an Overfed Rose:

  • If you added fertilizer or any other material recently, transplanting to a more neutral fertilizer-free soil could be a great idea.
  • To prevent this from happening again, use rose fertilizer exclusively. Avoid any mix with high amounts of iron or nitrogen. Stick to high phosphorous mixes instead.
  • Prune the affected leaves and stems if they droop. Water the rose well afterward to make sure it recovers. 

Rose will get better almost instantly, within a few days when you stop overfeeding them.

4. Too Little Fertilizer

Too Little Fertilizer

Just like not eating because the soil is too dry or too soggy, sometimes it just doesn’t contain the ideal nutrients.

This typically happens when there’s a lack of nitrogen, magnesium, iron, or more importantly, phosphorous. 

How to Know if You’re Underfeeding a Rose:

  • Sandy soils (regardless of how moist) are often a sign of little nutrients. Roses prefer dark, nutrient-rich soils.
  • Lack of watering could also be causing the plant to not feed off the soil well. Make sure you water at least once a week.
  • If you haven’t fertilized in more than a year, that’s also a probable cause. This is particularly true for dry areas where nutrients in soils deplete faster. 

How to Fix an Underfed Rose:

  • The most effective fix is to start fertilizing the rose right away. To amend the soil, you can add a layer of mulch, compost, manure, and a rose fertilizer directly. 
  • For sandy or dry soils, you may want to transplant the rose entirely. Keep it on well-manured and rich soils to prevent this from happening.
  • Don’t forget to water once a week and fertilize the rose at least once every six months. 

Weeks will go by until you see a sign of betterment with the rose plant. 

5. Unhealthy Soil Composition

When the soil doesn’t match the plant’s requirements, the rose will likely start to wither.

This could be either because it isn’t absorbing enough nutrients or because there just aren’t enough nutrients to absorb.

You’ll know it is unhealthy soil if the leaves turn yellow, but the stems stay bright green. Most likely, this is a cause of high pH levels. 

How to Check an Unhealthy Soil for Rose: 

  • You can use a soil pH tester to check for pH levels. It should be lower than 6.5 but no lower than 6.0. 
  • Ask neighbors or local experts whether the soil in your home is too alkaline or too acidic for the plant.

How to Fix an Unhealthy Soil for a Rose:

  • For soils that are too alkaline (higher than 6.5 pH) or too acidic (below 6.0 pH), the best solution is to transplant to neutral soil instead. Prepare the soil and check before transplanting.
  • Alkaline soils can also be fixed with sulfur and aluminum sulfate. Check pH levels to make sure.
  • In acidic soils where the plants can’t absorb nutrients, you can add magnesium-rich fertilizers or pulverized limestone. Recheck pH to make sure. 

Those who decide to transplant the rose will see results within a couple of weeks. Amending soils could take up to a month to show results. 

6. Too Much Sunlight

Too Much Sunlight

It is not uncommon to see plants getting scorched by sunlight. Your rose plant could be the victim.

This generally happens in tropical environments and in summer. When the sun is at its max, it’s not uncommon for the rose to weaken from the extra heat. 

How to Check for a Scorched Rose:

  • The yellow is not a light yellow but a darker one, almost brown. If you see the leaf getting a darker tone, that’s a sign of too much sunlight.
  • Leaves that turn yellow but also crispy are scorched. Check for branches and stems that also get yellow if the sun hits them.
  • Roses directly under the sun and receive more than 6 hours of sunlight a day in the summer will also experience this. 

How to Fix a Scorched Rose:

  • The best solution is to take the rose to a more shaded area. Anywhere it can receive no more than 4 hours of sunlight a day should be enough.
  • For scorched leaves that aren’t yellow anymore but brown and crispy, prune them off. This should encourage the growth of new, healthy leaves.

Your rose will take a bit of time to show signs of improvement, but it shouldn’t take more than a month. 

7. Too Much Shade

If too much sunlight scorches the leaves, too little will weaken them.

This causes the leaves not only to wither but also fall. Most start to droop and slowly soften up until they drop.

By the way, this generally happens to leaves in the bottom part of the plant more than it happens to the ones on top.

How to Check for a Shaded Rose:

  • Check whether the plant is under a roof or shaded by other larger plants. This is generally the reason. 
  • See whether the leaves in the bottom are the ones yellowing. This is normal and shouldn’t cause any trouble with the plant.

How to Fix a Shaded Rose: 

  • Transplant the rose to a sunnier area. If planted on a pot, then move the pot to that sunny place instead.
  • Cutting or pruning other plants that are causing the shade is another obvious fix. 
  • Prune the plant is the bottom leaves are yellowing. This may be a cause of denser foliage on top, causing the foliage below to wither.

As long as the rose receives at least 6 hours of sunlight every day, it should start recovering within a couple of weeks. 

8. Temperature Stress

Alongside too much or too little sunlight, rose plants also suffer when temperatures are not ideal.

For example, heat stress slowly dries away the leaves and makes them fall. In winter, like most other plants, leaves also fall when temperatures get too low. 

How to Check for a Temperature-Stressed Rose:

  • Changing seasons are often the reason. If you’re in the summer and temperatures are rising, or you’re entering winter and frosts started to happen, yellowing is a regular occurrence. 
  • Check whether the rose is too close to appliances like air conditioner condensers, kitchens, heaters, or even stoves causing too much heat. 
  • Roses growing indoors and exposed to air conditioners may also turn yellow due to the cold. This is rare, but direct contact with AC airflow may be the culprit. 

How to Fix a Temperature-Stressed Rose:

  • For season changes, the best thing is to keep the rose in a colder or hotter environment as needed. In winter, for example, take the rose indoors if possible. 
  • Adding mulch to the soil can also help to maintain the plant fresh in hot environments. Watering more consistently may also help (just don’t overdo it).

Be aware that yellowing due to season changes is normal, and you may not avoid the yellowing. Otherwise, you’ll see results within weeks. 

9. Pests and Critters

Pests and Critters
Image: scienceimage.csiro.au

Many animals may be eating your rose and cause trouble. These include pests like spider mites, leafhoppers, grasshoppers, and even ants. 

But it’s not only insects. Some critters like gophers, skunks, deer, rabbits, goats, and even pigs may also cause trouble. 

How to Check for Pests and Critters Affecting a Rose: 

  • For pests, check the plant directly in search of animals on the leaves, stems, and branches. If you see insects or their eggs, there’s a chance your plant is suffering from pest-related issues.
  • For critters, you could search for signs of bites or ripped-away branches. This means your plant is getting eaten away, also possible to weaken it and cause yellowing leaves. 

How to Fix a Rose Affected by Pests and Critters: 

  • The best way to get rid of insects is to apply pesticides. Neem oil, pesticide soap, chili pepper spray, garlic spray, and even vinegar can help. Try to use products for the specific pests you’re getting rid of.
  • As for critters, spicy scents like pepper and cayenne may keep them away. Ammonia and vinegar are also often helpful. Otherwise, use visual or sonic repellents
  • For damaged leaves and branches, you can decide to prune them off. This should promote new and healthy growth. 

This type of damage tends to show improvements almost right away. But you’ll have to make sure to keep the plant pest-free and away from critters. 

10. Diseases and Fungi 

Diseases and Fungi

Roses may look tough, but they may get sick. 

Some of them may develop severe conditions like black spot and mosaic disease. When these happen, leaves turn yellow, develop dark spots, and eventually drop.

If not treated, the entire rose plant may wither away and die. Thus, it’s essential to identify and fix the problem before it’s too late. 

How to Check a Sick Rose: 

  • See whether the leaves are slowly turning light-green or yellowish with tiny spots. This is a sign of mosaic or ring disease.
  • If some leaves are turning yellow and others turn brown to dark, that’s a sign of black spot. 

How to Fix a Sick Rose: 

  • Rake up fallen leaves from the underside. Also, prune affected leaves, branches, and stems if possible. Don’t compost any of this. Burn them or discard them right away.
  • You can use a fungicide as a probable solution for rose bushes still salvable (only a few leaves/branches affected). Applying a rose fungicide according to instructions should help.
  • Take the rose bush to an airy place. It should receive sufficient air circulation for the disease to not spread too fast.
  • Don’t leave moisture to build on the leaves. This often produces more fungi, eventually bringing diseases. When watering, point to the soil directly. 

If the disease hasn’t advanced too much, you can start seeing positive effects within a couple of weeks. If the plant was severely damaged, you could expect up to two months for the plant to recover.

Don’t Let Your Rose Turn Yellow Anymore!

Did you find a solution to your rose leaves turning yellow? We hope so!

There’s a fix for every problem you may encounter with that rose plant. There shouldn’t be any excuse to let that plant die.

Just remember to avoid what caused the yellowing in the first place. This should get your rose to last a long time afterward.

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