Rose Rosette Revisited

– Posted in: Garden Design

RRD on ‘Ghislaine de Feligonde’ rose March 12 08

All of you with blogs of your own know that there’s seldom a lack of new topics to write about. But sometimes it’s worth revisiting an old topic, I think, especially when you have new information to share and new readers to share it with. Last August, I wrote a post titled Farewell to Roses, in which I detailed my experience with rose rosette disease (RRD) showing up in my garden. I won’t go into all of the gory details again here, except to explain that it’s apparently caused by a virus or virus-like organism, and that there seems to be no cure: only options for coping with it.

During the last growing season, the symptoms of stringy red shoots and tightly congested knots of reddish growth were obvious on a few of my roses, and I made an effort to cut out infected canes as I spotted them. But over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed that symptoms are readily visible even while the plants are dormant. At the top of this post is a photo of ‘Ghislaine de Feligonde’, with a side-by-side shot showing an infected cane visible on the left and an apparently healthy cane on the right. It’s pretty easy to see how the shoots are crowded and distorted, with dead but clinging leaves, especially in the cropped view.

RRD on Rosa eglanteria March 12 08

RRD on Rosa eglanteria cane March 12 08My beloved eglantine rose (Rosa eglanteria) is still showing symptoms, too. Above, you can see a normal cane on the left and an affected one on the right. The knots of congested growth aren’t visible on this rose, nor were the bright red shoots during the growing season; the affected leaves were just a bit smaller, lightly distorted, and pinkish green. But this one does show another of the distinctive symptoms: a difference in the size and/or amount of thorns. It’s also evident on the shoot closeup at right, which also shows some stringy growth.

Considering that my own meadow areas, as well as many hedgerows and roadsides here in Pennsylvania, contain RRD-infected multiflora roses, I’d figured it was just a matter of time before symptoms would show up on my garden roses. Both ‘Ghislaine de Feligonde’ and the eglantine were growing fine for about 5 years before they started showing the infection. However, I was dismayed to recently see contorted, bright red knots and excessively thorny shoots (below) on a lovely little ‘Flower Carpet Scarlet’ rose that I planted only last April. I had some suspicions that the shoot shown below was infected as far back as last September, so I guess it must have gotten infected soon after it arrived here.

RRD on Rosa ‘Flower Carpet Scarlet’ Feb 10 08 

My plans for coping with RRD in my garden are still evolving. At the moment, I’m inclined to remove ‘Ghislaine de Feligonde’ completely, as well as the one affected ‘Flower Carpet Scarlet’. I really can’t bear to get rid of the eglantine, though, so I think I’ll try cutting out the few affected canes and hope I can enjoy it for a few more years, at least.

If you too have any roses in your garden, you may want to keep an eye out for symptoms on your own plants, particularly as you go about your spring pruning and general cleanup. As I mentioned in my previous post, there’s an excellent on-line reference at if you want more in-depth information on the cause, symptoms, distribution, and management of rose rosette disease.

Nancy J. Ondra
Nan gardens on 4 acres in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In the firm belief that every garden ought to have a pretentious-sounding (or at least pretentious-looking) name, she refers to her home grounds as "Hayefield." There, she experiments with a wide variety of plants and planting styles, from cottage gardens and color-based borders to managed meadows, naturalistic plantings, and veggies--all under the watchful eyes of her two pet alpacas, Daniel and Duncan.
Nancy J. Ondra

Latest posts by Nancy J. Ondra (see all)

15 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

Frances March 13, 2008, 6:21 am

Oh no! That is too sad, we grew Ghislane in Texas, and it was a bit straggly but the flower color was so pretty. But I would definitely take it out, and maybe eglantine also, no room for carriers. And the multifloras, we have tons here, carry the diease? Yikes! Are there varieties of roses that are more resistant?
Frances at Faire Garden

The thing is, Frances, that removing the roses in the garden doesn’t make much difference, because the mites that carry the disease are all over the wild multifloras. It appears just about any rose is eventually susceptible, species and hybrids alike. Ann Peck, the woman who put together the fact sheets at, lives in Tennessee, so you should be able to learn a lot from her experiences in your region.

Elly Phillips March 13, 2008, 6:41 am

Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!! Just what we need, another horrific plant disease! I’ll have to go out once it gets light and take a good look at *my* eglantine. I’d somehow missed rose rosette, so I really appreciate your bringing it up!

Sorry to give you something else to worry about, Elly! I think the disease pressure would be equally bad up your way, though, so I’d guess you’ll have to deal with it eventually, if not now.

Gail March 13, 2008, 3:55 pm

I have just a few roses but I would miss them dearly. Very sad…I have always loved eglantine.

Right now I am trying to figure out what is disfiguring all my garden phlox…either insect or virus. sigh


Oh, poor Gail. It’s always something, isn’t it? Maybe it’s just cold damage?

jodi March 13, 2008, 4:18 pm

Well, this is something new and unpleasant, Nan! I haven’t heard of it before, not around here, but I’m going to be checking it out. We have lots of wild multifloras (of which I’m quite fond because the waxwings and other birds LOVE the hips) but I’ve never seen this sort of aberrant growth. Gonna look into it, and read your earlier post, too. Thanks as always for such an informative post.

I can’t tell how far east or north it’s gotten so far, Jodi. But it’s taken only a few years between seeing the first symptoms on wild roses here in southeastern PA and seeing damage on my garden roses. The mites are very tiny and easily carried by wind, so apparently it’s alarmingly easy for them to spread. I will hope they don’t blow up your way, though!

Gail March 13, 2008, 7:20 pm


I wish it was cold damage…no there is a funny little bug that was on it last year and I read that I should cut it completely down for the winter to see if I could get rid of the eggs >I did, we shall see if that works.

here’s hoping the Rosa E thrives.


Thanks, Gail. I’m sending the same good wishes back for your phlox!

Pam/Digging March 14, 2008, 1:16 am

That is unpleasant to hear. I’ll check out the site you mentioned and see if it’s a problem in Texas. I’d be sad to lose my roses, and I’m sorry you’re losing yours.

Pam, you might also want to check out this article from 2002, specifically about RRD in Texas:

mss @ Zanthan Gardens March 14, 2008, 3:45 pm

This is so heart-breaking. I know how you feel…I lost quite a few roses these last couple of years to rose dieback.

Each rose has such a distinctive personality. Of all my plants, I tend to anthropomorphize my roses the most. Each is like a dear friend.

Thanks, mss. I really try not to get attached to individual plants, but that eglantine is just so lovely and perfect for its spot that I’d be very sad to have to lose it completely.

Curtis March 14, 2008, 9:50 pm

I don’t remember seeing this around here but I have heard about it before. Sad to hear you had to deal with it.

I’m glad to hear that you know about it, Curtis. I’m really surprised that RRD hasn’t been written about in the major gardening magazines, since it’s such a widespread problem.

Carol Soules March 15, 2008, 12:10 am

How sad! Thank you for sharing about this in such detail so we all know what to watch for!

Especially sad for gardeners who are truly rose fanatics, I think. As if they don’t have enough other challenges to deal with, now there’s RRD too! I intend to enjoy my favorites for as long as possible, but as I do remove them, I’m trying to look at it as an opportunity to plant something else, rather than as a loss.

Catherine, My Garden Travels March 16, 2008, 9:43 am

Many years of growing roses I have never seen RRD, but after reading your post on the 12th, I made a mental note. While I was waiting to pull out of my driveway on the 15th, I took a quick look at an old shrub rose growing by the road and noticed some strange looking growth, and sure enough, there is was. Thanks for the post, and I pray this doesn’t become an epidemic in Bucks County.

I’m really sorry to hear that, Cathy. I suppose it was inevitable, considering how much multiflora grows around here. If that’s the first sign of it at your place, then maybe you can just prune it out and hope for the best.

Bonnie March 16, 2008, 9:16 pm

Wow, thanks for the information. I had never seen a disease affect a rose like that. I’m so happy to have read your entry. I’ll do some checking here online to learn more.

I’m glad you found it of interest, Bonnie. I hope your own roses stay healthy!

Phillip March 17, 2008, 12:50 pm

I grow a lot of roses (around 100 old roses) and I’ve had rose rosette on two of them about 2 years ago. I first tried cutting out the bad branches but I eventually lost both roses. I’ve not noticed it again but I’m always on the look out.

Yikes, Phillip – sorry to hear that you’re dealing with it too. The roses are such an integral part of your garden, it would be a tragedy for you to lose more of them. I hope your vigilance keeps the rest of your roses as safe as possible.

Kim March 18, 2008, 11:31 am

Yikes. Thanks for the heads-up, Nan. If you’re seeing it in PA, your neighbors to the west here will probably encounter it at some point soon, too. I have one rose right now and am considering a second one, but still… any diseased roses are too many.

I hope that your proactive approach this spring helps to save your eglantine…

I wouldn’t let it stop you from acquiring more roses, Kim. I had sort of decided not to get any more for my own garden, and yet I will be getting a shipment of new ones soon. Hope springs eternal…, as they say. As long as the one you’re buying doesn’t look obviously affected by RRD (or black spot, or any other disease), I have a feeling you’ll be ok – at least for a number of years yet.

Kathryn Johnson March 21, 2008, 8:23 am

I haven’t seen RRD on Long Island but that doesn’t mean it isn’t here. I am surprised that your carpet rose was affected. They are really tough. If RRD can get at those roses it is really aggressive!

I too was surprised to see the carpet rose showing symptoms, Kathryn, and so quickly. Considering that I have so many affected multifloras just a few hundred feet away, though, I guess the greater surprise is that only one of 12 was infected.

dee/reddirtramblings March 24, 2008, 9:35 am

Nan, This is a great post about a very timely topic. You should pitch the idea to the national gardening mags. This is something we all need to know about. I’m sending the link to your article to my friend Katie, who also has a lot of roses. She and I both love them.~~Dee

Thanks, Dee. I don’t feel qualified to write a major article on RRD; I’m still learning along with everyone else. I hope your and Katie’s roses stay safe!

Previous Post:

[shareaholic app=”recommendations” id=”13070491″]