How to grow roses: ‘Really simple’ ingredients roses ‘love’ to ward off summer diseases

Alan Titchmarsh gives advice on growing shrub roses

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Roses are a sight to behold on a sunny day, but the bold flowerheads can quickly become spoiled by seasonal diseases. Rust and mildew are just two problems gardeners may encounter towards the end of summer, both of which can be detrimental to the plant if left untreated. Luckily there are several remedies that can prevent these common rose diseases, and now is the best time of year to begin the treatment. Here are the three remedies roses “love”, that will help them thrive all summer long.

Pruning the thorny stems and plucking wilted petals from roses is the main focus for gardeners in August, but it’s also a crucial time to focus on disease prevention.

The increasingly warm weather and fast-growing nature of roses make mildew and rust more common, especially on shrubs.

Both diseases are caused by a fungal infection which can reduce the plant’s vigour, or even kill it.

Preventing these frustrating problems is easy, and one expert has the perfect remedy to ensure your garden has “continued rose production” for as long as possible.

How to prevent rose rust and powdery mildew

Humidity levels and temperatures create the perfect conditions for rose rust and powdery mildew to attack rose bushes, so the best preventative step is to maintain good airflow through and around the plant.

Speaking exclusively to, Dean Griffin, in-house gardening expert at Love Energy Savings said: “For continued rose production, keep deadheading, and always cut down to the first five leaves on the stem that face outwards.

“Cutting down to an outward-facing set of leaves will ensure the bush remains open, which prevents rust and mildew… plants need to breathe just like us.”

Use natural sprays

As well as cutting back on the plant to maintain a healthy environment for the roses to thrive, there are several homemade sprays that can be used to mist your garden roses.

Mr Griffin said: “The best trick that few people know about is that roses love banana water.

“It is really simple to make too, just soak banana skins in one litre of lukewarm water and leave to stand for 24 hours.

“You can use this as a concentrate when you water your roses, just dilute it in the ratio of four parts banana for every one part water in your watering can.”

Alternatively, a milk and bicarbonate solution can be used to spritz all over rambling, climbing, or shrub roses.

Simply mix half a litre of milk with two tablespoons of baking soda in five litres of water and spray liberally over foliage and stems.

This formula can be applied at any time of the year.

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Keep the soil moist

Tending to the plant itself is one way to ensure your roses are healthy all summer long, but the planting site is just as important.

Tom Luck, gardening expert at Growing Revolution told “Caring for your roses in August and avoiding powdery mildew is arguably a process that starts in the winter. “It is important to not overwater roses during the cold months as this can cause root rot and diseases to form on and around the flower.”

He noted that while the problem can be controlled in the plant’s dormant period, the warm weather is also a good time to focus on the amount of water your roses are getting.

Mr Luck added: “To avoid this common rose fungus in summer, always keep the soil around the roots moist.

“Water level indicators on certain tools and systems take the guesswork out of caring for your plants, but for any gardener, I would recommend giving roses, and indeed all plants, a decent amount of water each day in the hot weather.”

What are the symptoms of rose rust and mildew?

Taking steps to prevent these diseases should be enough to protect your summer roses, but it’s worth knowing what to look for if you are worried about rose rust or powdery mildew.

Rose rust symptoms

According to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), the most common sign of rose rust in late summer is orange pustules on the stems and leaves which eventually turn black.

Infected rose leaves often fall early regardless of whether the plant has been properly pruned.

Mr Griffin explained that infections should be pruned from stems and damaged leaves should be removed as soon as they are detected.

Powdery mildew symptoms

The RHS explained that the following symptoms are typical of a powdery mildew infection on roses:

  • A white, powdery fungal growth on the leaves and shoots- (upper, lower or both leaf surfaces can be affected)
  • Powdery residue on the stems, flower stalks, calyces, and petals
  • Heavily infected flower buds frequently fail to open properly
  • There may be discolouration (yellow, reddish, or purple) of the affected parts of the leaf,
  • Young leaves can be curled and distorted

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