11 Reasons Your Roses Aren’t Blooming This Season
Do you have a rose that isn’t blooming as you hoped? While roses are generally workhorses in the garden, several factors impact bloom production. In this article, gardening expert and rose enthusiast Danielle Sherwood outlines 11 reasons your roses might not be blooming, and what you can do about it!
We all plant roses for the blooms. Nothing is more disappointing than strolling through the garden, hoping for that gorgeous rose fragrance and color, and seeing nothing but thorny shrubs.
Roses are durable perennials and usually healthy once well-established. However, their performance is influenced by the weather, the conditions of your garden, soil amendments, and pest and disease issues.
If you have a rose that’s not flowering, don’t despair. We’ll outline 11 reasons this might be happening, and what you can do to bring back the blooms!
Your Rose is Newly Planted
Depending on the age of the rose you purchased, it may take a few seasons to deliver impressive blooms. In its first growing season, your rose’s ultimate priority is to establish a healthy and vigorous root system.
Most newly planted bare-root roses will produce blooms in 10-12 weeks, while potted nursery roses might be blooming when you buy them. Once planted in your garden they must adjust to your site’s conditions and focus on root growth in their new home, which directs energy away from bloom production.
A lot of gardeners even disbud (cut off) their roses in the first season so the rose can concentrate on strong roots and later healthy flushes of flowers.
Like many perennials, roses, especially climbing varieties, follow the old adage: The first year, they sleep. In the second year, they creep. The third, they leap! Be patient and let your rose take the time it needs to habituate to your yard and develop its essential infrastructure. It may take a while, but the blooms will come!
There’s Not Enough Sun
Some rose varieties will tolerate dappled shade, and many roses like a respite from the scorching afternoon sun in hot climates. But as a general rule, roses need 6 to 8 hours of full sun to produce flowers.
The canes may grow and leaf out, but a rose planted in the shade can’t get the energy it needs from the sun to produce abundant blooms. You’re more likely to see lanky, spindly growth and just a few flowers, if any.
Watch how much sun your rose gets throughout the day. An ideal spot will have 6-8 hours of morning sun and dappled shade in the afternoon. If a formerly sunny spot has become shaded by a new structure or expanding tree canopy, consider transplanting your rose to a sunnier spot or trimming back the plant blocking its light.
Sometimes, less is more. This is definitely the case with fertilizer, where too much nitrogen results in lots of leafy new growth instead of blooms. If you’ve over-fertilized, you might have impacted your rose’s natural growth and bloom cycle.
Roses don’t need fertilization in their first season. They’re concentrating on root growth! Instead, amend your soil with compost or mycorrhizal fungi to add nutrients, then mulch to keep it moist and cool.
When it’s time to fertilize in the second year and beyond, look for an organic product with a balanced NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) ratio, ie. 10-10-10. This will prevent burned roots and excess green leafy growth at the expense of blooms.
Apply fertilizer (I love alfalfa or seaweed formulas) three times a year: When roses first leaf out in spring, in midsummer, and early autumn (6 weeks before your last frost).
You Made a Pruning Mistake
Pruning is what I’m asked about most often, and it’s by far the most intimidating part of growing roses. It really doesn’t have to be.
Don’t prune your roses in the first three years (unless you see diseased, damaged, or dying foliage or canes- remove those whenever you see them). Let them get established and do their thing. If you over-prune or prune too early, your rose will need time to recover and work on its infrastructure rather than new blooms.
At the same time, under-pruning may result in an overgrown, crowded bush hampered by dead and diseased canes that struggles to produce new growth.
What’s the right balance? Once your roses are mature, prune in early spring right as the leaf nodes are starting to swell. Look for the appearance of early-season flowerers like forsythia and Serviceberry as a cue for when to prune.
- Use clean bypass pruning shears
- Cut just above a leaf node.
- Removing canes that cross each other.
- Remove canes growing toward the interior of the rose bush.
- Remove any black canes damaged by winter.
- Clean up well and dispose of the trimmings.
Your goal is to cut out any diseased or dead growth, control overall size if needed, and maintain an open center for good airflow. After pruning, your rose will respond with new growth and blooms!
An exception to the early spring rule: if you have a rambler or other once-blooming variety, always prune after it blooms. Otherwise, you cut off this season’s blooms entirely!
You Forgot to Deadhead
After blooming, your rose wants to use its energy to make hips filled with seeds for future reproduction. While rose hips are beautiful, their development signals to your rose that it’s time to enter dormancy rather than bloom again.
If you want repeat blooming throughout the summer, simply remove the spent, withered blooms, cutting just above a leaflet. This will tell your rose to grow more flowers (Some self-cleaning varieties will bloom repeatedly without deadheading, so try one of these if this garden chore is a bother).
You Over or Under-Watered
Here are a few watering issues that may be impacting your rose’s ability to bloom:
Common Watering Issues
- Overwatering, leading to soggy soil and rotted roots
- Overhead watering, resulting in wet foliage and the potential for fungal diseases
- Frequent, shallow watering that doesn’t hydrate the roots
- Underwatering, telling your rose it needs to conserve energy in response to drought
Unfortunately, roses don’t respond well to the average sprinkler system, which is usually set to water daily overhead. Roses perform better when watered at the base (via a hose wand or drip irrigation), and only need a deep watering once a week once mature.
It’s okay to water roses overhead once in a while (the rain does, after all), but always do so in the morning when foliage will have time to dry in the sun. Moist conditions make a great home for fungal diseases to enter.
Don’t let your roses sit in wet soil. Water them only when dry (stick your finger into the soil knuckle-deep to verify). During particularly hot or dry spells, increase watering to twice a week or more if you see wilting.
To water well, give mature roses 2-3 gallons at root level, once per week. Water newly planted or young roses 3-4 times a week (always checking first if the soil is dry) until they’re established.
You’re Experiencing a Heatwave
Roses start to struggle when temperatures exceed 85℉. In response to excess heat, they may even enter a period of dormancy, concentrating on conserving energy rather than making new flowers.
Signs of heat stress include wilting, leaf drop, and leaf scorch (crispy brown or yellow leaves). To help your rose survive a heat wave:
Tips For Rose Health During a Heat Wave
- Provide afternoon shade when possible.
- Move container roses to shelter and or set up a shade screen.
- Increase deep watering sessions at the root level.
- Mulch well to keep the soil cool and moist.
Some varieties can withstand intense heat better than others. If your summers are consistently hot, think about planting roses that perform in the heat.
You Had an Early or Late Frost
If you pruned your rose in early spring, it has likely begun to sprout tender new growth. An unexpected late frost can kill off this growth and the buds that would’ve come with it.
Likewise, your rose may have begun to prepare for its final fall flush of flowers when an early frost swoops in, killing the buds and blackening canes.
You can’t control the weather, but you can keep an eye on conditions and protect your rose from the cold. Mounding leaves or other mulch around the base will protect the crown, and covering with burlap (or your choice of frost cloth) can prevent die back of new growth.
You Have Poor Soil Quality
Roses perform best in well-drained, loamy soil and hate wet feet. While they are pretty forgiving and will eventually adapt to heavy clay or sand, there are steps you can take to make the soil more conducive to happy roses and prolific blooms.
- Encourage drainage by amending soil with sand and compost.
- Aerate the soil with plant diversity.
- Using groundcover plants as companions for roses has many benefits.
- Enrich nutrient-poor soil with compost and organic fertilizer 3 times a year.
- Use raised beds if your soil is too difficult to work with.
Pests are Weakening Your Rose
Roses can handle a few passing pests, but some infestations will suck the life out of your rose. An integrated pest management strategy is the best approach here, using natural defenses first.
The number one factor in a pest-resistant rose garden is strong, healthy plants that are less likely to submit to pest and disease issues. Keep them in tip-top shape with good watering practices, pruning, adequate sun, and healthy soil. Robust healthy plants are less likely to succumb to pest and disease issues.
If you see common rose pests like aphids, Japanese Beetles, sawfly larvae, and thrips, first try to remove them manually via a direct strong spray from the hose or plucking and plunging into soapy water. Remove and throw out any badly infested buds or leaves.
While pesticides are occasionally called for, their repeated use results in resistant pests and the driving away of their natural predators. Instead, keep your garden’s ecosystem healthy by interplanting roses with diverse plants that encourage beneficial predators to stay a while and dine on the pests for you. This limits the need to use pesticides to only when they’re truly most necessary.
Diseases are Impacting Blooms
While many roses will keep blooming for a while when attacked by disease, advanced symptoms may include a weakened plant, loss of buds, brown, dropping blooms, and discoloration of canes and foliage.
The most common rose diseases, powdery mildew and black spot, are caused by fungi that thrive in moist, crowded conditions. Others, like rose rosette virus, are spread by a tiny mite or by grafting. This virus is a cause for removing the entire bush, as viral infections can’t be treated.
If you see stressed, potentially diseased roses, research the symptoms to identify the cause and determine the best course of treatment. Always remove diseased plant matter, clean up afterward, and dispose of it. If there is a fungal cause, consider post-treatment with a fungicide after removing the infected material to prevent any further spread via active spores.
Tips for a Disease-Free Rose Garden
- Plant in full sun.
- Water at the base rather than overhead.
- Companion plant with a variety of plants.
- Prune to achieve an open centered-shrub.
- Space roses at least 2 feet away from other large plants to maintain airflow.
- Plant disease-resistant varieties that do well in your climate.
If your roses aren’t blooming like they should, take solace that the situation is likely temporary. Whether it needs pruning, enriched soil, a sunnier site, treatment for pests, a new watering schedule, or just a bit of patience, your rose will eventually reveal its healthy, flowering self. Follow the tips in this guide to hasten the return of blooms and enjoy your roses!