GARDENING: Readdressing deadly Rose Rosette DiseaseFloyd is a horticulturist with Texas AgriLife Extension Service. He can be reached at 498-4071 in Ector County or 686-4700 in Midland County or by email at Jeff.Floyd@ag.tamu.edu

Although we’ve discussed Rose Rosette Disease (RRD) in the recent past, the increasing number of positive cases in the Permian Basin warrant revisiting this deadly plant disease.

RRD is caused by a virus carried to roses by an eriophyid mite. The mite feeds on and infects all rose types. The virus is easily spread to neighboring roses when mites travel from one bush to another. The symptoms of RRD include abnormal growth of stems and foliage, malformed leaves and a high volume of densely packed thorns. The disease almost always results in plant death.

Early and accurate diagnosis of infected roses is important and may protect nearby bushes. RRD and problems like environmental stress or herbicide injury may look similar.

Cover infected roses with a sturdy trash bag and remove the bush by cutting the main stem at ground level. Dig up the roots and treat the soil and nearby roses with an approved miticide. Dispose of the entire plant in the nearest dumpster. Avoid taking suspected samples into a nursery for analysis since this will risk spreading the disease. Instead, use photographs to illustrate the disease or contact the Master Gardeners through the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and request a site visit.

After removing infected roses, sanitize equipment and clothing used to handle the plants. Wash clothing in warm soapy water. To clean equipment, a five-gallon bucket of warm water and ten percent bleach mixture works well as a sterilant.

Like the flu, RRD is highly contagious and miserable for everyone that must deal with it. Visit roserosette.org for additional information and a map indicating where Rose Rosette is in the United States.

Don’t let RRD keep you from growing roses. Although the disease is something gardeners have little direct control over, it would be a shame to permanently avoid the beauty offered by roses in the landscape. Nevertheless, be informed about Rose Rosette Disease. As Aldous Huxley said, “The more you know, the more you see.”