Link to home

Environmentally Friendly Ways to Nourish the "Flower of Love"

St. Paul, Minn. (February 25, 2002)—It’s no wonder that the rose, one of nature’s most delicate and beautiful flowers, represents life’s most delicate and beautiful experiences, love. But like love, roses need special care in order to bloom, care that in the past may have meant large doses of chemicals to ward off diseases and other pests. Now, thanks to the work of plant health scientists, more environmentally friendly ways are being discovered to keep roses blooming.

Roses are one of the oldest and most popular flowers, brought first to the U.S. by European colonists. They remain a mainstay of the floral business and a perennial favorite of many home gardeners. But because they have been thought to require a considerable amount of chemical intervention to flourish, they’ve also become the subject of research to evaluate their susceptibility to pests and to find more ecological ways to grow them.

“Growing roses can be challenging,” says John F. Karlik, a plant scientist at the University of California. “Rose varieties vary considerably in susceptibility to diseases, which are more of a problem in humid climates.” Karlik, who works for the University of California Cooperative Extension in Bakersfield, and Mary Lou Flint, of the University of California’s statewide Integrated Pest Management program, looked at alternative ways to keep roses healthy through environmental management, including the use of such methods as irrigation management, mulching, pruning, debris removal, and organic and synthetic pesticides. They have published the book, Healthy Roses: Environmentally Friendly Ways to Manage Pests and Disorders in Your Garden and Landscape.

“Sometimes the use of chemicals can’t be avoided,” says Karlik. “But by following some specific disease management strategies growers can significantly reduce the likelihood that they’ll need them. The wise selection of rose varieties is a big step toward avoiding problems in the first place.” Less toxic pesticides include soaps, oils, and certain microbial products, says Karlik. “It is possible to grow healthy roses with beautiful blooms and make few or no pesticide applications,” says Karlik.

A look at the diseases affecting roses and information on how to order Flint and Karlik’s book are part of this month’s APS feature story and can be found on APSnet. The American Phytopathological Society (APS) is a professional scientific organization dedicated to the study and control of plant disease with 5,000 members worldwide.