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struggling roses with old clematis

January 3, 2019

I have many arbors and structures which I built 25 years ago to support my then thriving roses. And yes I did have climbers then - Alchemyst was about 12' and over the top, Madam Isaac Pierre reached 8', Zepherin Drouhin made 10' and New Dawn was over 15' on the pergola. I also had Dream Weaver on a pillar and Alexander MacKenzie on my porch that was up over the gutters and on the roof. Now I have nothing on any of the structures. When the OGRs died back I tried replacing them with Canadian climbers - William Baffin, John Davis, John Cabot but they never grew. I don't know what the problem is. I have listed higher temps, water, fertilizer and crowding as the four possibles. This year we had more than ample rain and I fertilized every three weeks for the first three months rotating between fish/kelp and Rosetone. New roses started out great and then when the mid to high 90s set in they just dwindle away. With more than enough rain I can rule that out as I had the biggest and best blooming perennials ever but you couldn't even see the roses. They are 1-4 years old now, a combination of bareroot and potted, and some are the same size as the first year I planted them. My soil was and is dug deep every time I replace a rose and safe amendments are added. The only other thing I can think is maybe my 25 year old clematis are interfering. They were planted deep the year after I first planted the OGRs. There is one on every arbor and pergola with the rose. They have a pretty big bristly head and I'm wondering how far out and deep the roots might be. I don't really remember seeing a lot of roots when I dug up last time but maybe they are even deeper than my 2' hole. I've got to figure out what is stunting the roses before I succumb to placing any more orders

this year.

Comments (31)
  • lkayetwvz5

    This is what the pergola used to look like with Zephy.

    There is one other thing I have wondered about and that is the pine shaving bedding from my dairy goats that I use as mulch. Most of it is kept under tarps all during winter until late spring when I put it down. I tested all my beds this fall and got readings between 6-7ph so I ruled that out as being a problem but maybe I am wrong.

  • erasmus_gw

    That's a pretty picture of your Zepherine. You might be right about your clematis roots but if you're not seeing roots in the holes where you plant your roses, I don't know if that would be it. Do you have voles? Have you dug up any of these new roses to take a look at the roots?

    I have planted many very small own root roses directly in the ground but I find that they are more apt to do well if I grow them on in pots until they're bigger. I think they get bigger sooner in pots, and then have more momentum. Sometimes I will dig up a struggling small rose , repot it, and grow it on awhile in the pot before replanting in the ground. Seems strange that all your newish roses would have the same reluctance to grow. What happened to your big old plants? Your local agriculture extension agent or consulting rosarian might be willing to come out and take a look.

    lkayetwvz5 thanked erasmus_gw
  • lkayetwvz5

    My OGRs were HUGE! I had a quagmire of roses that you could not walk through. So I had to remove half of them. Then we got 4 1/2 years of drought and I had to resort to overhead watering in order to get everything watered within a week. That led to even worse disease problems. Then the killer winter hit and that was the start of the decline. But I cannot figure out why any new roses refuse to grow - the only exception being Abraham Darby that I planted this year which took over the one hole I could not grow anything in and seemed to flourish!!

  • ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

    Your garden must have been absolutely gorgeous! I'm so sorry this happened, and I know how devastated I would be. I have no idea what the cause of the decline was, and perhaps it was a number of reasons. In my drought-stricken area the soil has become so hard that the water now will not go in very deeply no matter how much I water, and that has affected the roses, but not to the point that any of them died. If you were to attempt new roses I would use new soil from another area where roses have not grown before, amended with potted soil, and use leaves from trees as a mulch rather than the pine mulch you've used before. Try that with one or two roses, making sure they're well-watered through any dry spell, and see what happens. The fact that Abraham Darby has survived certainly gives room for hope. I wouldn't fertilize the new roses. I haven't fertilized mine for years since I haven't had the energy to do so and I don't think it's made much difference. Rabbit predation and a lack of rain have affected my roses but not the lack of fertilizer, since I believe the leaf mulch has supplied some nutrients. I tend to think that the overhead watering on very dry soil didn't supply enough moisture for the roses, and that might have been the most important contributing cause. Best of luck to you in going forward with some new roses!

    lkayetwvz5 thanked ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9
  • Sheila z8a Rogue Valley OR

    I doubt the clematis should be the culprit. I think more water might help new plants the most. I can't remember where you are. Your location would help others help you.

    lkayetwvz5 thanked Sheila z8a Rogue Valley OR
  • noseometer...(7A, SZ10, Albuquerque)

    A possible cause could be "Rose replant disease." I hear that this is a problem more in Europe than in the US, but what it is, is when roses are replaced and the new roses don't grow. Some people have suggested that it is a nutrient depleted by the former plants (But fertilizing or amending the soil doesn't seem to help). Others think it is allelopathy - some plants secrete a substance into the soil that prevents other plants of the same type from growing. For example, in my garden, all the roses planted within about 3 feet of the drip zone of the hawthorn tree (also in the rose family) failed to grow, whereas the same variety planted a few feet further did better. This also occurs with apples. When replanting an old apple orchard with new apples, the new trees sometimes don't grow. There was a YouTube video showing that the apples planted just outside of the old apple orchard did fine, but those replacing the old apple trees did not grow.

    lkayetwvz5 thanked noseometer...(7A, SZ10, Albuquerque)
  • ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

    noseometer, that is a very interesting comment. For years I could plant roses where others had lived before without a problem, but I now have this issue with almost all the roses I've planted over the last two years - failure to grow. They don't die, they just stay very small, put out almost no new growth and therefore don't bloom. I just recently entertained the thought of rose replant disease, especially since all these roses had ample water and were not stressed in any other way. I'm glad you have the same idea, and I wonder if it might be exacerbated in a setting of frequent or long-lasting drought.

    lkayetwvz5 thanked ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9
  • Sheila z8a Rogue Valley OR

    Europe seems to have this rose replant problem even in areas with adequate water. I always wondered why it was there, not here. It does seem to have been a struggle to understand the cause of it.

  • lkayetwvz5

    I am glad to see some comments on my post about this replant syndrome since I have driven myself crazy trying to figure out what is my problem. All the old rose books say not to replant a rose where a rose was planted prior and I guess they meant it!! So its not a new thing. We all think we know better than the oldtimers but maybe not.

  • monarda_gw

    I was thinking it might be a good idea to have the soil tested, just to be sure.

  • noseometer...(7A, SZ10, Albuquerque)

    Soil testing is always a good thing.

    I wonder if the rose replant disease is worse the longer that a rose bush has been in the location before it is replaced, or if some varieties are more likely to cause the problem than others?

    Ingrid, mine would do that also, or "grow backwards" or even die, when planted under the hawthorn tree, or in a spot where a rose bush grew before.

  • monarda_gw

    And I wonder if the replant problem is permanent or, if with time and something else growing there, like a cover crop, you could plant roses there again some day, and if so, how long would it take.

  • Rosylady (PNW zone 8)

    In England they have rose replant disease and Monty Don (host of Gardeners World) has said on the show that they use mycorrhizal fungi to help combat the problem. Apparently it works quite well!

  • ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

    Rosylady, thank you for your comment. That is a valuable tip. I've looked up some vendors who sell it but I gather it has to be spread around the roots. I wonder if it would help at all to do an application near the surface for roses that have already been planted and refuse to grow and thrive.

    Edited: I just ordered this and will let you all know whether it works on these moribund roses that won't grow at all.

  • lkayetwvz5

    I noticed last year that David Austin sells it. I do or did have it in my soil I noticed on the walls of my holes I dug, but if it will help I'm all for using more of it. I also wish I could see if there was a correlation of any kind on Dr. Huey or multiflora grafted as opposed to own root, but it's very hard to draw any conclusion now as my notes aren't the greatest.

  • Rosylady (PNW zone 8)

    Ingrid....Monty rubs it on the rootball of the new rose and then sprinkles some in the hole before he plants it. I'm sure you can apply it other ways too. Please do let us know if it makes a difference!

  • ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

    One day later, and it already arrived in the mail! Now would be a good time to try it as it's supposed to rain tomorrow! It can't hurt to try it, and there's nothing to lose.

  • bart_2015

    Pleas DO keep us up-dated on this, Ingrid! Here in Italy it's hard to find and expensive,so I don't want to splurge on it unless it seems to work...

  • noseometer...(7A, SZ10, Albuquerque)

    Yes, I'm eager to hear if it makes a difference for you, Ingrid! I may try it myself.

  • Marlorena-z8 England-

    At any given time I usually have 3 or 4 roses suffering from replant disease, due to the nature of how I garden - I frequently replace and replant roses with little in the way of fresh ground... I can tell within just a few weeks of the growing season whether a rose has it or not...

    I used to use mycorrhizal fungi every time, but have come to the conclusion that... it helps... but it does not totally resolve the issue, and I have now discontinued the practice.. if using it, you do have to sprinkle it over the roots... there is also a gel which you put into a bucket of water and soak the roots in that before planting.. the gel sticks to the roots... the fungi can also be obtained by chopping Plantago Major [lawn plaintain weeds], and placing in the planting hole - I have had undoubted success with this method... [Monty Don also latched on to this recently]…

    Here are 3 photos taken today of 3 'Munstead Wood' roses, all planted at the same time 2 years ago...close together as a group, and all showing different rates of growth.. all were given mycorrhizal fungi at planting time..

    'MW' #1.. this was planted closest to the old rose that was taken out.. the MF has made no difference and it still languishes.. you can see how little growth it has put on... It has replant disease and the growth and bloom has been poor...

    'MW' #2.. planted a little further away from the old rose roots but still suffered the disease but has started to recover quicker than #1, and should be fully recovered this season.. as you can see the branching habit is better..

    'MW' #3... this was planted furthest away from the old rose roots, has suffered minimal impact, and has bloomed well and grown thicker canes as you can see. It's still not 100 percent, but should be this year...

    I hope this explains what we sometimes deal with here, I don't regard it as a huge problem, it will be overcome in time, but as a general rule the rose fields they use for bare root roses, are not replanted in the same field until about 9 years have elapsed since the first lot have been lifted for sale.. using fungi and other amendments speeds up the process for us home gardeners...

  • monarda_gw

    Nine years!

  • noseometer...(7A, SZ10, Albuquerque)

    Haha! I was reading "MF" as something entirely different than "mycorrhizal fungi"...MF replant disease!

    Well, that's disappointing. I was hoping for a miracle.

  • ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

    noseometer, you're too funny! After reading the above reports I'm not all that optimistic about the MF (the other kind!) applications. Will try it since I have it, but Marlorena's test is rather compelling.

  • bart_2015

    Thank you so much, Marlorena. I suspect I do have some replant disease issues ,too. I try to add new soil, etc, but the bottom line is that my soil is poor, and not very deep,so I bet the only thing to do is bring in bags and bags of native soil...so much harder than just buying a package of MFungi...

  • Marlorena-z8 England-

    bart... I see it more and more as a great marketing opportunity, to get people to part with just a little more money at the checkout on something that, in most cases, they probably don't need....[I fell for it].. if you have reasonable soil conditions, and obviously some here really don't, then you shouldn't need to use it,... except and only except in these rose replant situations in UK, where it can help alleviate the problem as like you say it's so much easier than amending soil with bags of this and that, or using cardboard boxes....

    ...the issue I have with Monty Don and other garden writers/t.v. people in this country, is that they encourage the use of this stuff.... willy-nilly... for any plant even perennials and shrubs, sometimes the easiest of plants get this treatment.... it encourages inexperienced gardeners to think they really need it, and their plants won't thrive, if they don't... I mean for most it's just a load of codswallop...

    ...there was a gap in the market here recently that I was just waiting for them to fill... there was no MF for Acid plants like Rhododendrons... you couldn't use it on those.... now I go to the garden centre the other day and what do I now see on the shelves?... MF for Acid Loving plants.... new on the market!... if you have acid soil it's so totally unnecessary, yet this packet MF costs good money...

    I think the American term ''go figure'' is appropriate, but forgive me if I've got that wrong..

    lkayetwvz5 thanked Marlorena-z8 England-
  • lkayetwvz5

    Marlorena - You are so right! Just a lot of ploys to part you from a few more dollars! All those few dollars add up after several growing seasons and they don't show any improvement it's on to the next. We now have specialized potting soil for every conceivable type of plant including labeled for KnockOut roses! Love your term - codswallop! I've adapted 'fiddly bits' from an English car repair show! Fits perfectly!

  • Kristine LeGault 8a pnw

    Ikayetwvz5, this is different but the same concept when farmers will leave ground fallow for a number of years after harvest.

    At the Bear Creek orchards the trees run out of steam after 40 years and so, are removed. The orchard is left fallow for 7 to 10 years while they rebuild the soil with compost and worms.

    Your roses were huge and used a lot of nutrients in their ti

    me in that location so the soil possibly is quite depleted.

    For us little home gardners with limited locations for our roses it presents a challenge to leave a prime spot fallow.

  • noseometer...(7A, SZ10, Albuquerque)

    Malorena, thanks for the photos. That's exactly how my roses were that were planted by the hawthorn tree. I also have a spot where I removed Raphiolepis (also in the rose family) and every rose bush I planted there has failed whereas 5 feet away, Old Blush is doing just fine. I've heavily amended the area with many buckets of compost, steer manure and alfalfa pellets, and adjusted the watering and pH without any noticeable difference, and I replanted 3 times.

    I read in one of my rose books that you shouldn't replant an area with roses for 7 years after removing the previous bushes. As Kristine mentions, that is a tough thing to do with limited space. It forces one to move on to other types of plants.

  • Rosylady (PNW zone 8)

    This is all so interesting! I have no problem with rose replant disease at all. I also have soils on the acidic side and naturally occurring MF. I got a load of locally made mulch and it was loaded with the white thready fungi which I believe is a form of MF. Anyway, this is an interesting article about MF...


    Ingrid, if you use yours, you can mix it in water and drench the root zone.

    Marlorena...I'm with you! For years I've been hearing about MF and thinking it was mostly just marketing. But this is something you see in the world of horticulture more and more, and it's not dying. Professionals are using it...but applying MF does not take the place of good cultural practices! I completely agree.

  • Marlorena-z8 England-

    Rosylady… I just read that link, thank you, and I know you get it too... but can I be forgiven for wondering if the writer is perhaps in some way connected with any firm that produces this? because it sort of read that way to me, like an advertisement.. in fact I notice he used a photo from 'Mycorrhizal Applications' which supply the product... but I don't doubt what is said there, I'm just a suspicious type...

    They always show a picture of two plants, one with a great root system, MF treated and one without which looks poor... so I did my own experiment with this too.. I had 3 'Charles Rennie Mackintosh' roses, grafted bare roots, I planted the 3 together, 1 with MF only, the other two without MF but with my own mix of soil amendment... proprietary potting mix, plus composted manure, and small amount of organic fertilizer...

    It says on the MF packet that after just 4 weeks the root system starts to develop secondary feeder roots, or words to that effect, so what I did was, I gave it 6 weeks and dug up 2 of the 3 roses,... the one with soil amendment had masses of little white roots forming in the potting mix surrounding the roots, like you see in a potted rose... the one with MF only.... zilch...nada... it was exactly the same as when I planted it, still with white specs residue from the MF...

    It was this that turned me off the product... and I was not prepared to purchase any more then on..

    I also say to people over here, think about the past how many roses and other shrubs have been planted all down the centuries, all the roses in this country, no one ever grabbed a packet of MF along the way... yet in the last 10 years apparently it's now a ''must have'' ….

    …. they ain't foolin' me no more... agree about the Oak trees too, lots of good MF can be had from Oak tree mulch so I understand..

    Here are my 2 'CR Mackintosh' roses that I kept, neither had MF, I removed the 3rd which did as it wasn't doing well, and both of these bloomed all summer during a very hot season for us... this photo from October 15.. and bedraggled with rain..

  • Marlorena-z8 England-

    noseometer.. I do agree, when you've got limited space you've just got to give it a go... but for me I know I'm going to get problems for a time... it's quite remarkable when you see what happens to a rose that you know is suffering the disease, then you dig it up and replant it in fresh ground, it takes off almost immediately once over the replant shock...and you see the rose you were meant to see... it's scary..

    ikayetwvz5... I'm sure Knock Outs don't need any special help from us... they do have a floriferous nature though. from what I've seen on here..

    Yes cars do have a lot of fiddly bits, most of which I know nothing about...

    I hope your roses begin to improve for you very soon... very disheartening indeed...

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