Aphid Control

aphids on roses

There were lots of aphids on the rose tips and buds this week in the rose garden. The soft, sappy new spring growth on the roses brings them out in droves. 

Aphids on roses can cause your new rose tips to wilt and become misshaped and curled. They can often cover the whole shoot and bud of the soft new growth causing it to droop over as they suck the sap out of it, so aphid control is paramount at this time of year, early Spring.

All this sap-sucking causes honeydew to be excreted out the other end of the aphid. This sweet, sticky substance attracts ants, so if you see lots of ants running up and down your rose bush, it’s a tell-tale sign you’ve got rose aphids.

It doesn’t take long for large numbers to build up in the right conditions. When that happens and they are completely smothering the new rose shoot or bud some of the aphids develop wings and then fly onto other parts of the same plant or to a nearby rose plant, where they happily produce more offspring to do their dirty work. Aphid control is important at this stage because they can also carry virus diseases from rose plant to rose plant.

There’s a few simple ways of getting rid of aphids on roses. You can usually blast them off with a jet of water from the hose spray nozzle, and that works pretty well if you can do that for a few days in a row. However here in our area we are on water restrictions so aren’t allowed to use our hoses. I have been known to just squish them while on the plant (with gloveson of course!). Not the most pleasant of activities to be sure, but it does the job if the infestation isn’t too heavy or you don’t have a lot of roses.

 If you do have a really heavy infestation or lots of roses where it would take you all day to stand there and squish them by gloved hand, or you’re not able to use your garden hose, aphid control can be achieved by spraying your roses with some pyrethrum spray. Pyrethrem is a natural insecticide and regarded as a relatively safe spray to use in the garden, a lot of organic gardeners use it as a last resort, however, always follow the directions on the bottle.

17 Comments so far

  1. Patty Newbold on October 27th, 2008

    This is really helpful, Linda. I’ve wondered what might happen if I just ignore the aphids. They really are a pain!

  2. admin on October 28th, 2008

    @ Hi Patty

    if you just ignore the aphids you’ll end up with a lot of misshaped, contorted buds and tips, and some buds may not fully open as they’ve had the life sucked out of them. It depends on the severity of them. Linda

  3. dorie on April 15th, 2010

    What about spraying with Dawn dishwashing liquid in water?

  4. admin on April 15th, 2010

    @ dorie
    I have heard of this home remedy but have never used it myself. Aphids usually attack the soft sappy new growth on roses. I don’t know whether the chemicals in dawn would cause damage to the soft developing leaves and buds – it might “burn” it. You could always try it out on a small section of the plant to see how it affects the new growth and flower development.

  5. lin on April 16th, 2010

    buy some lady bugs. they love aphids. you can buy them online. every year I buy them and when they are delivered I put them on my roses and they go to town. no more aphids.

  6. kayCee on March 18th, 2011

    what about those praying mantis egg cases? I’ve actually seen a baby mantis about 1/8″ long, wouldn”t they take care of the aphid problem while still so small? (before getting bigger enough to take on the rest of our garden pests!!)

  7. admin on March 19th, 2011

    Hi Kaycee
    You’re right. While they’re young, praying mantis nymphs enjoy feasting upon aphids!

  8. Don on March 30th, 2011

    Dish soap, water and an old spray bottle does work! I’ve used it for tens of years in different countries. The actual amount of soap does not seem to matter but a tablespoon or so to a full spray bottle of water works for me. The trick is to catch the Aphids early when they first get on your rose bus or just below on the stem. I usually spray every day as new ones are produced for about four days or so. The ones I see are green and turn brown when dead. The soap washes off the wax coating on their little bodies and causes them to dry out and will not harm anything else. You can spray when ever you see new ones. An up close and personal spray of plain water to blast them off the bush works somewhat. Check the undersides of leaves as well – they are sneaky! If you are in an area that prohibits a hose just use plain water in a spray bottle. But again, the water/soap works and has no side effects that I have ever seen other that killing Aphids!

  9. admin on March 31st, 2011

    Thanks for the tip Don, I have not used this home remedy but you obviously have had success with it.

  10. Tim on April 29th, 2011

    I have a follow up question…
    I planted ‘bare root” roses in late march and as soon as growth began, the aphids were right on them – big time. I spent a lot of time picking them off (but had to work all day while they munched on my roses!) and I also used both organic and Ortho spray. Anyway, fast forward, and all the new growth has literally fallen off the rose bushes. They look terrible and I’m not sure if they are going to recover.
    That leads me to my question. Will a rose bush (with no leaves) recover from such a hard hit?
    Also, the stalks are covered with a white spider-web like substance.

    I’m close to digging them up in order to get my money back, but if they will recover, I’d like to give them a chance.

  11. Mad Dog on May 3rd, 2011

    I have used Ivory liquid on my roses, it seems to work very well. My problem is Blackspot, living in south Louisiana.

  12. admin on May 20th, 2011

    Hi Tim
    A rose bush with no leaves can recover as new buds develop and form new shoots in the growing season, however it sounds like your roses have also been attacked by red spider mite (two spotted mite) which are very hard to see with the naked eye and would be the cause of the fine white webbing on the stalks. If red spider mite is left untreated then your roses will have a hard time recovering. Use predatory mites, or a systemic insecticide that says it controls spider mites on the label to control them

  13. Phillip on September 1st, 2011

    An old system to end with aphids is to spray water with tobacco. Does not smell very good for few minutes, but in my experience it works.

  14. Peter on December 4th, 2011

    Can you tell me why flowers die back

  15. admin on December 11th, 2011

    Hi Peter
    on any plant the flowers only last for a specific number of days and die back after that; it’s no different with knock out roses

  16. DANNY PENNELL on April 5th, 2012

    What can I do about inch worms eating the leaves and stems of my knockout roses ?

  17. admin on April 5th, 2012

    Hi Danny
    I answered this same question by you over at the “knockout roses;what you need to know about them” comments section but here’s the answer again: You can either pick them off daily and squish them or put them in a bucket of soapy water if you want to go with an organic solution or you can go to your local garden centre and buy a systemic pesticide to spray on them; systemics are absorbed into the plant itself so that when the inch worm chews the leaves they die. Follow the spraying schedule recommended on the label of the product.

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