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Caring for Roses on the East Side

Girl kneeling down to smell a row of roses
Roses can be intimidating but are actually more forgiving than you might expect. Retired Farm Advisor Rick Delmas has compiled these tips.

Pruning Roses (R. Delmas 2002)

Because summer temperatures are high, most repeat-blooming roses like hybrid teas, will slow down their blooms during summer's heat. They will resume in later in the season. Removing spent blossoms will extend the spring flowering period.

UC ANR has a $10 publication on rose care in California that is good. It is available at this link. 

We have few pest problems on roses in our area. Our two most common pests are aphids and powdery mildew. More comprehensive information on rose pests is available at the UC IPM program site. 

Recommended Pruning Times

In Darwin, Antelope Valley (Mono County), and in Owens Valley north of Aberdeen, repeat-blooming roses should be pruned in February after Valentine's Day. Points south in Owens Valley should be pruned in late January. In Pearsonville, Haiwee, and Coso Jct. prune anytime in January. Deep Springs should prune in March when buds swell.

If a very cold storm is in the forecast, wait until it passes and the weather returns to what passes as normal for us. 

Rose Mosaic Viruses

A set of small images showing yellow coloration indicative of infection by one of the rose mosaic viruse. (Photo: UC IPM)
Many roses in the Eastern Sierra are infected with one or more viruses that cause unusual, yellow foliage markings. These symptoms are most common in spring and tend to appear on leaves in the middle of the plant. 

The exact pattern of the symptoms is highly variable, but not exactly random, either. Roses planted about 15 to 30 years ago seem to be most affected in Owens Valley.

The disease is not known to spread via insects. It is usually spread at a nursery through grafting. 

Thankfully, at worst this disease may slow growth. Often there is no noticeable effect beyond leaf color anomalies. No control is needed.

For information on identifying and controlling rose diseases, see this resource.

Dr. Huey Roses

Smalll botanical drawing of a Dr. Huey rose flower.
Most roses for sale at the nursery are grafted onto an old rootstock called 'Dr. Huey.' It has long, spreading branches that seem to have a mind of their own. If you notice your rose has different looking, vigorous foliage coming from the roots, chances are it is this rose. You should prune off these suckers when they are seen.

'Dr. Huey' is a tough plant; tougher than many of the desirable roses we choose at the nursery. Because of this, when your rose bush has problems, it is not uncommon to see 'Dr. Huey' racing out of the roots ready to take over. What was once a beautiful white rose can suddenly turn into a rambling monster with semi-double, dark-red flowers having a yellow center.

'Dr. Huey' is often seen in abandoned or old landscapes where it has survived neglect.

While it certainly has its charm in some landscapes, it may not be what you have in mind. Your options are to graft it to a variety you like (usually it's budded) or dig it up and plant a new rose. Otherwise learn to live with its carefree nature. And buy some good gloves.

If you already are the owner of a 'Dr. Huey' rose and want to try to manage it, try cutting it back aggressively immediately after it finishes blooming. Feel free to trim back canes that get in the way as you see them. These roses do fine in our area with less water than hybrid teas and other common landscape roses. In fact, reducing water is a good way to keep their growth in check.

An interesting side note: Dr. Robert Huey was a dentist who invented a technique for whitening teeth as well as a being a rose breeder. His rose is probably the most common in America.