10 Reasons Rose Leaves Turn Yellow and How to Fix It

In my experience, the most common causes of yellowing rose leaves are usually attributed to improper plant care and environmental factors such as searing heat or torrential rain storms. I find that garden pests and plant diseases can also cause discoloration. In this article, I’ll look at 10 of the most common reasons for yellowing rose leaves and share how I fix the issue in my garden.

10 Common Reasons for Yellowing Rose Leaves (and How to Fix It)

1) Overwatering

In my experience, the most common cause of rose leaves turning yellow is overwatering. Roses like moist, well-draining soils but hate being waterlogged. Overwatering usually occurs if the soil doesn’t provide enough drainage and can lead to severe problems like root rot.

Overwatering is more common if your rose is growing in dense clay soils. I improve the soil drainage by mixing in some fine grit, perlite, or sand. I’ll then let my plant dry out a bit more before watering it again.

2) Underwatering

I find that underwatering is another common reason why roses develop yellowing leaves. Roses need consistently moist soils and will struggle if they dry out. Underwatering is a big concern during hot, dry summers and periods of drought.

Roses that are suffering from underwatering will have wilting or yellowing leaves. In my experience, the soil around the base of the rose may also be dry and cracked. To improve water retention for loose, sandy soils, I recommend mixing some organic matter into the soil. During hot, dry summers, I’ll water roses every three or four days.

3) Not Enough Sunlight

I find that roses may also develop yellow leaves if they don’t get enough sunlight. They need approximately six hours of full sun daily, preferably in the morning. Without plenty of sunlight, they will struggle to produce beautiful flowers or healthy growth.

From what I’ve observed, roses that aren’t getting enough sunlight typically have weak, floppy, or leggy stems. They will also have stunted growth and may not produce flowers if they don’t get enough sunlight.

To fix the issues, plant roses in a sheltered spot with plenty of full sun in the morning. Climbing roses and thornless climbing roses can often have particular challenges if large sections are shaded throughout the day.

4) Incorrect Temperature

Most roses are reasonably hardy and can grow in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 11. However, based on my experience, some varieties don’t cope well with heat.

Rose plants that are getting overheated may develop yellow leaves that start to wilt. In hot climates, I recommend planting your roses in a sheltered spot that receives shade in the afternoon. You can also apply a layer of mulch to help your rose conserve water in hot conditions.

5) Lack of Nutrients

I find that roses can also suffer from yellowing leaves if they aren’t getting enough nutrients. To thrive, they need rich soils that provide plenty of nitrogen and phosphorus. Without sufficient nutrients, they’ll produce weak or stunted growth and yellow leaves.

I enrich loose, sandy soils by mixing in plenty of compost and organic matter. Loam and clay-based soils are my favorites, and provide plenty of nutrients.

However, I find that clay soils will need to be mixed with grit, sand, or perlite to improve drainage. Fertilize roses once leaves emerge and then after each round of blooms finishes.

6) Too Much Fertilizer

While fertilizing your roses regularly helps them produce lots of flowers, over-fertilizing them can cause problems. Fertilizers contain strong ingredients, especially synthetic fertilizers. If these chemicals and salts build up too much in the soil, your rose’s leaves may get burned and turn yellow.

I recommend always watering your rose plant before you apply a dose of fertilizer. I like to dilute liquid fertilizers according to the packet instructions. Most roses should only be fertilized a couple of times a year. I find that repeat-blooming roses need a dose of fertilizer after each round of flowers finishes.

7) Incorrect Soil pH

I’ve observed that my roses can also suffer from yellow leaves if the soil conditions aren’t quite right. Roses like neutral to slightly acidic soils with pH levels between 6.0 and 7.0. Soils that are too acidic or too alkaline aren’t suitable for roses and may cause the leaves to turn yellow.

I find that the best method is to use a soil testing kit to determine whether the pH levels of my soil are suitable for roses. If the soil pH isn’t quite right, I’ll look to adjust it. To do this, I simply mix in some sulfur or ericaceous compost to make the soil more acidic. To make the soil more alkaline, mix in some lime.

8) Diseases or Fungal Infections

Plant leaves that appear to be suffering from a fungal infection or disease

In my experience, roses are vulnerable to several diseases that can turn the leaves yellow. Fungal infections like black spot and rose mosaic virus are some of the most common culprits. Some diseases aren’t strong enough to kill your roses, while others can be fatal.

I try to prevent diseases by giving my roses plenty of space away from other plants. This improves air circulation and reduces the risk of disease transmission. I also water my rose plants at the base rather than above, as splashing water on the leaves can lead to fungal infections.

9) Pest Infestations

Roses can also fall prey to numerous pests, such as aphids and spider mites. If your rose is suffering from a pest infestation, yellow leaves can be one of the main symptoms. Other symptoms I’ve observed include drooping leaves and visible concentrations of insects.

I eliminate pests using insecticidal soap or horticultural oils like neem oil. You can also dislodge aphids and insects using quick hose blasts. Strong, healthy roses should be able to weather minor pest infestations as long as you provide the right growing conditions.

10) Seasonal Conditions

Speaking from experience, seasonal factors can also cause your roses to develop yellow leaves. Roses are deciduous perennials that lose their leaves during the fall and winter. As such, the leaves can start to turn yellow in the fall just before dropping off.

It may be a seasonal thing if you can’t see any symptoms of other common causes of rose leaves turning yellow. However, if the leaves turn yellow during spring or summer, it could be due to other problems.

Wrapping Up

Roses have attractive leaves that can turn yellow for a variety of reasons. Common causes of rose leaves turning yellow include overwatering, underwatering, a lack of sunlight or nutrients, and over-fertilizing. Many of these problems can be prevented by giving roses the best possible conditions and care.

Contributing Editor | edd@petalrepublic.com | Full Bio

Edd is a budding content writer and gardener living in the United Kingdom. He has a bachelor's degree in Creative and Professional Writing and has written for several gardening publications online. He is passionate about nature and sustainability with a focus on gardening and wildlife.

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