Common Rose Diseases

— Written By

Q: What are the black spots I am seeing on the leaves of my roses?

A: Roses are a popular plant known for their large, elegant flowers. Many gardeners try their hands at growing roses in their gardens and landscapes. Poor disease control is one of the most common causes of failure with roses. Black spot and powdery mildew are important diseases to be aware of when growing roses.

Black spot is the most serious disease of roses in North Carolina. Black spot is a fungal disease that causes circular black spots with a frayed margin on the upper leaf surface. These black spots start small and will enlarge and increase in number. Eventually the infected leaf will turn yellow resulting in premature defoliation. If no action is taken to control the disease, defoliation will continue which will weaken the plant and reduce flower production. These weakened plants will become much more susceptible to other diseases and to winter injury. Black spot spreads from leaf to leaf during wet periods and new spots develop in 5 to 10 days.

Black spot has to be controlled in order to grow good roses. Black spot can not be adequately controlled without a good spray program. Do not let the disease build up before starting a spray program. A complete uniform spray on both sides of leaves is necessary. Spray applications must begin as new growth starts in the spring and continued at 7 to 10 day intervals and after heavy rains for the entire growing season. If the disease occurs, immediately remove infected leaves from the rose garden as they appear and rake up and/or discard old fallen leaves during the winter months. During the winter, remove all leaves from the plants and discard. In the fall prune hybrid tea roses to about 18 inches and destroy the prunings. In the spring, prune again to about 10 to 18 inches and destroy the prunings.

Powdery mildew is a very common fungus disease on roses. Powdery mildew is evident by the white mold that occurs of the surface of young leaves, shoots, and flower buds. The disease causes leaf distortion but less leaf drop than black spot causes. Powdery mildew is usually more severe in shady areas and during cool periods. The fungus is windborne and can increase during periods of heavy dew. The diseased foliage and canes should be removed and destroyed during the growing season along with following a fungicide spray program.

There are several fungicides that can provide excellent control of black spot and powdery mildew. A recommended spray program includes the use of chlorothalonil (Daconil) and alternating with one of the following three fungicides:  triforine (Funginex), propiconazole (Banner Maxx), or myclonbutanil (Immunox, Eagle, or Systhane). Spray applications should be made every 7 to 10 days. Remember when spraying to completely cover all plant surfaces for best results. Read and follow all label directions when using fungicides.

For your gardening, landscape, and lawn questions contact the Wayne County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Plant Clinic on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The plant clinic is a free service open to any Wayne County resident that has home gardening questions. One can reach the Wayne County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Plant Clinic by phone at 919-731-1433, e-mail at, or stopping by Room 100 of the Wayne County Extension Office (208 West Chestnut Street, Goldsboro). People contacting the plant clinic with questions are encouraged to bring samples and/or pictures that could help in reaching a solution. Extension Master Gardeners are trained volunteers with the Wayne County N.C. Cooperative Extension Service.

Learn More!

  • Subscribe to Wayne County Gardening e-newsletter and receive timely gardening information and announcements of upcoming extension gardening events.
    • To subscribe: Visit: Scroll down to enter your email address in the “address” box and click on the subscribe button. You will then receive an e-mail which will direct you to a website to accept the subscription.

Jessica Strickland is an Agriculture Extension Agent, specializing in horticulture for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Wayne County. Horticulture program information can be found at Forward any questions you would like answered from this week’s column to

 Upcoming Wayne County Extension Gardening Programs

  • Listen to our new gardening radio show “What’s Growing with Jessica Strickland” on Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. The show airs on 730 a.m. WFMC.