How to get rid of aphids on roses: signs of damage & treatment

Patrick
Patrick
Patrick
Patrick

I am currently working on my master's in agricultural sciences, specialising in plant sciences. In my free time, I am passionate about growing my own fruit and veg. I find a real sense of balance gardening at my parent's house. When I'm not in the garden, I like to go hiking to discover amazing photo ops.

Favourite fruit: currants and blackberries
Favourite vegetables: carrots, mushrooms and onions

Even the queen of the flowers herself can fall victim to aphids. This article is all about how to successfully combat aphids on roses, which household remedies work best and how to prevent aphids on roses.

aphids on rose bushes
Unfortunately roses are attractive host plants for aphids [Photo: r_silver/ Shutterstock.com]

Just imagine looking forward to the splendid colours and unique scent of your roses in summer. But as soon as the first flower buds appear on your rose plant, you make an unpleasant discovery: deformed, shiny and sticky leaves. These are typical symptoms of an aphid infestation. Aphids can cause severe damage on leaves and flowers. They suck on the sugary phloem juice of roses, weakening the growth of the shoot. A severe aphid infestation can even lead to the death of rose buds. To save your beautiful flowers from the little pest, we will explain how to detect an aphid infestation, treat aphids on roses in an environmentally friendly way and prevent a new or recurring infestation. In addition to various household remedies, there are also very effective natural methods to control aphids on roses.

Aphids on roses

Once aphids settle on your roses, they will quickly multiply , which is why you should regularly check your roses for aphids. But how to identify an infestation of the tiny green bugs? You can see aphids with the naked eye. They tend to sit close to each other at the tips of shoots and flower heads. They are only a few millimetres in size and can be green, black, red or white in colour. Green aphids on roses (Macrosiphum rosae) are the most common.

Further indicators include deformed and curled leaves on the shoot tip and hanging flower buds. With a severe infestation, flower buds will even fall off the plant. These symptoms are caused by the aphids’ sucking activity on the plant, which result in a large local loss of water. Beneath the aphids leaves are often covered with sticky honeydew glistening in the sun. The sticky substance contains a lot of sugar. Because of the sugar on the leaves, black sooty mould easily starts to settle, which can further weaken the plant by hindering photosynthesis.

Tip: The increased occurrence of ants on a plant is yet another sign of an aphid infestation. Ants eat the honeydew , a sugary excretion of the insects. Ants protect the aphids from predators and encourage them to suck even more plant sap. That way, ants even promote an infestation.

Symptoms of aphid damage on roses:

  • little green bugs on roses a few millimetres long, sitting at the tips of shoots
  • Deformed and curled leaves
  • Hanging flower buds and shoot tips
  • Sticky and shiny leaves due to honeydew
  • Sometimes black sooty mould
  • Increased occurrence of ants on the plant
small green bugs on roses
Aphids like to settle on young shoots and buds and start sucking plant sap [Photo: Radu Bercan/ Shutterstock.com]

Aphids on roses: treatment

What to do if you discover an acute aphid infestation on your rose plant? The aim should be to stop the aphids’ sap-sucking as quickly as possible and then get rid of them.

Plant protection products fall into two categories – natural and synthetic agents. Synthetic agents are potentially harmful to beneficial insects and should therefore not be used in the garden or at home. We always recommend natural methods of pest control in order to protect the environment.

A very effective and natural alternative to synthetic products are neem-based products. The active ingredient is neem oil, which is obtained from the seeds of the neem tree. The purely plant-based ingredient in neem oil is absorbed by the aphids when they feed on the sap of the plant. The insects lose their appetite after a few hours and stop damaging the plant. In addition, the active ingredient interferes with the growth and development of the aphids, causing them to perish. What is more, the active ingredient of neem-based products spread throughout the plant, which is why even hidden aphids are affected by systematic treatment.

Aphid control using household remedies

Getting rid of aphids on roses is also possible with home remedies, especially in case of less severe infestation. Here are the two most effective homemade methods for aphid control:

Home remedy no 1: soap solution

You can make a homemade aphid spray for roses using liquid soap. To do this, make a soap solution with fragrance-free pure curd soap or soft soap. Mixing ratio is 200 millilitres of soap with one litre of water. Other dishwashing detergents are not suitable, however, as they could damage the plants. Apply the solution onto the entire infested area using a spraying bottle. This creates a film of lye under which the aphids run out of air to breathe. To achieve the best results, spray the infested plant several times a day. When your roses are no longer visibly infested with aphids, you can stop the treatment.

How to use soap solution against aphids on roses:

  • Mix curd soap or liquid soap with water (200ml soap with 1 litre water)
  • Spray several times a day on the infested plant parts
natural aphid spray for roses
Curd soap is a favourite among household remedies against aphids [Photo: sumire8/ Shutterstock.com]

Home remedy no 2: nettle extract

Another natural way to get rid of aphids are stinging nettles. Stinging nettles are not only unpleasant for people, but also help combat aphids on roses. You can easily make stinging nettle extract at home:

Soak about 500 grams of fresh green nettles in a pot of five litres of boiling water. Stir the mixture a few times with a wooden spoon, then let it cool down and let it sit for 24 hours. That way, the active ingredients inside the nettles, such as formic acid, dissolve in the water. Strain the brew with a fine sieve to prevent the spray bottle from clogging later. You can now spray the extract undiluted onto the infested areas. Repeat the treatment several times a day until your roses are no longer infested with aphids. On days with prolonged sunshine, it is best to postpone the treatment until the morning and evening hours to avoid burning the leaves. Nettle extract not only frees your roses from aphids, but also contains active ingredients such as silica, which will strengthen your plant.

Tip: Save the filtered nettle leaves and dry them. Later on you can use them as a mulch layer in your rose bed. Mix the remaining nettle liquid with water in a ratio of 1:20 and use it as a liquid fertiliser.

How to use nettle extract against aphids on roses:

  • Make a stinging nettle extract from 500 g fresh nettles and five litres of boiling water
  • Let it cool and sit for 25 hours
  • Strain the mixture
  • Spray on the affected plant parts several times a day
aphid on roses treatment
Nettle extract is a natural method to drive away aphids [Photo: Elena Hramova/ Shutterstock.com]

Aphids on roses: prevention

When it comes to aphid infestation, remember: prevention is better than cure. Weakened plants are an easier target for all sorts of pests, including aphids. Aphids are more likely to infest plants that are not as strong, which is why you should provide your roses with sufficient nutrients for them to thrive and become as strong as possible.

When fertilising roses, ensure a good supply of potassium and, at the same time, reduce the amount of nitrogen. Also, magnesium is another component you want to feed your rose with. Our Plantura Rose Food, for example, contains the ideal mix of nutrients for roses.

Plantura Rose Food
Plantura Rose Food

With a long-lasting effect, for healthy soil, child & pet friendly

Another way to prevent aphids from infesting your roses is mixed cultivation. Why grow a simple rose bed when you can have plants of all kinds? Plants with essential oils, such as savory or lavender not only repel aphids, but also look amazing next to roses.

Moreover, you can protect your roses from aphids by supporting beneficial organisms in your garden. Beneficial insects are natural predators of aphids, including ladybirds, ichneumon wasps or gall midges. They will help prevent an aphid infestation of your roses. You can encourage beneficial insects by setting up insect hotels and making your garden beneficial insect friendly. Interestingly, beneficial insects can also be purchased and set free in greenhouses or similar areas, to combat your aphid problem.

Also, aphids cannot hold on to their host plant very well. If you notice a light infestation on your plants early on, just rinse off the shoots with a strong jet of water from the garden hose. Aphid infestations most often occur in spring and early summer, which is why you should check the plants regularly from April onwards.

What is the best way to prevent aphids on roses?

  • Use Plantura Rose Food to fertilise your roses as required, with a good supply of potassium and magnesium
  • Grow a variety of plants alongside roses, including savory and lavender
  • Support beneficial insects in the garden or use them in a targeted manner
  • Spray slightly infested shoots with a jet of water
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