Ways To Keep Roses From Getting Black Spot

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Although roses are among the most commonly planted flowers, many people don't know the basics about their care and keeping. Local gardener Lisa Caprioglio says the way roses are watered affects their tendency to get black spot.


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Michele Norris. And for this segment, the subject is roses. The delicate flowers have inspired poems and songs. There's a whole subculture devoted to roses. But if we're going to talk about roses, it makes sense to leave the studio and head to the garden. And that's exactly what I did on a recent morning.

So to help us with this thorny topic, we turn once again to Lisa Caprioglio. She's a professional gardener in the Washington, D.C. area, and she's been helping me keep my patch of nature in order. And she's been passing on her gardening wisdom from time to time to our listeners. Hello again, Lisa.

Ms. LISA CAPRIOGLIO (Professional Gardner): Good morning. How are you?

NORRIS: Good, good, good. So we're going to talk about roses. We invited people to send in their questions about roses, and we were hoping that you could answer a few of them. Are you up to it?

Ms. CAPRIOGLIO: Yes, I am.

NORRIS: Okay. Well, let's get right to it.

Mary Carroll Johansson(ph) of Wall, New Jersey writes, my roses have black spots. I've tried spraying, but it comes back every year. Does the way I water the roses affect the black spot, or does the fact that there are other flowers and woodchips in the flower bed affect the black spot? By woodchips, I assume she means the mulch.

Ms. CAPRIOGLIO: She - actually, asking about watering, her instincts are correct. The way that you water roses can affect the tendency to get black spots. Roses are very susceptible to that to begin with. So when you water your roses, there are a couple of ways to try to avoid exacerbating the situation. You can water them in the morning so that the water on the leaves has time to dry off. Or you can water particularly carefully, either using drip irrigation or holding your garden hose carefully. I've got the hose on the setting that makes it kind of like rain, the shower setting. And I'm bending down to water just the soil. So I'm trying as best as I can not to get the leaves. I've also laid down some mulch underneath the rose, and that minimizes the amount of splashing back up as well.

NORRIS: I have another question, and it concerns black spot. It's from Marjorie Ehrens-Baron(ph). She's from Newton, Massachusetts, and she grows hybrid tea roses. And she says her biggest challenge in the garden is black spot. Her question is do you favor a separate treatment or three-in-one fertilizer, insecticide and fungicide? So, a separate, specific treatment or a three-in-one?

Ms. CAPRIOGLIO: Well, I have a very useful tool for a rose that, over the years, have gotten black spots again and again, despite good cultural practices. I get out my shovel, and I dig it out and I throw it away.

NORRIS: Ow! Ouch! Just get rid of the rose? That was not the answer that Ms. Ehrens-Baron, I'm certain, was looking for.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CAPRIOGLIO: You know, if year after year, you've been taking good care of your plant and you've been feeding it properly and watering it properly and year after year it's getting a disease, it's time to get rid of it and make another choice.

NORRIS: But people think of roses as their children, and you wouldn't put one of your children out on the curb if they were troublesome.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CAPRIOGLIO: It's a plant. It is a plant, and you want your plant to look beautiful. And it's true. There is a nurturing tendency. I have it, too. And you have to look at the bigger picture and say, well, how many chemicals am I willing to put into the environment so that I can have this plant? Whatever she's doing - whatever Marjorie's doing in her garden and all the fungicides and pesticides that she's spraying affect not only her space, but her neighbor's space and her whole neighborhood ecosystem. It's all winding up in her water supply.

NORRIS: Lisa Caprioglio, always good to talk to you.

Ms. CAPRIOGLIO: It's always good to talk to you, Michele.

NORRIS: Lisa Caprioglio, she's a professional gardener in the Washington, D.C. area, and she joins us in the garden from time to time to share her wisdom.

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