Rose Rosette Virus

February 14 is the traditional date for North Texas gardeners to prune their roses for spring.  This year, as we prune our roses, it is very important to inspect them for signs of a deadly rose virus that is sweeping through North Texas.

Our roses are currently facing a threat that we need to learn how to identify in order to prevent its spread.  The virus, Rose Rosette Virus, has been in the United States since 1941, but recently it has shown a rampant growth in North Texas.  Scientific studies show that RRV is passed from rose to rose via a microscopic mite, the erophyid mite.  Left unchecked, this mite spreads the fatal rose virus.

Here’s what to look for to identify RRV-infected roses: an abnormal red, bushy growth, sometimes referred to as a “witches broom”.  Not all varieties exhibit this red growth and may instead exhibit a strange, gnarled growth that may be red or green.

If you notice this abnormal growth on your roses, it is time for quick and concise action. Remove the rose, including all the roots, bag and dispose of the plant.  There is no cure for the virus.  The only way to kill the virus is to kill the infected rose plant.

RRV education is the key in preventing its spread.  The rose you take out today may save the rest of the roses in your garden (or in the surrounding properties) tomorrow.

So what is a rose-lover to do?  There is no contamination of the soil after a rose and its roots are removed.  You can plant a rose in the same spot one week after the rose is removed.  Also, consider using a mix of plants with your roses.  Mixing Texas-adapted plants with roses will provide color with rose blooms in the garden and will prevent the spreading of RRD through a sweep of rose bushes.

If you plan to wait to try roses again, consider these options.  Texas-adapted plants such as Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii), Rock Rose (Pavonia lasiopetaia), Orange Zest (Cestrum aurantiacum), and Hardy Hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) are continuous blooming choices.

If you suspect your rose has RRV, bring a sample, sealed in a zip-lock bag to Denton County Extension for help with identification. North Texas Master Gardeners are working together to share information about RRV.   Check dcmga.com (940-349-2892) and ccmgatx.org (972-548-4232) for more information.

Sharrie Ely, Denton County Master Gardener  (Published in the Denton Record Chronicle)

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