Rose Slug Damage
After noticing the leaves on my hybrid drift roses were mysteriously gone, I discovered my plants were crawling with bristly rose slugs. I thought they just weren't getting enough water, and I fear I may have made the realization about the pest issue too late. Several bushes have literally lost all of their foliage. They still have some blossoms on them, but I don't know if they can recover from the damage inflicted by the slugs. Is there anything I can do to encourage new leaf growth?
Genesee County Michigan
Rose slug damage has been widespread this year.
Keep the plants mulched 3-4 inches deep but pulled back from the stems. Water slowly and deeply, keeping the stems and whatever leaves that are left dry. Check soil below mulch and if it is dry in the top inch or two, water the plant. If you haven’t fertilized in the last 6 weeks, give a 1/2 dose of liquid fertilizer in the root zone. During weather over 90 degrees, do not apply any chemicals. If the roses seem droopy in very hot ( greater than 90 degrees) afternoons, consider temporarily shading them on the west side until they have leafed back out. You can suspend a piece of floating row cover, burlap, or cheesecloth on tall stakes or bamboo poles in the ground.
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One additional thought- other pests of rose, such as Japanese beetles, are becoming active about now. So, watch the plants for these. If feasible you can completely net over or cover the shrub with light weight floating row cover to keep beetles off while the roses push out new leaves. While not attractive, it will give them the best chance to re-leaf, and you can always clip some roses to take inside and enjoy.
Thank you, Laura, for the speedy response. What brand of fertilizer do you recommend? I will try to shade them in the coming days as it is expected to get exceptionally hot this weekend. I will try to get a few photos of the damage tomorrow when there is good light.
Any fertilizer labeled for use on roses is fine. Liquid fertilzer is usually milder and gentler on plants. We usually don’t fertilze plants under stress, but roses are heavy feeders and usually are fertilzed about mid June. So, using one of the liquid ones availabe at a garden center or garden department in a store is fine- Miracle Gro, Bonide, Petersens, and many other companies make liquid ones. Read the dosage for rose shrubs and cut it in half. Good luck, I think this and good care thru this summer will get them going.