No one wants to see the word virus at this point.

I didn’t write this article last year because so many people were taking needed refuge in their gardens. Why bring another pandemic, even of the plant variety, to their attention? However, I see this killer virus at over 50% of the homes I visit and many local businesses. If this disease is not controlled, soon knock-out roses will be a thing of the past.

Check your knock-out roses today for Rose Rosettes Disease. This incurable disease causes abnormal growth; witch’s brooms, excessive and pliable thorns, small twisted leaves, and extreme red growth. It will kill the plant. No amount of pruning, fertilizing or watering will save it once it is infected, and the virus is widespread in the area.

Unfortunately, many homeowners either don’t know or care, and businesses don’t want to invest the money to replace them. The problem with that is If you leave your viral rose, it is going to die, but it may take it a while, and while it is sitting there looking terrible and slowly dying, it has the potential to spread the virus to your neighbors. All of this trouble is spread by a microscopic mite; you won’t know that it’s there, and you won’t know when it’s gone. You won’t know it’s an issue until your roses start showing symptoms. And, if you leave the infected rose, the mites can spread to infect other roses in the area. Once the rose is diseased ripping it up is inevitable, it is already in its demise; but don’t take out all the neighborhood roses with you by leaving it in its place to spread the virus. Remove any roses with Rose Rosettes Disease as soon as you identify the problem.

Knock-out roses have great characteristics. They have an extremely long season of color, are disease-resistant and can take the variable Georgia weather. But because of their popularity, millions have been planted. Their abundance allows this virus to spread easily. If you have to replace your roses, or are just looking for an alternative, try these instead: dwarf vitex, American beautyberry, Hardy Hibiscus, Blueberries, or even tall herbaceous plants.

No one wants to lose plants they have invested in and spent time caring for. But please, check your roses immediately for Rose Rosettes Disease. If you think you may have it but are unsure, contact me at the Barrow County Extension office.

Alicia Holloway is the Barrow County Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent. She can be reached by e-mail at, by phone at 770-307-3029, or by stopping by the Barrow County Extension Office at 90 Lanthier St., Winder. Follow Barrow County Extension on Facebook at @BarrowCountyExtension.

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