Unfortunately, for most of us with rose bushes, a time will come when our beautiful roses will be attacked by aphids.
There are mainly two kinds of aphids that attack roses: rose aphids and potato aphids. These tiny pink or green aphids suck the sap out of rose stems, flower buds and leaves, causing the rosebuds to become deformed, the flowers to fall off, and the leaves to curl up and die.
When aphids arrive it’s important to take steps to get rid of them immediately. Aphids reproduce at a shocking rate, and a few aphids turn into a few hundred aphids within days or weeks. Below I’ll give you pictures and details on how to identify the aphids on your roses, explain how the aphids got there, and then give you the best tips and products to get rid of these aphids before they get rid of your roses.
Common aphids on roses
About 30 kinds of aphids attack roses worldwide, but the most common two that you will find in your backyard are rose aphids and potato aphids.
Rose aphids are tiny at 0.07 to 0.14 inches (1.8 to 3.6 mm) long. They are either green, dark pink, or reddish-brown, and they have all the tell-tale characteristics of typical aphids – click here for the 13 ways to identify aphids (with pictures, of course).
Rose aphids are active in spring and early summer, particularly when rose bushes are in full bloom. When a rose aphid lands on your rose bush it starts giving birth to live, pregnant aphids within days. These pregnant aphids give birth to more live, pregnant aphids.
And soon there is a large colony to eat the buds, leaves and shoots on your rose bush.
In late summer, rose aphids give birth to baby aphids with wings. These winged aphids fly to nearby rose bushes or other plants to start new colonies, and again they reproduce very quickly. Rose aphids are quite fussy about what plants they will eat, and they only attack certain plants such as holly, roses, teasel, and valerian.
When the weather starts cooling down in fall, rose aphids stop giving birth to live young and instead lay eggs in rose bushes. These eggs are made to survive the winter and hatch in spring, to start the rose aphid lifecycle again.
If you live in an area with a warm climate and mild winters, a rose aphid colony could survive the winter without dying off, which means you could find rose aphids on your roses all year round!
Potato aphids are usually green but can sometimes be pink. Their abdomens are wider than their heads and midsections making them pear-shaped, which is one of the 13 common traits of all aphids. Potato aphids have antennae that are longer than their body, and the cornicles at the end of their abdomen are outward-facing.
You will usually find potato aphids on your rose bushes towards the end of spring and at the start of summer. This is because potato aphids hatch out of their eggs in mid-spring and live off weeds for the first few weeks or so.
Only then do they move to new host plants, such as cabbages, potato plants, rose bushes, mustard plants, and tomato plants.
Potato aphids leave their secondary host plants at the end of summer to move back to the weeds, where they lay their eggs. The eggs are designed to survive the cold of winter, so that baby potato aphids hatch when spring starts.
White insects on roses
If you find white insects on your roses, they might or might not be aphids. Here are some white insects that might be attacking your rose bushes:
Aphids that leave white skins behind
Roses are commonly attacked by rose aphids or potato aphids, which are green or pink, not white. Baby aphids are called nymphs. Nymphs are smaller versions of adult aphids and are the same color as the adults.
All aphids have an outer skeleton to protect their body, and this skeleton cannot grow as the nymph grows.
As a nymph grows into an adult aphid, it sheds, or molts, its exoskeleton whenever it gets too big for the skeleton. The exoskeletons that are left behind are white and can often be mistaken for white insects on rose bushes.
Midges are not as common as aphids on rose bushes, but they do appear. Adult midges look a lot like mosquitoes with wings, but their larvae are white grub-like insects that leave behind white silk cocoons.
If you see crawling white insects inside your flowers, or you see that your rosebuds aren’t opening or they are turning black, you might have rose midges.
Scales are insects that take hold of the hard, woody parts of a rose bush’s stem and branches. In contrast, aphids only attack the soft and tender parts of a rose bush, especially where there’s new growth.
Scales are usually white, but they can also be gray or brown. If you notice that your rose bush’s leaves are turning yellow or that the leaves and flowers are falling off, check the stem and branches to see if you have scales.
If you see webbing on your rose bush’s flowers, leaves and/or stem, and tiny white insects, you probably have spider mites. The picture below is a good example of what a spider mite web looks like on a rose bush:
These are not insects but arachnids, and they are related to spiders and scorpions.
If left alone, spider mites will quickly fly on the wind and spread to other plants in your yard, damaging them all and eventually killing them.
If you want to know how to identify spider mites and tell the difference between these little guys and aphids, click here for the full list of differences and then how to get rid of them before they cause too much damage.
Where aphids on roses come from
Much like aphids find their way to indoor houseplants, so do aphids find their way to your rose bushes in several ways:
Aphids are brought into your yard
If you buy plants at a nursery or store, there could be aphids on those plants. When you bring the plants home, you introduce these aphids to the rest of your yard, including your rose bushes.
Aphids fly to your rose bushes
Most aphids are born without wings but, when necessary, aphids are born with wings.
These aphids can fly or be carried by the wind to your rose bushes, where they quickly start reproducing and kick off a new colony.
Aphids are born with wings when the seasons start changing and they need to find a place to lay eggs for the winter or a new host plant to live on in the warmer months. But aphids are also born with wings when a rose bush gets overcrowded, and it’s time for some aphids to leave the colony and start a new one on a nearby rose bush or suitable host plant.
Aphids come from your own yard
If you have aphids in your yard on plants or trees, and these aphids enjoy sucking the sap from rose bushes, then there is a good chance that these aphids will find their way to your rose bushes.
They can either fly over to your rose bushes, drop to the ground and crawl across, be carried by you or any pets you have, or even be moved by ants who farm aphids for the sweet honeydew they produce.
The harm aphids do to roses
Aphids do a lot of damage to roses, especially when an aphid colony grows into the hundreds. The most common and first signs of an aphid infestation on a rose bush are deformed buds, wrinkled and curling leaves, and flowers and leaves falling off.
Aphids suck out the plant sap running inside a rose bush, which carries essential nutrients for the plant to grow and stay healthy. Over time, the plant gets weak, unhealthy, and may eventually die.
Below is a list of all the harm that aphids can do to roses:
- Wrinkled, wilted and curling leaves
- Deformed rose buds that never open properly
- A rose bush that struggles to grow and expand
- A sickly, wilted rose bush that is easily attacked and infested by other insects, fungi and diseases
- Lots of sticky goo on the rose bush where aphids drop honeydew as a byproduct of their heavy feeding on plant sap
- Black sooty mold growing on the rose bush where honeydew has dropped
- An ant infestation in your yard as ants farm aphids for the honeydew they produce
- Diseases that are passed to your rose bush by aphids as they fly from plant to plant to find a suitable host
How to get rid of aphids on roses
To be sure that aphids don’t arrive and establish a large colony that spreads, it’s a good idea to check your rose bushes once a week during spring and summer. If you see aphids on your rose bushes, take action straight away – either by removing the aphids by hand or applying one of the aphid control products listed below.
Always use products that are designed to be gentle enough for rose bushes, or you could do more harm than good. Do a test on a small patch before using a product on the entire rose bush if you’re worried, and stay away from strong homemade aphid remedies that require ingredients like vinegar, mouthwash, or cayenne pepper.
Below is a list of the top methods and products from Amazon to get rid of aphids on your roses:
- This Bonide multi-purpose insecticide, fungicide, and miticide for roses is an excellent choice to get rid of aphids and other insects destroying your rose bushes (including scales and midges). It will also kill any black sooty mold growing on the honeydew dropped by aphids.
- If your aphid infestation is not that bad and is still in its early stages, you can try some popular gentle home remedies such as this dish soap spray or making this white oil spray with cheap products you probably already have in your kitchen.
- Kill aphids on contact with this Garden Safe spray. This product is good to get rid of an active aphid infestation on your rose bushes. It’s safe enough to be used on vegetables, herbs and fruits, and can be used up to 10 times per season.
- Fertilize your rose bushes with these BioAdvanced Rose Fertilizer granules. The fertilizer promotes healthy rose bushes, so the bushes can survive aphid and insect attacks. It also kills aphids and other insects, controls fungal growth on the plants, and protects your rose bushes for 6 weeks.
- Spray your rose bushes with this organic Neem oil, making sure you cover the tops and bottoms of all leaves, and that you spray all around the buds, flowers, new shoots and soft stems. When the aphids pierce the rose bush to suck out the sap, they will take in the neem oil. This oil makes aphids sick, so they cannot eat and die.
- Ladybugs eat aphids in your yard, but sometimes the products we use to kill aphids also kill these beneficial insects. If temperatures have passed 60° F (15° C) where you live, there’s a good chance that ladybugs have come out for the summer. If you have active ladybugs in your yard, opt for this organic insecticidal soap that should kill soft-bodied aphids but leave hard-bodied ladybugs alive and well.
- Or you could release live ladybugs into your yard. They will quickly eat up all the aphids on your plants and trees before moving on. This is a great natural, organic, and chemical-free way to get rid of aphids on your rose bushes and the other plants in your yard.
Many websites recommend spraying aphids off rose bushes with a hard stream of water, but this isn’t a very good or effective option: Aphids can easily crawl or fly back onto your rose bushes after hitting the ground. Also, a strong spray of water can damage the tender parts of your rose bushes which is where aphids live, and all the moisture can lead to the growth of mold and mildew on your precious plants.