August Rose Tips for Spokane

Tidily WinksThis article was written by our Master Rosarian, Lynn. It was part of the August News letter. (Click here to read the letter.)

This is the time when we get so busy with other things from work to vacations to kids going back to school shortly that it is easy to let the roses take a “back seat,” and that’s when things can go wrong. If your roses don’t receive the proper water, they will be stressed, and that is just when the spider mites take advantage…and take hold.

Remember to Wash Your Roses

Madame Alfred Carrière Rose

Like humans, roses like a bath, getting the undersides of their leaves cleaned off, and even the tops. With all the drought we are experiencing, there seems to be dust everywhere, and a shower in the morning hours allows the plants to dry off thoroughly before evening and also before any extreme temperatures could burn the leaves where water droplets remain. I can’t emphasize enough the need to WATER, WATER, WATER.

I know we are blessed with a good water source and many other places around the country are telling people to conserve and only water on limited days and for certain amounts. Even here I have heard of wells dropping in water levels, so it could be a problem for those people if we don’t get our much-needed rains this fall. All you need to do is look at the weather maps and see how much of the western part of the United States is being hit with the extremes of drought and heat to know we are not alone!

About Those Darn Spider Mites

Spider mite webbing
Spider mite webbing, from

Spider mites are not to be ignored. If you have an infestation of them, they will defoliate the plant quickly. Look for dull-looking leaves, leaves that have lost their shiny look. Then turn the leaf over and you will see fine webbing. A check with a hand-held microscope will make your skin crawl as you see these little two-spotted critters enjoying sucking the life out of the leaf.

I found Grower’s Edge Illuminated Microscope, 60x – 100x on Amazon at $19, plus tax and shipping, which looks similar to the one I used to recommend at Radio Shack. Their stores are no longer available here, and a search of their website brought up nothing like what I have. Anyway, if you want to get a close-up of these nasty critters, the Grower’s Edge product might be something you would like to check.

Back to the problem, though. You don’t want to just let nature take its course with spider mites. The leaves are the food factories for your roses, and going into winter in a “hungry” state is NOT a good idea. Keep your roses healthy, and in this case you have a choice of using a water wand every two or three days, spraying with a strong fine spray up under the leaves to wash off what you can, or using a miticide.

Spider mites revealed
Spider mites revealed

Some of the systemic fertilizers claim to be effective, but unless they have a specific miticide, not just an insecticide, they won’t do the job. I have read that a solution of equal parts of rubbing alcohol and water will kill the mites without harming your roses. I have not tried that, but again, I have not seen spider mites in several years, probably because I have not used products such as Sevin that kill the beneficial insects.

I know it is not my eyesight that is the problem, as I definitely would see leaves drying up. One other organic solution I saw was to make a spider mite spray by mixing 1/4 cup vinegar, 1 tablespoon baking soda and a few drops of liquid dish soap in 1 quart (1 l) of lukewarm water. Spray wherever you see evidence of spider mite activity until they are completely gone. (This will also work on most insects and pests.)

Again, I have not needed to try this, so I have no idea how effective it is. I might add a warning here: If you decide to purchase a specific miticide product, not a combination chemical, they run over $100 on one of my trusted sites,, so if you have a small garden this would be a last resort, as the miticide is in a quantity more than you will ever need. It is best to try the water spray method or a water wand. You don’t want to waste your time with the shower head type of water wand, as the spider mites may just sit there and laugh at you as they take a bath!

You can check “high pressure water wands” on the Internet, and look for the kind that has a flexible end so you can turn it upward, under the leaves. They are around $20, so it isn’t a huge expenditure. Whatever you do, don’t ignore the problem, as the spider mites multiply at alarming rates. They seem to enjoy miniature roses, but I think it is because they are close to the ground and easy to navigate.

How About Some Alfalfa Tea and Fertilizer?

Fertilizer, in the Spokane area, was applied for the last time in mid-July, but that was only regarding the granular types. If you see your roses need a perk-me-up you might want to make some alfalfa tea for them.

To make alfalfa tea…

  • put about eight to ten cups of alfalfa meal or pellets into a 30 gallon plastic garbage can,
  • almost fill the can with water, cover and let bake in the sun for three to five days.
  • You can add a tablespoon of instant fertilizer such as Miracle-gro, stirring it in well (there are 16 tablespoons in a cup if that helps in your measuring, so 1 1/2 cups of Miracle-gro will work) and …
  • apply a gallon of this to each large rose or about half that for the miniatures. Alfalfa contains a growth hormone called triacontanol and is recommended as a spring tonic to make the roses more robust and healthy.

But Aren’t Roses Fussy and Difficult?

The Roger Lambelin Rose
The Roger Lambelin Rose

Having said all these things, I want to add that roses are not the fussy, fragile plants some would like to portray. They are shrubs, and if you want boring then just plant some evergreen shrubs around your yard, but they will give you no more color than the greens and yellows. They also like water, and they harbor other insects.

Yes, you can have a yard service come to spray your evergreens and lawn during the summer months, but there is still that lack of color and often fragrance to make you want to spend time outside enjoying your garden.

If you have grown roses for a number of years, you know what I mean. My own home garden has around 200 rose residents of all types, sizes and colors. Every spring I can’t say I look forward to pruning all of them, but as I get into it I find my body is more limber, so at 80, as long as I can prune my own roses I intend to continue on.

This past spring brought on a more brilliant display than I believe I have ever seen… that is until we got the 100+ temps the end of June, and that brought a sudden end to the display. But again, roses are resilient and now they are giving me the last hurrah before – dare I use the foul word – winter!

Enjoy the roses! They are not finished showing off their beauty for some time yet this year.

A Couple of Videos on the Spider Mites

This one covers the basics of the mites, as well as control.

This video is similar, but goes into more detail. About 20 minutes long.

Damage from Rose Girdlers

Resurrecting this 2014 article…

Last fall (2013) we got hit by some suspicious bulges on a couple of our roses. Our Eddie’s Jewel, completely unaffected by our winters, was hit rather hard by these things. The entire cane above the bulge typically dies. I didn’t see any of these on any of our mini rose, nor on any of the “old garden” roses. It turns out that we were zapped by Rose Girdlers, a type of beetle (actually the larva.)

A friend of Lynn’s sent the following: “the damage appears to be that of the rose rose girdler, a buprestid beetle that girdles the canes right under the bark. The tell tell sign is the swollen areas and the girdling inside the stems. The larvae are very distinctive. They are usually flattened dorso-ventrally and the thoracic area is flattened and enlarged. Overall, the larvae look like a car key.

“Unfortunately, these beetles are hard to control. Protective insecticides would need to be applied when infestations are really bad. Some of the insecticides with a long residual action have been taken off the market so there isn’t anything good out there that I would recommend anymore.”

So I did a little googling of the buprestid beetle and found a few things. Most of them seem to attack trees, but the method is the same. The adult bores a small hole, lays an egg, and the emerging larva eats away at the soft, yummy tissue under the bark. The rose reacts by swelling st the point of injury, but that doesn’t seem to do much.

The adults seem to be harmless, other than drilling holes where they are not at all wanted.

Here’s some info that I found on these things:

  • Various pics of the larva. I didn’t see any of these in any of the cuts I made, just the damage left by them.
  • This PDF has a lot of info on wood boring beetles in general, including some idea on controlling them.
  • Bug of the Week has some nice info on these guys, as well.

Pics of the Damage

I don’t have any pics (yet) of either the adults or the larva. Hopefully our cold winter killed them off. Most of them anyway.

Click them images for a larger view. All of the pics below were from one plant, though several others were also affected. Sometimes they seem to attack a joint (where it branches off) and sometimes mid-cane.

Rose girdler damage
Rose girdler damage

Note the ring bulge and the tiny hole in the pic below. Is that the entry point? Where the egg was laid?

Rose Girdler entry point?
Rose Girdler entry point?

My poor rose…

Rose Girdler damage
Rose Girdler damage

And some tracks…

Rose girdler tracks
Rose girdler tracks

Really Big Ants – Modoc Carpenter Ants

Resurrecting an old post, from 2013 …

So we’ve been seeing some really big ants wandering about. Turns out that these are Modoc Carpenter Ants and they look a lot like this guy, except that they’re about 3/4″ long. They’re pretty distinctive, just from the size. If you see really big ants wandering about, it’s them. We’ve seen at least a couple inside the house, and several, including flyers, outside.

Our Senske guy told us about the ants.  Apparently a lot of them came in on the big winds we had a few days ago and they’re all over the place. Here’s the winged form, which had the misfortune to connect with the stuff that Senske sprayed around the house (for pest control.) It’s about the size of a dime, maybe 3/4″ long if hale and hearty.

These guys like to nest in wood. They have a primary nest, usually near a moist area, and then some to many satellite nests in the area. Your wood frame house can be host to such a nest. They don’t eat the wood, but the do tunnel through it and that includes through the wood structure of the house.  What do they eat?  It isn’t wood or your socks, it’s small bugs, spiders, millipedes, aphid sap, pet food, and various other items.)

They also like wood piles, dead tress, stumps, probably live trees that have frost damage, and so on. As you might guess, having wood piles next to the house isn’t such a hot idea.

The will eventually build big colonies, but they do not do it quickly. So if you see them about you have time to decide if you have an issue or if they’re just scouts looking for some lunch for the colony. The links below will answer any other questions about these guys.

Here’s some additional info: