Rose Bush not Flowering Anymore

(Question)

I have a rose bush that was my aunts that I transplanted to my property 17 years ago. It is over 65 years old. In the last 3 years it has not produced anymore fragrant red roses. There are these small white flowers that have appeared. I have also noticed some rosehips on it. I don’t know what happened or what to do about it. Any input you can give me would be very much appreciated.

 

(Answer)

We are sorry to hear that your rose bush has not been flowering for the past three years.

Given that your rose bush is over 65 years old, our guess is senescence or old age. Roses that are grafted typically do not live this long, so we think your rose is either a species rose or an Old Garden Rose that is growing on its own roots. This gives the rose bush the ability to renew itself indefinitely (in theory anyway) by generating new canes every year to replace the old ones. Each rose cane takes a year or two to mature, then flowers and become productive for another few years, then declines and eventually dies, to be replaced by fresher canes. You can imagine, then, after many years of this process the rose bush would be full of dead or unproductive canes in the centre. It is therefore good practice to regularly remove these dead or unproductive canes to rejuvenate the bush.

The soil under your rose bush is also likely to be exhausted at this point. An amendment of compost would help, and so would the use of a rose-specific slow release fertilizer at the beginning of the season.

As your rose bush matures, so would the vegetation surrounding it. Is it still receiving over 6 hours of direct sun? Or have the trees grown to overshadow it? Roses do not flower well, or at all, when it does not receive enough sunlight.

There is also competition from other plants to consider. We are puzzled by the presence of the “small white flowers” you noted: this sound suspiciously like Rosa multiflora, which is frequently used as rootstock in grafted roses in Canada. It is a very vigorous, even invasive, rose, and all canes that bear these white flowers should be removed immediately. Any vigorous plants growing too close to your rose bush can also be removed or pruned back, to give your rose room to grow.

Here is a link to a previous answer we provided on how to get an old rose bush to bloom again, which contains more detailed information on the care and feeding of roses in general. We wish you the best of luck in getting your rose bush back to blooming!

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