Problems, pests and diseases

Why are the leaves on my rose bush turning yellow and falling off?

Last updated on January 21st, 2020

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It can be nothing short of frustrating to see your rose bush leaves turning yellow. The yellow tinge impacts the entire look of your bush. There are several reasons why the leaves on your rose bush might be turning yellow and fall off, and being able to narrow down the cause will make it easier to rectify and help the rose bush recover to its previous glory.

Lack of light causing lower leaves to turn yellow and drop off

There are times when the top leaves on your rose bush prevent the lower leaves from getting adequate sunlight. When this happens, the bottom leaves turn yellow and drop off. You will notice a distinct difference in colour between the top levels of leaves and those are at the bottom if this is the culprit. If some areas of foliage are not getting the right amount of sunlight for growth, you can prune as necessary but rest assured this is a regular cycle and won’t harm the overall health of your rose bush. These are where pruning your rose bush to remove crossing branches and opening up the centre to allow for better airflow and for the light into the centre of the rose bush

Heat stress from radiant heat from the ground

If you have yellow leaves on your rose bush, it can be the result of too much radiant heat. If the area above the bush or the ground below the bush retains too much heat, that heat will radiate up into the lower part of your rosebush. So, if you notice the lower leaves turning yellow and falling off more than the top leaves, this could be the way your rose bush is trying to distress. If you have too much mulch on the ground, it could be holding in too much heat and reflecting it back into your rose bush. Dark coloured mulch, in particular, does this with rose bushes so if you have dark mulch you might consider swapping it out for light-coloured mulch. 

Heat stress is another common cause of yellowing and falling leaves. Rose bushes naturally turn yellow and drop their foliage to try and cool down. In the Uk, this is not usually the case but its still worth considering.

rose bushes in garden

Waterlogged soil

Water problems can cause leaves to turn yellow and fall off. If your rose bush is sitting in standing water, or there is too much water at the base of the bush, when the sun is up, the rays get reflected off that standing water and burn the lower leaves. You can avoid this by making sure you water your roses well without soaking them and leaving lots of water around the base. To avoid this make sure the soil is fertile but well-draining so that the rose is not stood in soggy soil. This can also damage the roots causing the leaves to turn yellow and drop off.

Too much fertiliser not mixed into the soil well enough

Plantworks Ltd Empathy 1kg Afterplant Rose Food with rootgrow
  • Contains root grow mycorrhiza fungi to increase nutrient and water uptake
  • Contains beneficial Nitrogen fixing bacteria and added magnesium
  • Includes seaweed extracts and natural hamates as sources of essential trace elements
  • Promotes better establishment and natural vigour
  • Biologically active, promoting strong healty plants

If you feed your rose bush too much and it gets burned, the leaves will turn yellow in certain places and fall off. Unfortunately, nutrient deficiencies can also be the culprit of leaves turning yellow and falling off. If your rose bush does not have enough iron, magnesium, or nitrogen, it can cause the leaves to turn yellow. The good news is, if this is the culprit and you treat it, the leaves should regain their green colour so long as they haven’t reached the stage where they are falling off. Misdiagnosed the culprit and you treat the wrong deficiency, it will lengthen the amount of time your rose bush is stressed. As a general guide always follow the instructions on rose feed packaging and if using bone meal or fish, blood and bone. Mix only a smaller amount of fertiliser into the soil ad make sure it’s mixed in well.

Pests and Diseases causing yellow leaves often with black spots

rose bush diseases
Blackspot o roses which cause the leaves to turn yellow with black spots.

Pests and diseases also manifest in the form of yellowing leaves. It’s important that you look for other signs of damage on the rosebush if you suspect pest or disease problems, as yellowing leaves are usually just one of many signs. If you what look like diseases we recommend spraying with a systemic insecticide and fungicide which is 3-in-1 action such as Rose Clear Ultra.

Miracle-Gro Roseclear Insecticide, Plant Protection, 1 Litre
  • Systemic insecticide and fungicide with 3-in-1 action
  • Kills systemically and on contact
  • Kills aphids
  • Controls blackspot, powdery mildew and rust
  • Protects for up to 21 days to prevent further attacks

Finding the Right Treatment

It’s essential to treat your plant based on the issue that is causing the leaves to turn yellow. Unfortunately, this might be a bit of a trial-and-error situation. You might be able to discern that the issue is related to water if you have noticed a lot of standing water around the base of your rose bush.

Similarly, you might be able to determine that the problem is a pest because you see pests on the leaves or you find other signs of pests. If you suspect it’s something like a nutrient deficiency, you can always test the soil to see what nutrient might be lacking before you try it and rectify the soil. 

There are, however, some preventative measures you can use. Firstly make sure the soil is fertile and free-draining before planting, if growing in pots make sure there are holes in the bottom of the pot. When you water, always do it early in the morning or in the evening. Rinse off all of the foliage with clean water after a hot day. This will go a long way toward washing off any contaminants that might burn the leaves or any pest problems. Set up a regular feeding schedule and stick with it so that you always give your rose bushes precisely what they need, to prevent nutrient deficiencies. 

Last update on 2021-12-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Welcome to my site, my name is John and I have been lucky enough to work in horticultural nurseries for over 15 years in the UK. As the founder and editor as well as researcher, I have a City & Guilds Horticultural Qualifications which I proudly display on our About us page. I now work full time on this website where I review the very best gardening products and tools and write reliable gardening guides. Behind this site is an actual real person who has worked and has experience with the types of products we review as well as years of knowledge on the topics we cover from actual experience. You can reach out to me at

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