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This rose is at least 30 years old and struggling with resistance to diseases and pests attacks.

I treat it religiously to protect it from black spot, mildew....

However, this summer has been very hot and dry which hasn’t helped! It also gets a lot of manure in the winter for strength and health.

However,

I feel it is struggling more and more and think it needs drastic action. Probably cutting it right down and hope for brand new shoots to come back. What would you advise and why?

My poor Rose

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The average attractive and useful life span of a rose is around 35 years - some can go on longer, if they've been fed and thickly mulched for most of their lifetime.

Personally, I'd get rid of it and plant something else - rose sickness may occur if you try to plant another rose in the same spot, but using a mycorrhizal product such as Rootgrow in the planting hole may stop that happening. Alternatively, take the opportunity to plant something different that suits the conditions and space available.

If you still want the rose and want to try to regenerate it, then yes, some drastic pruning back in spring is called for. You don't say where you are in the world, but in the UK, that kind of pruning would take place last week of February or first week of March. I'd remove the gnarly old wood down to about 2 inches, and any newer, healthier looking wood to about 8 inches. If you do this, you'll need to keep an eye on it to rub out any incipient growth buds which might be breaking in the wrong direction - you want new branches going away from the centre of the bush, not growing inwards, and nor do you want branches growing which cross each other and rub together later, so some minor, subsequent formative pruning may be necessary. It's also essential to make sure any sucker growth off the rootstock is removed - cutting back so drastically might induce the rootstock to produce lots of growth, which you don't want.

Whether you feed or not at that time is dependent on where you are, but certainly in the south of the UK at the end of March, I'd apply a specialist granular Rose Food, and top off with a layer of composted horse manure, making sure to keep it away from the base of the stems. Then it's a case of wait and see what happens - if it does grow again, most Rose Food instructions say to reapply 6-8 weeks later, so do that too. And keep up the usual spray regime as it leafs out, if it does.

  • That’s what I thought as well. I am in the UK, Cotswolds. I have to do what I can to revive as it has a sentimental value to my wife. But I know a drastic measure could kill it. If I leave it, it’ll die anyway and infect the others as well...so... a no brainer really – user33232 Sep 7 '18 at 18:46
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    If it has sentimental value, you could also take some cuttings, instructions here gardenersworld.com/how-to/grow-plants/how-to-take-rose-cuttings. If any of them take and grow, they may not be as vigorous as this one because they won't be grafted onto a vigorous rootstock, but in principle, its still the same rose. And I thought that looked like a UK garden - but could have been somewhere else in Europe! – Bamboo Sep 7 '18 at 18:48
  • From my training I know that taking cuttings is also doomed due to the rust, Black spot and powdery mildew. The plant was fine and quite healthy whilst I was treating it but the drought has just been too much for it. I will take it down to the ground when it’s time and mulch it extensively with manure through the winter. Thanks for your opinion. I will maybe take hardwood cuttings for better results. – user33232 Sep 7 '18 at 20:34
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    Your rose is dying. Everything has a limit to life. When a plant or animal is dying of old age they are more susceptible to everything; rust, insects, bacterial disease. It is not the rust that is causing this more rapid decline. There is a problem with cloning this plant. The root stock doesn't come with the clone. Roses are rarely one whole plant, usually a graft of a pretty rose on root stock that is hardier yet has boring flowers. If you clone a leaf (or young stem with leaf) you will only get the top rose with whimpy roots. Worth a try. I certainly would not plant in the same spt – stormy Sep 7 '18 at 22:14
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    @stormy - nope, that's not what I said, your comprehension is incorrect. Read every word of the final paragraph again, carefully... – Bamboo Sep 8 '18 at 8:06

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