How to Recognize, Manage and Prevent Rose Mosaic Virus on Your Rose Plants

Healthy rose leaves create a gorgeous backdrop for a beautiful flower such as this one.
Healthy rose leaves create a gorgeous backdrop for a beautiful flower such as this one.
The leaves on your rose bushes are supposed to look like this...
The leaves on your rose bushes are supposed to look like this...
...and not like this.  Rose mosaic virus is the most common viral disease in rose plants.
...and not like this. Rose mosaic virus is the most common viral disease in rose plants.

Recognizing Rose Mosaic Virus

  • If it didn't have that nasty word "virus" in it, this disease almost has a poetic sound to it. But, it's not poetic and is, by no means pretty. This virus can affect a lot of vegetables and other plants as well as roses, but we are going to address the problem on roses in this article.
  • Rose leaves, when they are healthy, are green and make a gorgeous backdrop to these beautiful flowers, which are the favorites of millions of people. The flowers come in all colors and sizes, but the one common thing they have in common is that healthy leaves are shiny and green.
  • When you've got rose mosaic virus on your rose leaves, the good news is that the flower is unaffected, but that beautiful backdrop turns into an ugly group of splotchy leaves that you can tell are not disease free. (Roses can also be afflicted with other viral diseases, such as rose rosette disease, rose ring pattern, witches' broom and excessive thorniness). The symptoms of rose ring pattern are very similar to the rose mosaic virus, so take a close look at the photographs I have included. The reason it is called "mosaic" virus is pretty obvious from the patterns it creates on the leaves.

Managing Rose Mosaic Virus

  • You can't blame insects for the spread of this disease, as it is spread by infected rootstocks. Prevention is your only defense against this virus, so when you buy plants, check them over THOROUGHLY for any signs and symptoms of the disease. If you have plants that are infected, don't use them for propagation. Once your leaves have the disease, there is no cure. You could think of it as the "common cold" of rose plants.
  • If you have rose bushes that have this disease, you have two choices - dig them up and destroy them or leave them alone. There is nothing you can do to get rid of the virus.

Rose mosaic virus could look like this...
Rose mosaic virus could look like this...
...or like this.
...or like this.

Preventing Rose Mosaic Virus

  • You must buy plants that are certified as virus free.
  • Pay close attention to the plants you buy and remember that a healthy rose bush is more than just a beautiful flower! The flowering of a rose bush with this disease may be normal, but they will grow slower and be more sensitive to winterkill, and their overall beauty significantly diminished by zigzag patterns in the leaves, which can also become distorted.

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