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How to Rid Your Roses of Aphids

Updated on December 13, 2017
OldRoses profile image

Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been a volunteer at Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.

Aphids on a rosebud
Aphids on a rosebud | Source

Aphids are a bane in your rose garden. They feed on new growth leaving shriveled leaves and buds in their wake. Thankfully, getting rid of them is fairly simple.

Know your enemy!

Aphids are tiny insects that come in a variety of colors ranging from white to green to black. If you see aphid damage but no aphids, look at the underside of the leaves.

Aphids reproduce quickly leading to many generations in a single summer. Their preferred food is the sap found in the leaves and stems of your roses. The sap is especially prevalent in new growth so aphids will start feasting on that first. Once they have sucked out all of the available sap from your rose bush, they move on to another plant. Even worse than their feeding habits is that they also spread disease.

Ants are often associated with aphid infestations. Aphids excrete a sweet liquid known as honeydew which is beloved by ants. Ants will, in fact, "farm" aphids by carrying them to plants to feed much as we herd animals in fields. Making sure that the aphids are well fed ensures a steady supply of honeydew for the ants.

Hose ‘em down

The simplest and easiest way to get rid of aphids is using your garden hose. Simply aim a concentrated stream of water at the underside of the leaves and knock them off. You will need to do this every day until you no longer see aphids on your roses.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend

Lady bugs love aphids! It's their favorite food. If you don't already have lady bugs in your yard, you can order them online. Simply release them into your rose garden and they will eat their fill of aphids.


Your local nursery probably carries a large selection of insecticides that work quite well in ridding your roses of aphids. The downside is that they also kill beneficial insects such as lady bugs and pollinators that you need for your vegetable garden. Use sprays that contain insecticidal soaps or horticultural oils instead.

Insecticidal soaps contain potassium salt of fatty acids which react with the outer membrane of soft-bodied insects such as aphids, disrupting it and killing them. The sprays must be applied weekly (more often if it rains) to completely eliminate aphids.

Horticultural oils are usually mineral oils, or occasionally vegetable oils, that coat the outside of aphids and smother them. Like insecticidal soaps, they must be applied frequently and reapplied after rain which will wash them off.

Always read the labels carefully for the correct dilutions and application rates of both insecticidal soaps and horticultural oils.

Make your own sprays

You can make your own sprays using ingredients you already have on hand such as liquid dish soap, rubbing alcohol, cayenne pepper and even Listerine. A quick internet search will find many different recipes. You will need to spray every 2 to 3 days until the aphids are gone. Don't forget to re-apply your spray after it rains.

Aphids can be very destructive. Thanks to their rapid reproduction, they can quickly cover and destroy your roses both by feeding on the new growth and spreading disease. It's important to take immediate action as soon as you see aphids.

© 2014 Caren White


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    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 2 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Good for you! I'm not fond of squishing bugs so I rely on a hose to get rid of aphids.

    • Jill Townley profile image

      Jill Townley 2 years ago from Portland, OR

      I've had surprisingly good luck manually removing aphids. Whenever I see a group of aphids attacking a bloom, I put on an old pair of gloves and squish the little buggers. They don't come back.

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Thanks, Bobbi! My passion are the heirloom roses. So many beautiful flower forms and fragrances. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • PurvisBobbi44 profile image

      PurvisBobbi44 3 years ago from Florida


      I love my roses and thanks for writing this hub. You have many useful hubs---I will be back to read more.

      Bobbi Purvis

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Horticultural oils work best for rose slugs. By the way, they aren't actually slugs. They are the larval stage of flying insects. Hmmm...I feel another hub coming on! Thanks for reading and for the great question!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 3 years ago from United States

      Any advice on getting rid of rose slugs naturally? We've never had them before, but this year, I have a bad case of them on one bush.

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Dawn is sooooo useful! It's used to wash wildlife that get caught in oil spills and works great ridding pests from your garden. Peggy, thanks for reading and pinning.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I have used a few drops of Dawn liquid in a water sprayer and found that to be effective after first hosing the plants down. As you mentioned, one must keep after them until the aphids are gone. I did not know that ants actually "farm" them! Clever creatures!!! Pinning to my gardening section.

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Fourish, I love the Listerine solution too! Thanks for reading and pinning.

      Jackie, make sure you check under the leaves. They're sneaky! Thanks for reading.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Interesting read; I have not even taking a close up look at my roses this year; thanks for the reminder. ^

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Very useful. I love the Listerine solution. Voted up and pinning.