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Springtime means the landscape is greening up and flowers are finally in bloom…yes, even here in the desert Southwest. I grew up in the Midwest, so I know that’s hard to believe. Here’s photo proof from a corner of my backyard.
My Beautiful Roses
My very favorite plant is my lovely Pope John Paul II rose bush. I picked this rose out from hundreds nearly 3 years ago for Mother’s Day. I’m a frugal and practical person, so my thinking was it is a better use of our money to buy a plant that will keep producing flowers rather than accepting a one-time bouquet. Honestly, I did not have high hopes for the survival of this bush. It is really hard to keep things alive through our hot summers! My expectations were low.
Happily, I was wrong and roses are some tough plants! We get a high yield of fragrant and gorgeous blooms to enjoy! They are pretty straightforward to care for, and planting in the right spot is half the battle. From my experience, pests seem to be the biggest thing about roses that can make them high maintenance.
What are those tiny green bugs?
Of the pests I have encountered, aphids are among the most unsettling. They are tiny, crawling green bugs that huddle up on the green base of the rosebud, along the stem, and on the underside of the blooming flower. They blend in using darned camouflage so that until you take a closer look, you might miss them. Then much to your horror, you notice the tiny army camped out on your gorgeous flower you are on your way inside with. Eew!
How do you get rid of them?
Luckily, you can quickly get rid of aphids on your roses. You do NOT need dangerous chemicals to do it! In fact, a strong spray of water from the hose is enough to dislodge these critters. However, they will come back if you only use water. Oil or soap mixed with water is often the natural recommendation you will hear. These substances kill the insects on contact rather than acting as a poison, so they must be sprayed directly on the aphids.
Why not use Dawn or Murphy Oil Soap?
Dawn dish liquid is frequently recommended for an aphid plant spray. However, Dawn is not great for the environment as it has been shown to cause harm to aquatic creatures and pose a risk to humans. The other soap you may be advised to use for this purpose is Murphy Oil Soap. This too has chemicals in it that are cause for concern for humans who use it as well as for the environment. EWG rates both a “C.” These are examples of how you cannot assume that something is safe and nontoxic simply because it is commonly used in homes.
A Truly Non-Toxic Aphid Spray For Your Roses
Castile soap is a natural and nontoxic plant-based soap comprised of several different oils including hemp, olive, and coconut. EWG rates it an “A” with low/no concern for toxicity and harm to the environment. If you saw my post on Green Cleaning DIY | The Ingredients You Need, you may already have some Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap at home. This is the key component in the aphid rose spray that I use. I add peppermint oil as an insect repellant to keep the aphids from returning, but it is not necessary to actually kill the aphids. The water and castile soap do that.
- 2-3 cups of water
- 2 T Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap (any variety)
- 10 drops of peppermint essential oil
Simply mix all of your ingredients together in a spray bottle. Spray all over the underneath side of each flower, making sure that you thoroughly spray any visible aphids. Since aphids feed in particular on tender new growth, be sure to coat any newly forming buds with the solution as well.
Keeping a close eye on your rose bush during the blooming season is really the best defense for the pests that can harm your rose. About once a week, or at the first sign of aphids, give each bloom a spray to keep the little buggers away. Aphids are no match for this rose spray!
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