A REAL "Ring of Fire"; what to do with scorched rose bushes?

Last year it was the Spring Refreeze and deer eating the foliage. But THIS year there is a new twist to my garden. It’s the flame-thrower! My boyfriend burns the Bermuda grass lawn every few years, because it enhances the growth and green-up. This year was on the schedule for that.

Now, he certainly was cautious near the rose bed, but the terrain played into the outcome. He built me a 3-terrace rose bed in our very steeply-sloped front yard. Toward the right side, the terraces die into the sloped area, and the rose bed becomes level with the lawn.

If you’ve never burned your lawn, you may not understand that it doesn’t flame up like a dried bush… it mostly smolders and crawls along slowly, hugging the ground. You can’t really SEE flames unless a gust of wind comes along. It takes a while to do a whole yard. Jim uses the (small) flame thrower to help it along.

So, he did this on Tuesday, and didn’t realize it was affecting the rose bushes! Apparently the HEAT from the flames was crawling up the hill, right into four bushes that are closest to the lawn. (Flames never touched the bushes.) He noticed it on Wednesday and told me about it. They didn’t look too bad, actually… the new, small foliage was wilted, but still green for the most part… maybe some orange tinge around the edges.

Today, Thursday, I went out to do yardwork and inspected the 4 bushes. Yikes! 90% of the foliage has turned golden brown, is crinkled, and is hanging straight down. It’s toast. It doesn’t appear that the stems and canes have been damaged, though. Where there are 3-4 inch stems that have had scorched foliage, I can still see some green adjacent to the stem or cane. That seems hopeful! And, on all four bushes, there are other stems that were unaffected (located away from the source of the heat). Photos are below… such as they are!

So… The Questions: What should I do?
-Wait for the dead foliage to drop off, or remove it gently (big task!), hoping new stems will emerge?
-Prune back the stems a bit? Where the foliage is scorched, its all up and down the cane. And again, I don’t think the canes are damaged. May just have to wait and see.
-Dose the bushes up with some 20-20-20 and lots of water, to get things moving again?
-Capture and destroy the flame thrower? :wink:

I appreciate any thoughts or info, or ideas any of you have on this issue!


Well I can’t say I have experienced this before, although one Christmas the holiday flood light caught my mulch on fire and did burn the canes of one bush. The plant survived quite well!

First off, the leaves are obviously dead (assuming new growth?). I would get rid of the leaves and keep the plant watered. I would also consider burnt canes to be like any other damaged cane and remove it. I would not apply synthetic fertilizer until the plant recovers as demonstrated by new foliage. And if the plants don’t make it, I would make your boyfriend buy you new ones :slight_smile:

Thanks, Diane! So far… (and its only been 4 days)… the canes and stems seem to be fine. The bushes have already been pruned, so I don’t want to cut them back further unless they absolutely have to be. Think I’m just gonna remove the toasted foliage and take a “wait and see” on what to do next. We have a nice stretch of warm weather coming right now in North Georgia, so that will help them recover, I hope.

I will follow your advice on not giving them synthetic fertilizer until they recover. I was in the process of giving all the bushes a dose of Mills Magic when this occurred. I went ahead and dosed the tainted bushes as well. I figured a good dose of organics can’t hurt… But I will wait a bit to hit them with the 20-20-20 and such.

Will file a report on how it goes! It’s “whole new event” for me!

Thanks, Jill

You’re heat damaged the bushes. I don’t know if it was hot air from the burning grass or if you’ve cooked the feeder roots which are within the top few inches of the soil from the surface. They are the digestive tract of the bushes. They absorb most of the water and nearly all of the nutrients for the plant. I would not do ANYTHING other than keep them properly watered. You want to watch to see how much they will recover. Water, and perhaps a bit of shade against the hottest sun until they have begun leaving out again are the safest things you can do for them. Don’t spray nor feed them because anything “salty” can push them over the edge and literally kill them. Hopefully they will recover. Fingers crossed for you! You might also see some improvement if you “rain” on them with the hose, presuming you’re not experiencing rains at this time. You need to get moisture into the plants, whether it’s through any remaining living roots or into the canes. I really do hope they survive. From what I can see in your photos, I have doubts.

Thanks, Roseseek, for your response! The feeder roots can’t be burned, because the smoldering grass was 3-4’ away from the plants, and the bases of the bushes are covered with mulch and bark chips… about 3-4" deep. It was just the heat that literally “rolled up the hill”. It’s kind of interesting… One taller bush that is behind the front row, and about 7 feet from the lawn, had a very few leaf sets lightly scorched at the very tip of the front of the bush. The heat rose up past the bushes in the front, and affected the top of that bush.

So, you’re saying "don’t do ANYTHING other than watering. I get the need for watering, but would it hurt to remove the crispy foliage, taking care not to injure any green growth visible next to the canes? Or is it just better to leave them alone for a while… Again, I don’t see any damage to the canes or stems… Hopefully none will appear…

I will keep you all apprised of what transpires in this issue. Interesting…

On the UP side, those are the bushes that the deer like to munch on in the Spring! They will be sorely disappointed this year! (And I may not have to spray deer repellant!)

Thanks again,

You’re welcome. Foliage serves several functions. It produces food; transpires water which draws it from the root tips to the cane tops to produce growth and move water and nutrients through the plant; AND it shades and protects the wood against sun scald. Too hot, too intense direct sun can scald or burn the cane, literally killing the cambium layer beneath the bark, which leads to the death of the cane above the burned area due to lack of sap flow into it. Until new growth emerges to replace the fried growth, it is shielding the canes against potential damage from the sun. I’d leave the fried foliage so it shields the wood until there is new foliage. I’d also just water them until you see the evidence of new growth. THEN I would begin feeding. I hope you’re correct there has been no other heat damage than to the foliage. That would be marvelous. New growth beginning would prove your theory correct. Good luck!

It’s all GOOD news on the “Ring of Fire” front. It took a couple weeks, but the 4-5 bushes that were affected by the heat are all producing new stems and lush foliage. Sugar Moon, which I was most worried about, has blossomed forth with multiple new canes and lush, strong stems from the base of the bush! It suffered from the freezes we had in the winter of 2022-2023, so I’m thrilled to see this new activity. Ring of Fire and Fragrant Cloud are coming along nicely, though slower. Perfume Delight on the other hand is not doing well at all. But I believe that’s more from the 22-23 winter and the loss of canes, than from the heat damage. Not a big loss in my book… She doesn’t hold onto her petals long enough to suit me anyway! And I need the space she is occupying!

Anyway… that’s my report. All’s well that ends well…

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