Rose powdery mildew

Powdery mildew is one of the most common foliar diseases of roses. The white, powdery fungal growth can be very disfiguring, with repeated heavy infection reducing plant vigour. Cultural techniques play an important role in minimising outbreaks, and fungicides can also be used.

Rose powdery mildew

Rose powdery mildew

Quick facts

Common name Rose powdery mildew
Scientific name Podosphaera pannosa
Plants affected Roses
Main symptoms White, powdery fungal growth on leaves and other aerial parts
Caused by Fungus
Timing Summer

What is rose powdery mildew?

Rose powdery mildew is a disease of roses caused by the fungus Podosphaera pannosa. The conspicuous white growth can affect all aerial parts of the plant, producing microscopic spores that spread the disease. High humidity is favourable for infection, and plants growing in areas where air movement is poor or the soil is dry can be severely affected.


You may see the following symptoms:

  • A white, powdery fungal growth on the leaves and shoots. Upper, lower or both leaf surfaces can be affected
  • There may be discolouration (yellow, reddish or purple) of the affected parts of the leaf, and heavily infected young leaves can be curled and distorted
  • Mildew growth may also be found on the stems, flower stalks, calyces and petals
  • Heavily infected flower buds frequently fail to open properly
  • Mildew growth on stems (where it is often found surrounding thorns) and flower stalks is usually thicker and more mat-like than that on the leaves
  • The mildew growth on all parts may turn browner as it ages


Non-chemical control

  • Water plants regularly during dry spells, and mulch the soil to prevent moisture loss
  • Climbers and ramblers grown in situations with good air circulation (e.g. over arches, rope swags or pergolas) are less likely to be affected than those grown in still air (e.g. planted closely against walls, in sheltered corners, etc.). Bush roses grown in sheltered situations are also more likely to be attacked
  • Feed regularly to encourage strong growth, but avoid using too much nitrogen – this produces ‘soft’ growth which is prone to attack
  • Badly affected shoots are best pruned out and disposed of as soon as the symptoms are seen. During routine spring pruning any shoots showing large patches of mildew around the thorns should also be cut out
  • There are considerable differences in susceptibility between rose cultivars. However, any claimed resistance to the disease may not persist for the lifetime of the plant, or be effective in all localities

Chemical control

Like that of most powdery mildews, the majority of the growth of rose powdery mildew is on the surface of the plant. This exposed growth makes it susceptible to a range of chemical control measures.

The fungicides tebuconazole (Bayer Fungus Fighter Concentrate), tebuconazole with trifloxystrobin (Bayer Fungus Fighter Plus), and triticonazole (Scotts Fungus Clear Ultra and Scotts Fungus Clear Ultra Gun) are labelled for the control of rose powdery mildew.

The following products contain a combination of both insecticide and fungicide, enabling the control of both insect pests and disease: myclobutanil containing cypermethrin (Bayer MultiRose 2, Doff Rose Shield, Vitax Rosegarde, Westland Rose Rescue); tebuconazole containing deltamethrin (Bayer Multirose Concentrate 2), and triticonazole containing acetamiprid (Scotts Roseclear Ultra and Scotts Roseclear Ultra Gun). When a proprietary product contains an insecticide as well as a fungicide it would be preferable to use an alternative product if pests are not a problem on the plants treated.

The products SB Plant Invigorator, Resolva Natural Power Bug and Mildew Control, and Ecofective Plant Defender contain a blend of surfactants and nutrients and can be used on any edible or ornamental plants, with no harvest interval. They have a physical mode of action and may be used against powdery mildews, as well as a range of pests such as whiteflies, aphids, spider mites, mealybugs, scale insects and psyllids.

Fungicides are likely to need several applications during the growing season, particularly in still, humid weather. Sprays in late summer and early autumn may help to reduce the number of infected buds in which the fungus can overwinter.

Inclusion of a product does not indicate a recommendation or endorsement by the RHS. It is a list of products currently available to the home gardener.


Fungicides for gardeners (Adobe Acrobat pdf document outlining fungicides available to gardeners)


Chemicals: using a sprayer
Chemicals: using safely and effectively
Chemicals: storing and disposing safely


Rose powdery mildew spreads during the growing season by means of microscopic, air-borne spores produced on the powdery growth. Unlike many other fungal diseases, extended periods of leaf wetness are not required in order for the spores to germinate. This means that powdery mildew is often a problem during dry summers.

High humidity is, however, favourable for spore production and infection, and plants growing in areas with poor air flow (allowing the accumulation of humid, ‘stagnant’ air) are likely to be attacked. Thus climbers and ramblers grown against walls and fences are often heavily infected. Plants grown in these situations are also more likely to experience dry soil, which is another factor thought to increase susceptibility.

Rose mildew overwinters as fungal growth (mycelium) on the stems, or within some of the dormant buds. When these buds resume growth in spring the shoots soon become completely covered with mildew. The fungus then spreads from these infected shoots (known as ‘primaries’) onto the rest of the plant.

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