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Rose care tips

The American Rose Society offers nontoxic ways to deal with pests - such as aphids, spider mites and thrips - and other problems that plague roses.

- Let other bugs eat them. Release beneficial insects, including lady bugs and green lace wing, or plant flowers that bring them to your yard. Note: Praying mantis eat good and bad bugs so they are not always the best choice.

When you choose this route, you need to avoid using general insecticides that kill beneficial bugs. The nontoxic neem oil, which a product called Rose Defense contains, can be safely used; the oil comes from the neem tree, a tropical species in the mahogany family.

- Spray them. Blasting the plants with a jet of water can knock the bugs off the plants and might even kill them. The same goes for spraying with soapy water, which is a good way to rid your roses of aphids and other pests.

- Dust them. A natural organic product called Diatomaceous Earth can be applied by hand or with a flour sifter. You can also mix it with water and spray according to directions on the label. It's a good all-purpose insect control and is available at garden centers. The dust is not harmful to people, birds, earthworms or pets, according to the rose society.

- Control powdery mildew. Mix 2 tablespoons of Lysol per gallon of water and spray roses at seven-day intervals. If mildew persists, spray twice a week.

For blackspot and powdery mildew, mix 1 tablespoon baking soda and 2 tablespoons Sunspray ultra-fine horticultural oil per gallon of water and spray roses at seven-day intervals.

- Handy helpers. Rose Defense by Green Light and insecticidal and fungicidal soaps by Safer are safe nontoxic controls that are available at most garden centers; use them according to directions.

Roundup can be used to control weeds; it kills anything green that it comes in contact with but is not mobile in the soil. Preen 'n Green also is good for preventing broadleaf and grassy weeds; sprinkle it around roses during the growing season.

- Learn more. For more tips on selecting and growing roses, go to the American Rose Society at www.ars.org.

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