What Are “Guard Petals”?
By Stan V. Griep
Colorado Native Rosarian 40+ years
ARS Certified Consulting Rosarian
Denver Rose Society Member
Loveland Rose Society Member
American Rose Society Member
The outer petals on our roses are called the Guard Petals. Guard Petals on roses are the outer and usually larger petals that protect the inner petals of the bloom still to unfold (See illustration pic below.). The guard petals are quite often wilted or have charred/black edges and need to be removed to reveal the pretty new bloom smile behind them. Florists will usually remove the guard petals if the roses are going to be used the same day, as they take away from the beauty of the rose bloom. Many florists and companies raising the roses that are shipped to florists will leave the guard petals on the roses to protect the buds during transit so the rose blooms will be fresh upon arrival.
When we see blackened or wrinkled outer petals on our roses it is typically a sign that the Guard Petals were doing their job of protecting the inner petals for a new beautiful bloom. These guard petals are there to endure damaging late frosts, high heat, wind whipping and other weather challenges that are dished out in our various garden climate zones. The intense sun’s rays (UV) of summer can be too much for even the guard petals to endure and we will see brown crispy edges on our blooms at times. It just is not possible for the rosebushes root system to move enough fluids to the far outer edges of the petals to prevent such petal edge burning. In most cases though the guard petals take a real beating so that the inner petals may unfold open to present a bloom smile that shines and makes our hearts fill with delight.
In some cases these outer guard petals can become water logged so to speak during times of very wet weather. Then when the sun comes out it can dry the buds too quickly which locks the guard petals together. The bud will look rich and full, yet will not open, turns perhaps slimy to the touch, then dies and falls off. If this condition is found soon enough, the guard petals can be gently and carefully removed such that the inner petals will still unfold into a beautiful bloom to enjoy. The guard petals do their best but cannot stop some insect attacks, such as boring insects that will bore or chew through them and make holes and damaged spots on the rose petals of the rose bloom. Thus we must do our part to help stop the insect issues as early as possible in order to save the blooms we enjoy. In some cases this means the use of a systemic insecticide or miticide to truly get protection against the beauty robbing bugs.
The next time you see the charred looking or wrinkled outer petals on your blooms, thank your guard petals for a Job Well Done in doing their duty and then carefully peel them off of the bloom to enjoy the full beauty of the bloom smiles concerned.